The power of reciprocity

April 22, 2014

321411“You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.”

Are you the kind of friend who is always there for another? Who will call to check in, send an email or a card? Do you remember birthdays and special occasions?

This post is for you.

Here’s the scenario:

You’ve got a friend. Maybe you feel that participation in the friendship is a little lopsided. They say all the right things. But you get in touch and they don’t respond.

Maybe you’re not exactly asking for a response, but friendship is a two-way street. Reciprocity is assumed.

In your heart of hearts, you know that he or she isn’t there for you, not the way you are for them. That the friendship is not equal.

When this would happen to me in the past, I would continue to act as if it were a real friendship. I’d stay in touch even in the face of silence on the other side.

I don’t do that any more.

The other day someone who hadn’t been in touch or even responsive in a long while emailed me something they’d done. No note, just the accomplishment.

I was tempted to pick up the phone.

I didn’t

Another friend emailed to say something had happened and they would be in touch the next day.

It’s been two months.

I haven’t picked up the phone. Or emailed.

My life is busy.

I only want people in it who are reciprocal.

Who will be there for me the way I am for them.

Friendships can be like delicate flowers or hardy desert plants. Doesn’t matter which, they still need sunlight and a bit of nurturing.

Expecting reciprocity is a gift I’ve given myself, knowing that at the very least I deserve what I give.

And the absence of that, well, it may have been real once. It just isn’t, anymore.


25 comments on “The power of reciprocity
  1. Yep, a familiar scenario. And have a minor disaster or need some assistance and those very people you’re talking about won’t show up or offer to help.
    I like the comparison to flowers, it’s so true.

  2. Doreen McGettigan says:

    I have been so much happier since I gave up trying to be there for and holding everyone together. Like you said, if they are not there for me I have no time for them whether they are friends or family.
    This hits home with me since I lost my best friend 7 weeks ago. Throughout that experience I’ve gained a few new forever friends. I wasn’t sure that was possible at this point in my life.

  3. yes. life is too short. love you!

  4. This is the truth. I have people who say “Why haven’t you called?” to which I often respond…Why haven’t you? I have just so many minutes in the day, hard to spread myself out.

  5. A great reminder. I haven’t always been the best at reciprocity. In these later years I’ve put a lot more effort into it. It’s important.

  6. Karen @BakingInATornado says:

    I think the older I get the more I function on that exact level. I used to tell myself that what is friendship to me isn’t necessarily friendship to someone else and I shouldn’t judge their friendship based on how I choose to be a friend, but allow them to define friendship in their own way.
    NO MORE. I’ve taken to walking away from “friends” who reciprocate on their own terms, terms that just don’t work for me. Even online friends. Guess what? My life is so much less cluttered and stressful when I’m not supporting those who don’t reciprocate in a way that is meaningful to me.
    Great post, Carol. You actually just validated my choices and alleviated that final minute twinge of guilt at walking away from those kinds of “friends”.

  7. I think recently I have just started to realize how many people in my life are like this. I’ve come to the realization that I am better off without them and to surround myself with more real relationships. It sad to feel a certain “taken advantage of” and I’ve decided that I just don’t have enough left over for people like this. Great article Carol, this just resonated with me so much right now!

  8. Haralee says:

    I understand completely. We are all busy but I strive never to be the kind of friend who only calls or connects when in crisis or wants something.

    • admin says:

      Yep, we ARE all busy. It makes me crazy when some friends think their kind of busy is busier. If you know what I mean.

  9. Hey Carol! Great post! I have actually thought a lot about this…not just in terms of friendship but also online and with social media. I’m sure you also get emails and posts on occasion from others wanting your help or advice, acting like your BF, and then completely disappearing. I’m somewhat amazed at how many people have no problem asking for others to help them with their blog (or their life or their whatever) but never offer to return the favor–or even act that interested. And while I try to be the kind of person who is generous with my time and attention, the truth is that life is FAR too short to continually give to others that have no intention of giving back. ~Kathy

    • admin says:

      You know, I don’t get those kinds of contacts. But why don’t you simply say you’ll consult for a fee of X? I’ll bet that would change things, fast!

  10. Diane says:

    Oh, I’m afraid I may be one of THOSE FRIENDS! I always return calls. And remember birthdays. But I spend so much of my day knee-deep in children that I sometimes realize that it’s been weeks since I spoke to so-and-so. I feel terrible. But then I do call. Does that count? 🙁

  11. D. A. Wolf says:

    I am sometimes struck by those we don’t expect to be there for us, who show up when we truly need them. It’s such a gift. So while we may not always be able to reciprocate for many reasons, though we may wish we can, if we pay it forward at the very least – helping when we can – it can make all the difference… to someone else.

    Great post.

  12. I agree with you 100% Carol. Maybe when I was younger I’d accept a friendship that was not a two way street. But, life is too short to waste your time with people like that. I’m so blessed to have amazing girlfriends in my life that I’d do anything for and I know they’d do the same for me!

  13. Mary Buchan says:

    When I was young not hearing from a friend really bothered me. I’ve learned to get over myself and release people. There are so many reasons why they don’t stay in touch or reach back. There are seasons of friendship often based upon the season of life we are living in. On the other hand we need to put something into each other’s emotional bank accounts if a close friendship is to be sustained. It is like a garden that needs sunshine, water and weeding. That’s my 2 cents!

  14. I feel the same way! I do not keep negative people in my circle, there are enough of them in the world that I do not need them in my world. There is something about being in midlife that makes you realize that time is so precious and we need to use it (with others) wisely.

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