The balance of give and take

Within the family system give and take should always be in balance. This balance is upset when the giving is too much / too little or when the taking is too much / too little.

 However the balance is a different one when it is about children and parents or about the romantic relationship between partners.


Children and parents

A child is biologically bonded to his/her parents, whether he/she likes it or not and a child is always “the small one” while parents are “the big ones”.

Between a parent and child there will always be an imbalance as the child is dependent on the adult. So giving and taking between children and parents can never be equal. Mothers and fathers give and children take. Parents give their children the greatest gift of all – which is life – and what is equal in weight to life?

After that, when children become parents in their turn, they pass on their parents’ gifts. Now they give and their own children take. Thus is how balance is reached.

In relation to our parents we must behave as respectful children i.e. we must trust them to handle their adult problems on their own and not be so presumptuous to think we are able to take these upon ourselves.

Children always want their parents to be happy and out of a profound love for their parents they try to help them to make their lives easier puttin themselves in the “wrong” place and infringing the orders of love. They invert the positions child/parent, play the role of “heads of a family system” and almost always this will cause certain difficulties in their adult lives.

As these children grow up, they often feel anger or depression and some try to reject their families in an attempt to build a new, separate life. Sometimes they move to the other side of the world to disentangle themselves but it doesn’t work. When they remain tied to their families in this way, they are not free to go forward in their lives and when they form relationships with partners, they can never be fully available because they are still caught up with their parents and/or they may want to compensate by receiving from their partners, as if the partner was the parent.


The Interrupted Reaching-Out Movement

One of the key dynamics in Family Constellations is the Interrupted Reaching-Out Movement between children and their parents.

When a child’s connection to their parent, particularly with their mother, is disrupted by a physical or emotional separation, strong feelings of hurt, rejection, despair, hate, resignation, and grief can occur. When the child attempts to reach out to another person later in life, the deep memories of hurt emerge unconsciously and interrupt this movement causing reactions with the same feelings as long time ago.


Family Constellations can provide an opportunity to bring that earlier child back to the deeply needed connection with the parent, and restore the capacity to reach out and move freely in a relationship.



Romantic relationship between partners


If we want a harmonic relationship giving and taking have to be in balance. This exchange of giving and taking happens at all levels – material, sexual, emotional, mental, spiritual — and is the sustaining force that maintains the relationship, deepening the commitment of both partners. The more they give and take from each other, the stronger the bond will be between them.

If we love someone we give, the beloved gives back a little more, we in our turn give a little more and everyone’s happiness goes up and up. This is how a romantic relationship normally starts.

Partners bring into the relationship whatever burden they carry from their family of origin, so it is clear that the parent-child relationship will have a strong impact on the man-woman relationship.

In moments of misunderstandings, where things may happen that hurt us and make us angry, we are too often drawn to return the pain and the anger running the risk of entering into a descending spiral of increasing suffering. If, however, we understand what is going on, we may give back just a little less pain and thus return to an ascending spiral that can lead us back to happiness.

In essence, one partner is receiving from the other what he/she is missing, and giving to the partner what he/she is missing — both must be ready to exchange in a balanced way. They must be ready to show that they need something from the other.

The challenge is to take a position in the relationship where both partners give only as much as the other is willing or able to give back, or receive only as much as the other is ready to receive in return.

Sometimes it may be impossible to pass back the positive things that we receive from our partners. In these cases gratitude is one way to keep giving and taking in balance.

When we give too much, we do this mostly out of a wish of being loved and included. When we do not get back what we expected, we feel unloved and excluded. In both cases there is no respect – neither for ourselves nor for our partners. And without respect, there can be no love. The gap grows and grows and at the end there is no more chance left – the relationship breaks up.

The biggest cause of an imbalance in partnerships comes from the fact that one partner unconsciously asks the other to be a parent, or adopts a parental role.

“Humiliating forgiveness” – an important concept, not easy to understand

People are talking a lot about forgiveness. Implicit in the concept of forgiving is the presupposition that a human being has the right to remove guilt from another. From where could someone get the right to do such a thing?

If I say “I forgive you” I behave in a condescending way humiliating the guilty partner who can never be on par again with me. Here we have a sure way to put an end to the relationship.

Something else is important here:

If the partner acknowledges his/her guilt and accepts the consequences of this guilt he/she can gain from it in terms of strength, dignity and weight. Agreeing with one’s own guilt brings about strength, strength to do something good in a way that is quite different from what people without guilt would be able to do.

If I were to say to someone, “I forgive you,” and he or she accepted my forgiveness, this guilty person would lose the strength inherent in personal guilt and also the strength to work towards something good henceforth.