When you think about your partner, do you often wonder who’s getting the better deal? It sounds silly, but often we don’t realize we’re being competitive when it comes to our romantic relationship. In fact, there is a question that often comes up, one we see on just about every magazine advice column that continues to pop into our minds from time to time. Is this relationship mutually beneficial?
While the term sounds like something a lawyer would say during a boardroom meeting for a company merger, it’s actually turned into a big deal in contemporary relationships. Nobody wants to be the one who’s giving more than what they’re receiving. Love has turned into a contract or a game most like. Some people even use a strategy, not unlike game theory, where each party is trying to be the best partner so that the other person ups their game. Eventually this becomes an unending situation where neither is actually considering their partner’s feelings or needs. They simply want to create the scenario where they are the ideal partner. But why is this?
While there are probably several reasons behind this, one might be related to the fact that most of us grew up in an era where nothing was assured. We saw more emotional stability from the couples on TV than in our own homes. So we learned that love requires perfection on both ends. We don’t want to be left behind simply because we’re not giving our significant other enough attention or dedication.
Yet, as much as we long for love, we don’t want to come off as needy. So we hold back just enough so that we’re not handing our heart over to someone too soon. We pretend we’re not interested, even if we are, because we’ve been told so many times that we can’t go about life providing other people with more than what we’re getting. This seems like a great formula for business, yet terrible when it comes to matters of the heart.
Love is not meant to be a contract. We choose to be with someone based on feelings, not on quid pro quo. So why is it that once we’re with another person we end up in a situation where we’re counting and competing, to the point that we keep score and even manipulate each other to feel like it’s working out. If we go down this path, we’re setting ourselves up for failure or resentment. Because ultimately everyone tires from playing a game. And if a relationship is built on a game of mutual benefits versus mutual affection and understanding, then there probably wasn’t much there to begin with.
I mean, say your partner was ill and you took care of them, will be you be waiting for the day you get sick to pull out the card that they need to take care of you now? Wouldn’t you prefer to not be keeping count and just hope that they care about you enough to do it out of their own volition? Wouldn’t you start wondering whether they’re there because they love you or because they enjoy playing this game too much?
Love is not meant to be quantified and measured. It’s intended to be a natural response. So why tamper with it by asking ourselves whether it’s worth it or not. Why should we be wondering if we’re getting our money’s worth? When we do this, we end up cheapening the result.
Questions we should ask ourselves is whether our partner is on the same page as we are, regarding what we want from life, since that’s what ultimately can decide the future of the relationship. When we stop trying to control everything and allow our intuition to take over, we begin to see that love is not a competition. It’s a partnership. And, if it’s a healthy one, then it will be balanced and equal. But balance does not mean that if one person was more generous in bed one day, that means the other is required to return the favor ASAP. It means that each person provides what they’re able to, and eventually, in the long run, things do get balanced out.
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Images by Chris and Ruth Photography