Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Reciprocity

Well I got nailed on that one!

I probably shouldn't have published it, as it was still in a stream of consciousness phase and I see now that I hadn't built to the point I actually wanted to make.

My point came to the surface though -  in one comment I left on my last post.

So I'm getting flamed by those who think I keep some list of grievances - of every slight from someone who never paid me back, or never ever reciprocated a kindness.  That's not so.

But here is what is real. We are put on this earth to serve one another. If we're all doing that, then by the law of averages, each of us should have at least one act of kindness done to us for every 20 - 100 acts of kindness we put out into the world. Clearly everyone's not doing that. And sometimes it's noticeable.

The fact is, couples and parents don't put as much out into the world, because they are focused on their families, and rightly so. They don't spend their energy trying to love strangers, or trying to hold onto friends.  Sure, to some degree but not as much as one who is solo in the world. It's their job to grow the love in their own homes. I don't have that luxury. That would be vain.

Consider the single person. No one in the world is tied to them in ways that spouses and children are tied by sharing a home, sharing the chores, exchanging hugs and kisses.
When we singles show love - by a kind deed, by just getting to know someone new, by going above and beyond...  or putting our hearts on the line... yet again, seeking love... more often than not it falls into an abyss.
You just did something kind. No one saw it. The one person who felt is going to walk away with it. sure, they may pay forward, but the odds are you'll never see it. You'll never know how you touched someone's life or what it meant.  And that's fine. We're not always meant to. Not every kind action is returned. Not every act of love is reciprocated.

Think about that. A world in which every action you ever make has no response. Heck, that even defies the laws of physics! 

Of course we all have friends who stay connected, and occasionally you learn how much you mean to someone. The effort we put into relationships as single people is risky. That relationship may not even be there next week.

By contrast, when someone who is part of a family, like a father, a mother, a child -  demonstrates a loving act... it is felt throughout the family. Even if it's not acknowledged. When a mommy changes diapers, soothes a colicky child, cooks dinner, does the laundry - there's a rather immediate return on that investment, even if it's just seeing your children in clean clothes. If no one ever says thank you - you know you're feeding your child, supporting your spouse, building a better life.

For the perpetually single, there is no one to appreciate that we made dinner. No matter how delicious it was. Laundry? The satisfaction there is just seeing that nothing got destroyed in the process!

All the efforts humans make - just to sustain themselves... married people get some satisfaction. Seeing your spouse at the end of the day, knowing all the work you did that day, improved your lives together bit by bit. Watching your children grow, seeing them learn, hearing "I love you mommy." that's a reward. Simply brushing your teeth might result in an appreciative kiss!
So don't try to convince me that you love more unconditionally than I do. You're getting something back. Yes, it's intangible. But it's something. It may not be every day - sometimes not even every week. We all go through dark periods, but even in the worst times you're reasonably confident the love is there.

Single people get none.  So yes...  when it becomes obvious that you've showered love and affection and favors and effort - time after time with no reward or reaction - there's nothing wrong with feeling a little spent and a little disappointed. 

Bringing it back to the parenting analogy - I think the only family-types who could understand are those with autistic children. Those parents love and they serve and they hug (and give up hugging) and sometimes wait a lifetime to hear, "I love you." back.  They wait years for a breakthrough smile.

That's what I think the single life is like. It's like raising a dozen autistic children. (imagine the frustration and agony!)  Everything you do to show love, to make a connection, to see a spark back from the love you're putting out there...  just sort of splats off of a flat surface. It's frustrating and hard to bear. Even those mothers mutter wishes about being loved back.

That's what my blog has always been about. It's meant to be a window into a different way of life - so that we all might understand one another better and have compassion.

So much of the world sees singles as selfish, or non-commital, or as wild partiers with no responsibilities.  I write so that sisters, aunts, friends and cousins can recognize some of the pain of the single life. So that the heartbreak can be shared, and hopefully divided. But mostly understood.

My previous post wasn't about any one person. It's a bit silly that troops were rallied for a comment that could have just as easily been about anyone. No one in particular.
Which ultimately proves my point.

6 comments:

Krissie said...

I thought you made your point just fine yesterday. Let it roll off... As someone who was single well into adulthood and am now married... barring an abusive marriage or something of that sort. In this regard, you are right, I do get back more than I did when I was single, and at the same time it is easier to give to your own child or husband without expectations in return because of the bond you share as a family. It can be thankless, but it's not the same as the single life for sure. I am not as able to give to others as I was when I was single, by a lot. Some of it is having a toddler, some of it is working at home with said toddler, some of it is my husband being in school, but none the less my friendships have suffered, my service has suffered, and that is hard for me. I try to look at it as a season I'm in, and hopefully one day I'll be on the other side and able to give closer to the level I gave at before.

So I'm just saying you've hit the nail on the head, and I'm sorry you get the short end of the stick in that regard, and I sincerley hope that some marrieds who haven't had the single experience we have, can take your words at face value and get a better understanding of what it's like, and in turn serve the singles in their life a little better as friends and fellow believers.

corriehaffly said...

I'm breaking my lurker-status to say that I appreciate your posts. As a married person, I appreciate your perspective as it helps me to be more sensitive to my single friends, to reach out a little more, to "be there" for them as best as I can.

Salvia Eastwood said...

I'm also usually a lurker but wanted to chime in here. When my husband first met my sister several years ago, after a few interactions he confided in me that he was surprised at how selfish she was, especially in comparison to the rest of my family.

I was very surprised to hear him say this at first, because in many ways she is a very generous person. She spent a year in a third world country doing volunteer work, and gave $500 to a family she met there knowing they could never repay her, although she was not well off herself and tends to worry about money. But after his comment I realized that in the context of my family, my sister is a taker. The rest of us try to take care of her, buy her presents, help her with things, surprise her, etc., and she very rarely if ever reciprocates. Then one day I had an epiphany. For my sister, generosity is not about love - it's about need. She gives generously to those whose needs are greater than her own, and she sees no reason to reciprocate giving to people she thinks have less need than she does. And that perfectly explains all her behavior. She shows love in other ways, but not with generosity (of time, money, help, etc.).

Your friend may well care very much about you despite the appearance that she is "using" you - but perhaps she, like my sister, perceives her need to be greater than those of her friends, and therefore sees herself as naturally falling on the "taking" side of these relationships.

Do I think this is the right way to go through life? No, I think it makes them less happy as well as others to be this way. But I also don't expect my sister to change, and I know she loves me anyway.

The problem seems to be that you (and probably many singles) have needs that people don't recognize, and therefore don't help you with. I don't know what to suggest here, since I don't think you are doing anything wrong, but maybe you can see some of these people differently, knowing that they may care about you a lot, but not show it the way you do.

Infertile Minnesota said...

Thanks for your comment on my blog:-). This is a great post. I look forward to reading more your writing!

TRS said...

Salvia, you make a great point. And it makes me think even deeper that yes... Single people have unseen needs... for sure.
I sat in the airport for a few hours the other day, and visited with a lovely lady about. My age, recently divorced, two teenagers... Who expressed that my life path would have been desirable to hers! I tried to explain just how much I missed that she wasn't thinking of... Not only not having a family, but being ignored by families at my church, because I don't have children. At 40, women become a bit invisible in the dating world... But a woman with kids will never be invisible.
On another side, the friend who seems to be using me and others ... really does have a sense of entitlement. I could give lots of examples, that simply don't belong here..
So like you said, she sees herself in need, and others not so much. But there's a difference between that and entitlement.

Everyone, thank you for your perspectives on this topic!

Andi said...

Hi, sorry this has nothing to do with your post. I tried to email you but it came back to me. A friend just posted this article on FB and I thought you might be interested in reading it.

http://www.christenacleveland.com/2013/12/singled-out/

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