laundry“Relationships are hard” they say.

“I’m determined to do it right this time” I say.

A few years ago I was in a relationship that absolutely depleted me. I could say it was because he took and took. But more importantly, I gave and gave. “I can buy you groceries.” “I can come to YOUR house.” “I can wait for you to be free because I know how hard it is for you to plan.” I thought if I gave extraordinarily, I could force it to succeed. But that’s crazy. And it ended. And I swore I would never give so much again.

Then I dated a man who gave and gave. And gave some more. “I can fix your brakes.” “I can rub your back.” “I can carry you and place you on the raft so you don’t have to get wet or cold in the lake.” Sounds ideal, right? To be treasured? Put on a pedestal? To be on the receiving side? But it was awful. It wasn’t healthy and felt like I had an adolescent girl fan club. And in return for all he gave, he was needy. Time. Acknowledgement. Affection. Acceptance. He needed what he couldn’t give himself or get in any other way. He was so deeply caring but I felt incredibly trapped.

Well played, universe. I could now see the same error in both relationships by sitting on opposing sides. Both the “over-givers” used giving to mask their insecurities. Both the “recipients” wound up feeling guilty and overwhelmed. Neither extreme was ideal.

“I’m going to do it right from now on”, I exclaim. “I’m not going to give. I’m not going to take. I’m going to be damn near impossible. Good luck to the next guy.”

I just finished folding laundry. HIS laundry.

Is this just a familiar act of desperation? Will I never learn? Am I hard-wired for GIVE?

I found with the right person, there’s a delicate and amazing balance. Nothing orchestrated. Nothing complicated. Just a little give from both sides. Some mornings I take the dog out and make breakfast. Some nights he makes dinner and empties the dishwasher. But everyday, we take care of ourselves first. Because we can’t be anything for each other if we can’t be what we need on our own. That’s the difference. This time, I’m not a moron because I choose to match his socks and fold his manties. And he’s not losing my heart for repairing loose boards on the deck (he’s winning it actually). It’s not done with desperation and despair but rather with vulnerability and love.

I think I’m finally doing it right this time.