Reciprocity: Healthy Ideas for Couples

Giving and receiving is essential in long-term adult relationships.

But in some instances it can feel like one person gives too much. In healthy relationships, each person is in charge of their needs, emotions and responses. It's okay to say no - even if the other person gets disappointed. And it's okay to get disappointed. It doesn't mean the other person has to feel guilty or change their mind.

Signs that you're out of balance:

  • You give all the time in your marriage and with your family.
  • Communication is not explicit - there's a lot of guessing and assuming.
  • There is competition or a "tit for tat" with people keeping score - for example "I made the dinner so you have to do the dishes."
  • Love gets confused with needing or being needed
  • Love becomes conditional

If you're experiencing any of these things - or your relationship just doesn't feel reciprocal, it's time to make a change. We all need to feel appreciated, valued, cared for, wanted and loved. Receiving these things is like filling your emotional bank account. When you have plenty in the bank, the little things just don't bug you so much.

How do you fill up the bank?*

  • Show interest in your partner's life.
  • Keep up with the important things going on with their friends, work, extended family, hobbies and other activities.
  • Carve out time to talk with each other on a regular basis.
  • Take turns when talking.
  • Really listen to your partner.
  • Repeat back what you have heard, make comments, and ask questions.
  • Validate what your partner is feeling (you don't have to agree to understand).
  • Say positive things to you partner frequently.
  • Include your partner in what you do and think about daily.
  • For every negative comment you say, offer 5 positive statements to refuel the bank.

Words are not enough-
60% of communication is tone of voice 30% is body language and only 10% of is the actual content.
Speak gently; lean in to each other. Flirt and be playful when it's appropriate.

*John Gottman, PhD is world renowned for his work on marital stability and divorce prediction, involving the study of emotions, physiology, and communication. He developed breakthrough research on marriage therapy. He has a very concise way of explaining the concept of reciprocity.

If you would like to learn more about how you can begin therapy, or have any questions please call 415-563-4342 or 510-883-9312, or email me directly at susanmreganmft@gmail.com.

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