Aren’t we supposed to put the needs of others first? Isn’t there the belief that If we give to others, they will in turn reciprocate; especially in relationships? Unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen that way. In fact, it has become increasingly noticeable in our close relationships that we teach people how to treat us. Specifically, if a partner acts one way, the other tends to react to the contrary as a means to find a balance. For example, if you are passive or your spouse is more controlling, your partner unintentionally plays out the opposite role. Or, if you are exceedingly generous, you may be teaching your partner to be more self-centered, without either one of you being aware that your generosity has gradually grown into resentment and your partner has lost focus on a mutually nurturing relationship. We seek a balance, and instead of being on the same team, we try to find an equilibrium by being contrary to one another.
Likewise, we oftentimes choose partners that corroborates with the “dance” we oftentimes mimic and are accustomed to while growing up and witnessing our parents’ relationship. Despite efforts to “be different” from how our parents got along, we oftentimes find ourselves repeating what we tried hard to avoid.
Despite good intentions, these patterns seem to sway us in directions we do not want to go. Staying balanced without the extremes, and leading our own “dance” without generational influences can happen by being more aware of these patterns and communicating with each other about them.
Claudia A. Liljegren, MSW, LICSW