Season of Giving: Be a Giver in Your Relationship

It's the season of giving and so it got me thinking about what it really means to be giving in a relationship.

Giving comes in lots of packages. I don’t necessarily mean giving physical gifts to each other though that’s certainly nice and can be important part of keeping closeness. I mean giving of yourself to your partner. Giving means being willing to give your partner the benefit of the doubt, giving compassion, being willing to give validation and seek to understand. It means giving emotional support and giving up being right for the sake of the relationship. Follow these steps to be more giving and loving with each other:

1. Replace resentment with compassion — Have compassion for each other’s vulnerabilities, shame, fear, worries, and frailties. Happy couples achieve this kind of compassion and help each other manage their vulnerabilities, not hold it against each other. When you find yourself resentful, try holding your partner in a loving, compassionate space. You’ll be surprised at what you discover about yourself.

2. Commit to understand your partner’s perspective- Regularly discipline yourself to really listen to your partner’s perspective or imagine what their world is like. What’s it like for her when you get irritated that she’s crying again or don’t want to hear about her troubles with her coworkers? What it like for him when you get irritated and withdraw affection when he wants to watch the game or go out with the guys? You don’t have to agree with your partner’s point of view, but say things to validate and communicate that your partner’s perspective is equally important. (See my article on Communication: Making Your Relationship Work for more information on how to validate).

3. Give your partner the benefit of the doubt – When you’re frustrated, hurt, angry or irritated, develop the habit of giving him/her the benefit of the doubt. Start to wonder if maybe you don’t know the full picture about what happened. Until you do, begin to say, my perspective is incomplete until I know his/hers. In order to keep the connection and be open to your partner’s explanation, you need to suspend judgment. Maybe you don’t know how hard her day was with nasty customers or his day was with grumpy kids and this is why s/he is irritable, withdrawing or demanding. Get in the habit of getting into his/her world before you justify your reasons for being upset.

4. Emotionally Tune In - What this means is joining your partner in their emotional space and supporting them. Why? Because we implicitly promised that we’d care if the other one was in pain or distress. Give your partner a hug or a listening ear (not advice giving or fixing one). Make empathizing statements like, “Oh that really sucks. I’m sorry was so hard on you.” Rub each other’s backs and bring each other hot tea. Really be there when you’re partner is feeling sad, hurt, disappointed or stressed out.

It's amazing how giving of ourselves expands our capacity to really love. And, it's amazing what we get back in return when we really give.

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