The term "reciprocity" has been floating around my blog a lot lately. I first used it to describe what I wanted in a relationship, and later used it to describe a valued trait of my new relationship. However, I realized today that I have used mostly when talking about my romantic partners, without commenting on the other areas of life in which it comes up.
According to Dictionary.com, reciprocity is "a reciprocal state or relation; mutual exchange; a mutual exchange of commercial or other privileges." In fact, there were a bunch of different definitions, but they all included the word "mutual."
Hence, the term reciprocity means, to me, a mutual sharing of love, consideration, honesty, opinions, and, above all, respect. It is an open expression of feelings and thoughts, a shared expectation of truthfulness. It is, quite simply, a shared experience, not a one-way road.
Have you ever been in a relationship that was not mutual? A friendship, romantic relationship, partnership? Doesn't it feel like you're doing a whole lotta work, with no return? See, it took me a while to figure it out, but relationships shouldn't be like that, whatever the type of relationship. I happened to come into a bunch of these types of relationships where I felt like I was putting it out there, and expecting the other to do the same. When the response was not as I has hoped, was not mutual, it was devastating. It was maddening, painful, and scarring.
My parents relatiosnhip was like this. My dad was pretty closed down about any feeling other than anger, which I think left my mom feeling like hers didn't matter. He made the money, so his was the final say in matters. He made the decisions, and her opinion/needs were ignored.
I learned from this. This was my model.
Everyone's understanding of mutual exchange can be different. Everyone has a perception of the work they are putting into a relationship. Thus, some people might actually think they are working hard in a partnership (which may be true for them - "hard" is a relative term), but I also think that, despite what the non-mutual people perceive themselves to be, they know, underneath their surface of lies and half-assed efforts, that they know the real deal. They know that they are not being 100%. They know that they are short-changing the other person. But to make themselves feel better, they can manipulate the situation to make you think you are the crazy one, like you're asking too much of them (cause sometimes honesty is the hardest effort they can muster). Only the honest ones can turn around and say, "Yeah, I know I haven't been the best of friend, but I am working on it." Or something like that.
On the flip side, its the non-mutuals that make the mutuals that much more appreciated. When you form a relationship with someone that will literally put it all out there, say, "Yeah, I might get hurt, but I respect you enough to be honest/forthright," it's almost jarring. But in a good way. You want to hear about my feelings and you're not going to tell me their wrong? You not only respect my expectations, but request that I don't lower them? You value my insight? What?!?!?!?! How foreign. Yet refreshing.
So you want to be my friend? My partner? Great, I love it and welcome it. I love friends so much I have the best in the world. And family, for that matter. In fact, I love my family so much I consider it honor for anyone to be part of it. But that honor needs to be earned. You don't get it simply by just knowing me.
I am pretty sure that if you have read this blog long enough, you know that I really have some of the most amazing people at my finger tips. And frankly, there have been times I have been the non-mutual. I admit it, I am ashamed of it, and I have NO ONE to blame but myself. But I am a work in progress. I return my phone calls now. I make plans and stick to them without making excuses. I call just to "check in." People ask me for feedback, and I give it honestly.
So you want to be my friend? Act like it. Show some reciprocity.