I was working with a number of couples today which has inspired me to expand on the understanding around the concept of giving yourself away. Giving yourself away means making unspoken contracts with others, or doing something that includes an expectation of someone else that they have not agreed to.
In the most basic example, cooking dinner with the expectation that people will appreciate it; if your family fails to show up or fails to show appreciation, the result is a feeling of anger or disappointment. In a much more extreme example, having children or adopting children in the expectation that they will honor, respect, and appreciate you, and resenting them if they do not.
Every time we give ourselves away, we open ourselves up to disappointment, resentment, guilt, embarrassment, anger, etc. Instead of creating closeness or connection, giving ourselves away tends to create distance and resistance.
In relationships, it is important and critical to work with the level of exchange and establish understandings and agreements that are open and well understood. Having-exchange level understandings in relationships (professional or personal) is fundamental to healthy relating. Talking about and renewing these understandings keeps relationships healthy.
For example, do you feel resentment around your chores and housekeeping? If so, there could be value in clarifying and redefining agreements until it works for everyone. Using inquiry is critical to this process. Are your agreements around housekeeping,spoken or unspoken? How are they working? What are possible new ways to look at them? How can you set it up so you will not be resentful.
Other critical conversations may be around: money, sex, parenting, vacations, extended family, free time… These topics can have a lot of charge around them’ can you clean up your charge so you can have an adult conversation around these things?
It is just as important to find areas where there is imbalance (or perceived imbalance) at work. Nothing is harder on a company than when someone feels that they have given themselves away, that there is some unfairness. We need to constantly work to renew and have clear, clean agreements and consistently be honoring the agreements we have made or changing them overtly.
Giving self away creates resentment and dysfunction through unilateral or covert agreements. Healthy exchange means having clear, open and universally recognized understandings, these understandings can even be unilateral, but they have to be open, understood and enforceable.