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GETTING EVEN

Raspberry rock

It is a truth of Nature/life that we enjoy relationships only if we feel equal in them. If we feel that we are getting our fair share in a relationship, we enjoy it. If we feel that we are getting less than a fair share, we suffer such negative thoughts as being hurt, outshone, elbowed, or used. Only by taking one's fair share of time, talk, and attention can a person feel equal.

Getting one's fair share is not something that a person can wait for, hoping that the other person will offer it freely. People who wait feel continuously hurt by the callousness of others, complaining that other people are selfish and insensitive. They are easily overshadowed and used.

The purpose of any relationship is to benefit both participants. Each person is in the relationship for the sake of what it does for him or her. Each contributes benefits to the other. To some relationships a person gives a great deal, whereas to others he or she gives little. In a marriage or friendship, for instance, there is a high input of time, attention, and material resources, whereas in dealings with a store clerk there is little input.

Both persons give much or both give little. The benefits that each gives the other are then balanced. Only the person can evaluate these benefits. Their being in balance is a matter of feeling that they are. If you feel that you are not receiving your share of benefits, you must negotiate to receive more or else to offer less. The other person sees the relationship from his or her point of view. Both participants negotiate to balance the relationship to the satisfaction of both.

Changing the agreed-upon level of input also is a process of negotiation. One person might want to elevate an acquaintance into a friendship or a friendship into a marriage - he or she gives more to the relationship, hoping that the other person will respond in kind. Conversely, one person might want to lower the level of the relationship and withdraws by not talking, not suggesting, not advising, or not being available.

The negotiations required in changing the level of a relationship can be difficult, because the two participants' intentions might not match. One might think that the level of the relationship is too high while the other might think that it is too low. If one withdraws, the other feels hurt or else pours more talk, interest, and material resources into the relationship in the hope of keeping it going, causing the other person to feel guilty. The pain of lowering a relationship inhibits some people from taking steps and leaves them stuck in something unsatisfactory.

Although relationships always seek a balance, because of potentially bad consequences they do not always achieve it. For example, some people have so much invested in a marriage, children, or a career that they tolerate an imbalance in order not to demolish years of effort. In such a case, when a person feels on the down side in a relationship, in an effort to put it back into balance he or she will insert anger or a search for mutual understanding. If these have no effect, depression is a common consequence, because the person is suffering from being on the down side and doesn't know how to get even.

One cannot tell, except through getting to know the other person better, at what point a relationship will come into balance. You don't know how much you mean to the other person, and the other person doesn't know how much he or she means to you. A benefit is always relative to how the person sees it. For instance, one person might have wealth at the top of his or her list of desirable benefits, while the other person has a loving relationship at the top. One person might value an efficiently run household more highly than leisure, while the other person values leisure more.

By getting to know one another, the participants negotiate more successfully. Each needs to know the values and intentions of the other person. When both participants feel that they are giving more than they are getting, and yet both want the relationship to continue at the same level, the only way to resolve the problem is with understanding of the other person.

There is a special case of being cut or cut out that is particularly common. This is the case of being cut in on when one is speaking. Before you have had a chance to finish what you have to say, sometimes even in the middle of a sentence, the other person breaks in and tries to take the dialogue away from you. If you don't persist in what you are saying, you are left feeling weak, defeated, victimized, cut, and broken. This situation is common on TV talk shows, and it is instructive to see how some participants handle the situation. Most experienced talk-show participants keep right on talking, even though they have been broken in on. Doing so is necessary if a person is not to feel shamed by the other person's overbearing power. If someone who is a family member or a friend has a habit of cutting in on your sentence, take notice of what is happening - this is a necessary first step. Then persist in completing what you have to say, in a raised tone, if necessary, or point out, "You are breaking in on me" or say, "May I finish?"

Relationships that are balanced are balanced between the benefits received and the benefits given and also between the injuries received and the injuries given. Both participants feel that they have gotten even with the other. If someone has insulted you, to feel good you must get even, usually by returning the insult, getting angry, or taking revenge. There is, however, another way of getting even. This is the way of initiating a search for mutual understanding. If the other person goes along with it, you get even by showing your superiority. This way is sometimes so successful that the other person becomes ashamed or angry. To resolve the situation, the superior person must show respect for the other person's feelings by finding a balance in self-expression between himself or herself and the other person.

See "My Wife Wants to Win Every Argument" for more information.

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