Reciprocity of love

Love Reciprocity · Jens Oliver Meiert

Love Reciprocity

Post from August 26, 2015 (↻ June 7, 2021), filed under Everything Else (feed).

Love! What a wonderful topic. My mind would instantly turn into a good number of directions, from love in our personal lives to different forms of love, to the powers of love, to the possibly universal character of love. I don’t understand it and I’m a bit out of touch with it these days, despite modest attempts to examine or locate it. I wonder how you feel.

Here I want to go over an idea we best call love reciprocity (there aren’t an awful number of search results for this term precisely, but mutual love has clearly been discussed at length).

The idea of love reciprocity, most notably around the romantic flavor of love, comes from the desire for mutual love. The idea stems from the wish that if we love someone, then that someone would love us back. That wish appears to be very strong, in my eyes well explaining why we’d seek it, and how we may want to believe in love reciprocity, too.

Love reciprocity makes us prefer not to love without being loved back. Evidently, that would violate the idea. If what we want is reciprocal love, and we love, but the recipient refuses to share some of their love, then that’s not reciprocal—it’s unilateral (and painful). And so there’s an odd twist then when on the receiving end, we do want to be loved without having to love back. The very same thing (response to love) that we wish from others is something we don’t want to, and probably cannot, guarantee them. (Maybe that’s the paradox of love reciprocity?)

And so we may make two points:

  1. More often than enough, what we may be looking for is reciprocal, mutual love, which is different from and more specific than “just” love.

  2. We seem to catch ourselves with a double-standard when not wanting to love, or not wanting to have to love, someone who loves us (which is understandable), but being all disappointed when someone we love doesn’t love us (which, too, is understandable).

As always there’s more, and yet I believe this makes for an interesting detail to consider when it comes to the wonderful topic of—love. In consequence, maybe we should consider not making reciprocal love a goal, and learn how to better love actively, unconditionally, and—unilaterally? Even if that sounds all political now.

Update (July 11, 2020)

In the meantime I’ve learnt that love knows no condition (that no conditionality exists), and that the idea of conditional love was an an oxymoron.

Toot or tweet about this?

About Me

I’m Jens, and I’m an engineering lead and author. I’ve worked as a technical lead for Google, I’m close to W3C and WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly. I love trying things, sometimes including philosophy, art, and adventure. Here on I share some of my views and experiences.

If you have a question or suggestion about what I write, please leave a comment (if available) or a message. Thank you!

How to Know if You're in a Reciprocal Relationship

Hint: It starts with learning each other's love languages.

Westend61/Getty Images

Whether a couple just started dating, is engaged, or already tied the knot, an intimate relationship is a two-way street. It requires both partners to be fully invested in the overall well-being of the partnership.

A healthy reciprocal relationship occurs when two partners have mutual respect and support for one another. Wondering whether you have a reciprocal relationship? To help us understand reciprocal relationships deeper, we chatted with Darcy Sterling, a New York City-based clinical social worker, relationship expert and host of E! Network's relationship TV show Famously Single. Keep scrolling to learn what reciprocity is, why it's important and tips for how to have a reciprocal relationship.

In this article:

  • What Is Reciprocity in a Relationship?
  • The Importance of Reciprocity in a Relationship
  • 4 Ways to Practice Reciprocity in Your Relationship

What Is Reciprocity in a Relationship?

Sterling defines reciprocity in a romantic relationship as the healthy give and take between partners. If your relationship's mutual exchange of support doesn't seem even, don't worry—there tends to be an imbalance.

"There's always going to be one partner taking more and one giving more at a given time," Sterling says. "When you think about reciprocity, don't think about taking a snapshot of a specific moment. It's about having the overall sense that the give and take in your relationship balances out over time."

To have a reciprocal relationship, Sterling says each partner must know what their needs are and be able to express those needs to their partner. If those needs aren't met, they must be able to communicate that to their partner.

Another thing to keep in mind: A person's early childhood can affect how or if they practice reciprocity in their relationship. "People who didn't grow up in a home where family members gave to one another freely have no frame of reference for how to do it or what it looks like when done correctly," Sterling says.

The Importance of Reciprocity in a Relationship

Why is having a reciprocal relationship so important? According to Sterling, the flow of energy in both directions is what allows both partners to feel loved and valued. In other words, reciprocity is not just important in a romantic relationship—it's vital. No one wants to feel like they're giving and giving and not receiving.

4 Ways to Practice Reciprocity in Your Relationship

Improve the reciprocity in your relationship with these four expert-backed tips.

1. Learn each other's love languages.

One way to ensure you and your partner are embodying a reciprocal relationship is by learning each other's love languages and expressing love to each other in those ways.

It's believed that we all give and receive love in different ways. The five love languages, introduced by Gary Chapman's bestselling book of the same name, are: receiving gifts, words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time and physical touch. (To find out your love language, you can read the book or take a short quiz.)


"Most of us know what [our love language] is and we tend to express love in the way we want to receive it," Sterling says. "But if giving gifts is your primary love language and your partner's love language is quality time, your attempts at reciprocity will land flat."

Sterling also recommends asking your partner to share specific things they wish you'd do that would make them feel more loved. For instance, if your partner's love language is acts of service, they may feel loved when you do the dishes or run an errand for them. Check in with yourself regularly to ensure you've done at least a few things on that list.

2. Work on communicating when you disagree.

Even if you know each other's love languages, practicing reciprocity when one or both partners are in an emotional state can be challenging.

"You can't ponder someone else's needs when you're emotionally escalated," Sterling says. "And part of reciprocity requires that each partner knows themselves well enough to know when they can and cannot communicate productively."

3. Avoid keeping score.

Sterling says couples should avoid focusing too much on reciprocity because it can lead to keeping score.

"The natural inclination is to question whether your partner is giving you enough, but that's a question that almost always leads to dissatisfaction," Sterling says. "To avoid the mistake of keeping score in your relationship, use the principle [of reciprocity] to evaluate how well you're contributing to the relationship and to your partner, not the other way around."

In other words, focusing more on your actions instead of your partner's will increase the likelihood that both you and your significant other feel fulfilled.

4. Practice interdependence.

While codependency in a relationship isn't advised, interdependence is the sign of a healthy relationship. "In interdependence, partners value the support they receive from each other while maintaining a clear sense of self," Sterling says. "They are able to disagree and have differing interests, and the relationship dynamic allows for those differences."

To practice interdependence in a healthy reciprocal relationship, both partners must ensure they don't become completely engulfed by the relationship. "The relationship is a part of your life. It's not your entire life," Sterling says. "Maintain your own friends, your own hobbies. Spend time without your partner."



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How to achieve reciprocity in love?

When you type “non-reciprocity” into Google, it asks: “Perhaps you meant reciprocity?” Even the Internet refuses to accept this state of affairs. And I understand it. Reciprocity is almost the only issue on earth in which people of any gender, age, nationality and religion are in solidarity. Everyone wants a response. Not that I was looking for reciprocity, that is, non-reciprocity, on the Internet - the topic arose in a conversation with a friend. He said: “It’s good for some, all acquaintances end in success. And I, even if I am imbued with sympathy for someone, as a rule, leave with nothing, go unnoticed. The friend is handsome and successful. Man with no visible flaws. Indeed, why is it so easy for some and not for others? Where does reciprocity come from? nine0003

A person who is organic in his confidence is charming, whether he is a biologist, a dance teacher, or a businessman in the construction industry. But as soon as he wants to please someone not on business matters, the charm is replaced by awkwardness and timidity. What kind of friend is there - in the end, I myself already think that I’m not good enough for an interlocutor. And I suspect that everyone has a lot of similar stories. Of course, there are those who are knee-deep in the ocean. They do not think about reciprocity, but at full speed rush to the goal. But it is unlikely that determination and arrogance are synonymous. Excessive pressure most often causes rejection, like everything excessive. Of course, there are those who do not like themselves. It’s not easy not to wait for reciprocity from them, but in principle to run away. But we are not talking about extremes. For example, the first story Every time, next to the console of one DJ who plays at parties, a young lady grows up. They once knew each other. But now they do not say hello - it seems inappropriate to them. Nevertheless, at all discos with his participation - she is. With friends and without. Dressed up. Lips. Earrings. New tights. He chuckles, tells his wife that there is nothing to worry about. In fact, he's terribly proud. He understands that this fallback is always at his disposal. And the more dressed up a DJ fan is, the less likely she is to get something here and now. On the other hand, as soon as she disappears, he will look out for her on the dance floor and even regret a little that he did not do anything. The second story. This DJ is paired with another. In theory, a fan comes to his sets too, not missing a single one for two years now. It is in front of the nose. All in perfume and in a new dress. But he, the other, did not even suspect of its existence. And when he was told about this girl, he immediately forgot. Because the head is busy with other things. And he's actually gay. History the third. A girl who goes to parties has had a boyfriend for a long time. DJ. Jealous. Enamored. But youth passed - he fell out of love with her and went to another. No matter how much I tried to keep him, and then return him, nothing happened. Reciprocity is gone. Therefore, now the girl goes to dances, looking for the attention of other beautiful DJs at the console. She has such a taste, you know, - DJs. And also, probably, for her, this is a way to close the gestalt from the past. These three stories formed a short theory of non-reciprocity: “yet”, “never” and “already”. Even if non-reciprocity does not happen yet, it is clear that everything is possible. The first DJ is not yet ready to show sympathy, but has already noticed the beauty. Therefore, history has a future. The girl does not know about this, but she probably feels it, since she continues to go to parties specifically for him. nine0003

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17 months and 26 days is how long it takes to heal a broken heart.

Non-reciprocity - never, as in the second case, means that a person is not attuned from the very beginning. That is, he will not show himself in any way, even if the girl tried to conquer him. Or I would directly say that I am ready for anything. Or subtly bewitched him, as some can. There is no need to even talk about the category of “already-non-reciprocity” from the third story. When a relationship comes to a point, you should not stir up the past. It turns out that only “yet-non-reciprocity” deserves attention. There is enough reason for hope in this "still". Those who seek are lucky to experience this hope. Wait and feel that the same thing is about to happen. So, instead of wallowing in your own inadequacy, each failure should be viewed as one of these categories - "never", "already" or . .. "Maybe you shouldn't think so," I said to my shy friend. “Perhaps the person whose sympathy you seek is frightened himself. And I'm not sure myself. And waiting for an answer. But not resolved. So, each is convinced that the second is cold, not timid. As a result, both go home, hands in pockets, look at the asphalt. And breakfast in the morning for one. Show a little determination, show that you are on fire - and she will respond with sympathy. That is, if “never” and “already” are swept aside, it makes sense to think about “yet-non-reciprocity”. But it is very important not to confuse "never" with "still". And remember that not only you can be timid and confused, but also the person next to you. The more you withdraw into yourself, the less likely it is. More precisely, they do not remain at all. Companions of reciprocal feelings are not pure luck, arrogance and self-confidence, but rather empathy. Trying to see this hope in another. Still, people who seek differ from those who find. Of course, I would like to expect an exact answer, as once the exact time was reported by number 060. I wonder what number to call now? And the story with a timid friend ended with the fact that one day, after another conversation on this topic, I received a bouquet of flowers for breakfast. From him. With surprise, I began to think that all these were just hints and I did not understand anything in his feelings. But among the stems was a note with the words "Thank you, I found it." With pleasure in one of the future columns I will note that I attended their wedding. nine0003

Tags: love, Maria Dragina, relationship

What is unrequited love and why is it harmful from the point of view of science what is unrequited love from the point of view of science. Where does it come from, why can it become addictive and cause physical pain, how is this feeling related to self-esteem and fears, and what to do to make it easier. nine0003

Why we fall in love unrequitedly

Non-reciprocal feelings are very common. It is believed that unrequited love occurs four times more often than mutual and people aged 16 to 20 are most susceptible to it. Some studies claim that people with a restless and anxious type of attachment, with a low level of self-esteem and psychological protection, are also prone to such love.

There are a number of reasons for the appearance of this type of feeling. The most banal: we all come from childhood. We are attracted to people whom we think we deserve, and the idea of ​​​​this is formed just in the first years of life - on the example of parental attitude towards us or towards each other. It happens that we see in the object of affection that very cold parent and try to earn his love. In addition, the familiar pain of rejection may be less frightening than the unknown (“How is it there, in a relationship filled with love? What if it only gets worse?”). nine0003

Maybe subconsciously we don't want a relationship because we're afraid it's going to fail. If we have already been wounded once, it becomes scary that this may happen again. Unavailable partners can be a safe choice, because if the relationship never starts, you will be dumped.

In addition to the fear of breaking up, the fear of dissolving in a partner can keep you from a relationship. It is very difficult not to merge when they have mutual feelings for you and are waiting for something. Emotionally unavailable people do not need anything from us, and this is a great relief. nine0003

Another reason lies in the enjoyment of the conquest itself. Non-reciprocal love is an endless inspiring pursuit. Emotions like these can be addictive, making a stable, calm relationship seem boring. We like to "fix" people. I want to become the one who will change, “heal” an emotionally unavailable partner and his wounds. But we cannot make someone loving and ready for a relationship. Such changes do not happen at the snap of a finger and do not depend on us. In addition, when we find a suitable partner, there will be no need to change him. nine0003

Finally, people like to live in fantasy.

It is much safer to imagine an ideal relationship with an inaccessible person than to build it with someone who reciprocates.

After all, it may turn out that love is not a rosy thing at all, that there is no ideal, and even the best relationships sometimes require patience and great efforts. Most of these causes have deeper roots that are best dealt with in therapy - as well as correcting these patterns.

What is unrequited love like

Science has already analyzed love at the level of chemical reactions that occur in the brain and are associated with the hormones oxytocin and dopamine. They hide both in unrequited and mutual love. Therefore, both types of feelings are equally sincere. However, equal love brings satisfaction to both partners, it has a place for trust, care and intimacy. The unrequited one is distinguished by dependence, less self-sacrifice, it is unstable, unbalanced. nine0003

In psychology, there is a classification of forms of non-reciprocal love. American researcher Robert Bringle identified five of its types.

Falling in love with someone who is unavailable

It's simple. You may remember how you were in love with an actor, musician or athlete. The object of adoration is in the center of attention, but you are not familiar and are unlikely to ever meet.

Falling in love with someone from close circle without trying to start a romantic relationship

A person in love can have many reasons for not expressing their feelings and not trying to start a relationship. However, these motives, justified or not, do not change the disappointment due to unrequited love. For example, a schoolboy who is in love with a classmate does not dare to admit it to her.

Stalking the object of love despite the fact that he/she has rejected you

This path, as a rule, leads to the very painful consequences of unrequited love - rejection, humiliation and a decrease in self-esteem. The situation when a lover experiences unrequited feelings for the same person throughout his life is theoretically possible. But in practice, it is rare, this type of attachment is dysfunctional for a person. nine0038 Unrequited love for life is an image popularized and romanticized by literature and cinema .

Longing for a past lover

A person continues to love even after a breakup, often clearly realizing that a former partner is not suitable for him. According to research, falling in love triggers the release of dopamine and norepinephrine, the pleasure hormones. The same thing happens, albeit in smaller doses, even if a person just looks at a photo of a former lover. Therefore advice to unsubscribe from ex-lovers' social media profiles after breaking up can be very correct .

An unequal love relationship in which partners stay together but love in different degrees or pursue different goals

The phrase "different goals" implies that one may be insanely in love while the other fulfills the need for security and stability. Or one wants a "good mother/father" for their children, while the other idealizes a partner. Dissatisfaction from such unrequited love may be less acute, but stretched over years

Research by University of Denver professor Scott Stanley and his colleagues suggests that in today's couples there are more and more situations where commitment to a relationship is higher for one partner than for the other. This is a form of unrequited love within a couple.

Why unrequited love is dangerous

Relationships should not be avoided in principle. But it is important to understand in time that you are not appreciated, and love yourself strongly enough not to find yourself in an unhealthy situation. Unrequited love can consume, maim and interfere with living your life. The consequences can be even more serious: addiction, self-harm, anxiety disorders, and the repetition of similar scenarios in new relationships. nine0003

To counteract the negative consequences of unrequited love, you need to start by diagnosing its signs:

— you don't get anything in return, but you yourself completely devote yourself to another person;
- you always find ways to spend time with your lover, but these efforts are not reciprocated;
- you are jealous when he / she spends time with others;
- you constantly feel underestimated;
- thoughts about your beloved fill you with anxiety;
- you constantly think about what your partner is doing now; nine0098 - you do not have physical contact;
- beloved avoids you.

In some cases, the feeling of unrequited love can develop into Adele Hugo syndrome - a mental disorder characterized by prolonged love obsession. The symptoms of the disease resemble deep depression, but can be much more dangerous: persecution of a person, self-deception, voluntary self-sacrifice, reckless actions, deceptive hopes and loss of interest in other topics and events of life. Symptoms can also be insomnia or, conversely, an abundance of dreams in which the object of affection appears. Without appropriate therapy, Adélie's syndrome leads to the gradual destruction of the patient's personality, due to which he leaves reality and perceives only the world he has invented. nine0003

Interestingly, in 2011, a group of American psychologists published a study reporting that feelings experienced by a rejected person activate the same areas of the brain as physical pain b.

How to overcome pain

First of all, you need to ask yourself a few questions. Has this happened to me before? Is there a pattern? Have I experienced anything other than unrequited love in the last few years of my adult life? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, then it will be useful to find out why you are stepping on the same rake. Unrequited love is less intense in all its positive aspects than mutual love, but includes more emotional upheaval. In other words, it has more downs than ups. nine0003

Being in a relationship in which sympathy is not mutual often confirms in people the false belief that they cannot be loved.

Unrequited lovers experience real addiction with all its attributes: craving, withdrawal and relapse. Be honest: admit to yourself that this is an unhealthy attachment, and try to pull away. This means avoiding meetings and communication, not answering messages and calls, but it is better to unsubscribe from the object of affection in social networks or block it. nine0098 You should not enter into a new romantic relationship until you recover from unrequited love. This process can take months, sometimes more. In the meantime, you can focus on relationships with yourself, as well as with friends and family.

If it is difficult to cope with the trauma of unrequited love on your own, you can contact a psychotherapist. This is especially important if you were neglected or abused as a child. A professional will help you sort out old injuries and find ways out of a repeating pattern. nine0003

The opportunity to live life without experiencing feelings of unrequited love is rare. There is no need to be afraid of not meeting reciprocity: this is often an important stage in growing up and personal growth . What matters is how you deal with your feelings and what lessons you learn.

The more transparent and frank you are with the object of your love, the sooner you will know if he or she feels something in return. False hopes extended over time will eventually hurt more. We don't always get what we want. It is important to perceive this not as a defeat, but as something that was not destined to come true. If you can keep a positive attitude, it will speed up your emotional healing. There are other people and the possibility of other romantic relationships, and by continuing to live your life, you are giving them a chance. nine0003

The happiest relationships are based on honesty, acceptance of yourself and others. Preventing a recurring scenario of unrequited love means understanding and accepting yourself, perhaps seeking professional support, working through past traumas and false attitudes with a psychotherapist.

In the early 1990s, Roy Baumeister and his colleagues collected autobiographical stories written by students that addressed the problem of perceiving non-reciprocal feelings from both the lover's and the rejecter's points of view. Comparison of the roles of two different parties has allowed a better understanding of the processes and formed the basis of modern knowledge about unrequited feelings. nine0003

It is easy to assume that rejectors increase their self-esteem by feeling like an object of adoration, but everything is nullified by guilt.

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