Why Relationships Have To Be A Joint Effort

Reciprocity in Relationships

According to Katie & Gay Hendricks there is always one partner within a relationship who is more invested than the other partner. This is not an issue in itself, depending on how big the gap of reciprocity is. If both partners are loving with each other, then small discrepancies are non-issues. If, however, one partner makes very little or no effort, the relationship will inevitably deteriorate.

“Healthy relationships are characterised by reciprocal loving relating to each other.”
Marlena Tillhon

Drawing on Sue Johnson, founder of EFT, attunement, responsiveness and engagement are required for relationships to thrive. This is the minimum investment we have to be willing to make if we want to be in a relationship with another person. This is true for any kind of relationship ranging from family to business to romance.

“Emotional attunement, responsiveness and engagement are required for relationships to thrive.”
Marlena Tillhon

If we contribute very little or not at all, the initiating partner will eventually feel drained, unappreciated and hopeless. The bigger the gap between both partners’ contributions, the bigger the dissatisfaction and felt sense of disconnection.


We Put Effort Into What We Love

A simple truth in life is that we have time for what we love and that we pay attention to what we value. The effort and time we put into our relationship communicates something to our partners.

It may be that we are caught up in our own heads and struggle to be present. But our partner will still be tempted to make it mean something about them or the state of the relationship. Our actions matter more than our words do. It is our own responsibility to match our actions to our intentions.


We Are Social Beings

Our most intimate relationships matter very much and impact on our sense of wellbeing. Being surrounded by loving others helps us stay loving to ourselves and them. When love flows, we all feel the deep connection to our own and other people’s inherent worth.

When we are in a relationship with someone, who does not engage with us in loving ways or is neglectful and dismissive, we begin to create stories about ourselves that impact on our state of mind negatively. Past habitual thinking patterns trigger old fears and insecurities, which inevitably affect our relationship negatively.

Even when we experience stress or emotional turmoil, it is important to remember that we all have an impact on each other.


Sometimes We Simply Forget

Sometimes we do not realise that we have stopped putting effort into our relationship. It’s easy to get carried away in personal pursuits, hobbies, work or family life. We run around completing chores or meeting deadlines while sacrificing precious time that is needed to connect with ourselves and our partner.

We also often get caught up in the stories in our heads. We worry about things and create problems that need urgent solutions. When that happens our presence decreases. We may be there physically, but we are absent emotionally.

If you feel that it’s easy for you to fall into this trap, there are several habits you can create in your relationship that will counterbalance the impact your distractions may have on your relationship. You can find them here. (Natural Loving Habits of a Peaceful Mind)


Reciprocity Requires Emotional Maturity

When someone does not see their relationship as a joint effort, an unbalanced and unfair dynamic develops. One person gives, while the other takes. It begins to resemble a parent-child dynamic – not something to strive for in intimate adult relationships.

Not contributing to our relationship means taking on a passive, childlike role. We demand to be nurtured. We display a sense of entitlement to have someone else provide a relationship for us and make it all happen: the fun, the romance, the sex. We passively wait to be presented with a magnificent relationship without putting anything into it ourselves.

The problem is that we cannot create and enjoy an adult relationship with an immature mind. It just does not work. If we discover that we are approaching our relationship with an immature mind, we need to look inwards and find the immature ways of thinking that hinder our personal growth. It is exciting journey of self-discovery that awaits you.

“We cannot create healthy, loving and fulfilling adult relationships with an immature mind.”
Marlena Tillhon


The Joint Mission of Relationship

As adults we are co-creators of our relationships. If we want a loving relationship, we have to engage in loving behaviours – with ourselves and our partner. We have to create time and space for ourselves and our partners and enjoy each other with settled minds.

Our main mission is to return to our innately loving state of mind. From there acting in loving ways comes effortlessly and naturally. All we do is express our true self. Our presence leads to automatic connection. It is in that space that intimacy deepens and love flourishes.

Sharing our life with someone else is a privilege. Let’s not take it for granted.


Marlena Tillhon

Marlena is a progressive psychotherapist and relationship coach and passionate about helping people connect with their innate wellbeing.

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