Herman Hesse wrote in Narcissus and Goldman that in art and love, giving and taking become indistinguishable.
One-sided giving or receiving
A common dynamic seen within couples is that one partner tends to please while the other tends to receive (the giver and the taker). These opposites attract each other, because they are complementary and each partner needs to develop some of the qualities of the other side. If each partner becomes more one-sided and excessive in giving or taking, the relationship becomes more and more oppressive and unsatisfying. Ideally, both partners give and receive whole-heartedly for the right reasons without any strings attached.
What’s wonderful about a pleaser (the giver) is that he or she is considerate, thoughtful, and has the other person’s well-being and happiness in mind. Such a person is compassionate and able to feel into other people’s needs and desires. Yet, if the pleaser becomes excessive in doting over the partner, the partner can feel overwhelmed and stifled, feeling a burden of guilt toward the pleaser. The partner may sense that there is an underlying need to be needed, which causes him or her to withdraw. While it’s normal to enjoy appreciation, excessive need for gratitude and even dependence is draining and uncomfortable.
Sometimes when people split up, you hear “How could he leave her? She did everything for him.” As unfair as it may seem, that may be precisely the reason he left. It can feel belittling and overwhelming to have someone do too much for you.
What pleasers need to learn
Pleasers need to learn to ask for and receive what they desire from others. There really can be no true giving unless givers take care of themselves and are able to receive as well. They also need to develop the ability to let others take care of themselves on occasion, and to make sure their giving has no sense of reciprocal obligation or neediness attached.
Receivers are able to fully enjoy receiving from others, which is wonderful for both partners. Receivers feel self-contained and independent, and often don’t feel they have to do a lot to please others because they feel quite satisfied in themselves. In order to be someone who can receive in a healthy way, you have to feel worthwhile and good enough about yourself to accept others’ giving (in healthy moderation).
However, if someone simply takes and takes, without an ability or desire to give back, then there is a devouring quality in the receiving rather than joy and appreciation. A person who only receives and doesn’t give to others has a sense of entitlement based on deficiency rather than self-worth. He or she seems selfish or greedy, and incurs resentment in those who continue to give. Similar to the Grinch who stole Christmas, such people seem to fear that they will become empty or lose part of themselves if they give too much. So instead, they tend to hoard what is brought their way.
What receivers need to learn
The solution for receivers, therefore, is that they learn to experience the pleasure and joy of thinking and doing for others. They will become more whole and full by giving to others. There is a sense that when you give from the heart, you also receive the joy of giving, and when you receive from another fully, you are giving them a gift in return.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD
“The Voice Dialogue Series” (CDs), by Drs. Hal and Sidra Stone.
“The Pleaser” (CD), by Drs. Hal and Sidra Stone.