“When two givers indulge in a connection, it’s like magic. It’s alchemy. I water you, you water me, we never drain each other, we just grow.”
I saw this quote on Instagram the other day and it really resonated with me, so I went online to find out where it came from. Couldn’t find the origin of the quote, but I found an interesting article on psychology today about successful relationships and three types of people, one of them being givers. According to Adam Grant, an author quoted in the article, when it comes to relationships there are three types of people - givers, matchers and takers. Grant mostly refers to business relationships, but this theory makes sense when applied to any; romantic, friendship or family relationships as well as business ones.
In short, this is the description of the three: “Giver's primary motivation is to take care of others, to make sure others are well, and to contribute to others and society. Matchers tend to keep a balance sheet in any relationship. When they give, they do so with an expectation of getting something in return. Takers are just that—takers. They usually treat people well only if and when those people can help them reach their goals. Interestingly, Grant points out, they often appear as the most charming and charismatic people—on the surface.”
I thought it was an interesting theory, but one that needs a bit more depth. Firstly, because I I believe we are complex beings and are not one type or another all the time. Depending on circumstances and on who is on the other side of a relationship, a giver can become a matcher, a matcher can become a giver or a taker and taker can, with some work become a matcher and with much work. Secondly, because simplifications tend to label people and I don’t believe that is beneficial for our growth. So I dug deeper into literature as well as my own experience and thoughts.
Opposites attract & the perfect balance
It is only natural that takers will most likely engage in relationships with givers and vice versa; they are like a magnet attracted to the opposite pole. Takers will, of course, enjoy the gifts bestowed upon them, and givers will enjoy this relationship because they can do their thing - give. Inclined to see the world with a wider perspective, a generous person who likes to feel they contribute in some way to others and the society might not notice at first that she or he is constantly pulling the weight in a relationship because for them, it comes naturally. Once they do start to notice they might still stay because they don't, like the matchers, give in order to get something back. But, we all have our limits so when a giver hits this limit, they often get frustrated and might pull back from the relationship altogether. Will they find themselves in the same situation again? Most probably yes. This is partially because we, humans, are not very quick to learn and partially because random and not so random acts of kindness make us - happy. This is something many studies have shown. But, givers can also be givers from all the wrong reasons - out of a sense of guilt or the sense of not being good enough for example.
Takers, on the other hand, don't see much beyond their own needs. But, before we judge them, let's examine why they are as they are. When someone always wants more and doesn't see beyond this need, there is often a deep and probably very old wound there, a deep black hole which can never be filled, certainly not with whatever they are trying to fill it with (money, love, success, possessions, sex etc). The pull of that void and the feeling of I don't have enough is so strong that the whole system organises itself to fill it and defend it. Nothing else matters, and when nothing else matters you can't see the big picture as all your energy is locked and localised. This is why a taker won't see her or himself as one, it would take a big wake up call for them to do. Seeing your shadow is the first step to healing the wounds and filling the void.
Matchers seem to be the realists who see things as they are. They keep the balance and seem like the smartest of the three. But, again, things are not always as they seem. The thing is, a perfect balance doesn't really exist in a relationship, at least not in the way a matcher sees it, and while trying to constantly even the scale and reach that perfection, they put a lot of pressure on themselves and the other person. This way of thinking can be somewhat good in business, but in personal relationships, this often doesn't work and their friendships can lack depth. Also, a need for balance is a way they control their life as well as relationships and losing control can be an issue here.
It may surprise you or not that, out of the three, givers are the happiest and most successful in relationships, that is if they know how to set boundaries for themselves and avoid the frustration part. If you are one, it might help to understand that if in a relationship with a taker, apart from feeling depleted after a while, you are actually not doing that person a favour, but are rather setting a perfect ground for them to continue to be as they are. If you find yourself in a relationship with a matcher, you can either become one yourself or inspire them to come to become more giving. I think the later is better.
As someone who likes to give, I struggled with the frustration of carrying heavy loads or responsibility for others in most of my relationships thought my whole life. It took me a while to see how this superpower I had can easily become my greatest weakness and a source of frustration. So, what did I do? I first had to look deep into this need and heal the not good enough part so my giving, most of the time, comes from a clearer intention. I then accepted this as a beautiful part of me (rather than a weakness), a part which gives me much pleasure and happiness. And thirdly, I decided I can always give a bit more, but if I feel the scale is tipping too much on the other side, I will not allow my boundaries to be crossed. I call it my 60%. I will always give more, but if you take advantage, it doesn't work for me any longer and I will leave without blaming the other side. After all, we have the power to choose for ourselves.
Takers are the unhappiest of the three because their impulse goes against our brain's chemistry and our hearts. Therapy can help heal those wounds if a taker can identify himself as one.
If you like to match things and would like to be more giving in your relationships, perhaps try to get inspired by the nature. Nature, at the end, always finds balance, but in a very messy way. Nature is prone to extremes and changes, but at the end everything always works out. In relationships and this fine balance I personally believe in, we can observe this as well. Sometimes we are generous and kind to one person and this will balance itself out some other time with someone else. It's the law of Karma and whether we like it or not, everything we think, say or do ripples and creates an effect somewhere in the space / time.
Imagine the world where we give each other without agendas or expectations, where we are kind to each other and compassionate to all life. I water you, you water me, we never drain each other, we just grow. What a wonderful world this would be.