“Allegiance, after all, has to work two ways: and one can grow
Weary of an allegiance which is not reciprocal.”
- James Baldwin, Nobody Knows Anyone
Reciprocity! A phrase whose meaning is known by all on some level, something we have come across, albeit talk shows like Dr. Phil or in the literary works of social psychologists. For those who are still finding it difficult to understand this, I'd like to explain it to you with a simple example.
Anytime we visit a supermarket such as Costco, Whole foods, and others, we are greeted by numerous sampling stations at every nook and corner of the store. While some of us may turn our attention away from them, there’s a majority group of us ( including me ), who go ahead and sample the wide range of products. Now, once done sampling, some of us walk away without hesitation but there are a group of people who feel compelled to return the ‘favor’. This leads to the sale of the product and ends up with a customer who had no intention of buying it. Our emotions trick us into believing we owe a debt and it drives us to an unnecessary purchase. This is something the sales-force exploits skillfully; the human urge to reciprocate.
Now, when we think about it, reciprocity is in motion in all walks of life. But the most important one where it is in play: Relationships!
One of the unmentioned commandments of maintaining a healthy relationship is reciprocity. The only relationship that one can say defeats the concept of reciprocity is one between a mother and her child. The success/failure of the child is inconsequential to a mother, and she goes on giving and giving all her life. The most beautiful relationship that can exist among humans and animals is of this, and importantly, it’s devoid of reciprocity.
But there’s one human relation that thrives on reciprocity and is near dysfunctional without it. Yes, that’s right, our love life.
As one grows older and looks for a life partner, subconsciously we’re on the lookout for someone with a matching reciprocity quotient. What is this reciprocity quotient?
Reciprocity quotient pertains to how much we do, and what we expect in return.
There are a number of people who might argue that they don’t expect anything in return, but this is not true, especially in a love-based relationship that we seek. It is etched in the words of our friends every time we go through a bad breakup, or a heartbreak. He/she isn't right for you? You did way too much to make this work and he/she didn't even try.
Didn't try! So, is it only the effort that matters? Yes, effort helps in reviving a dwindling romance, but after awhile, the effort alone isn’t enough, we start to expect results. Just as you are appreciated in the initial stages of employment for your effort, in the end, results is what leads to a promotion and higher stature. My comparison with work life is not for the purpose of de-romanticizing love, but to give a better understanding to the concept.
So, what kind of reciprocity does one need for a healthy, happy and lasting relationship?
One that isn’t driven by manual prompts to reciprocate, but comes naturally, like a reflex.
The constant need of motivation to contribute to one, on an emotional or a physical ground, leads to a pile up of emotional debts. And before you know it, you’re stuck in an unhappy relationship. On one hand, the wants and needs of a partner seem unrealistic, while the other is unhappy due to the lack of reciprocation.
The manner in which one sets about this changes from person to person. To one, it can be through emotional gestures or a materialistic one. The forms vary, but it is important to have a partner who appreciates the value of what you’re giving them.
“To get from people you had to give a piece of yourself,
A real piece that mattered”
- Peter Abrahams, End of Story