To all my over-givers out there, I have something to tell you about courtship that is going to blow your mind. You might have grown up with a giving complex – where you give and give in a subconscious attempt to earn love and validation. So naturally, when you like someone, or you’re not getting the attention you want, it may seem natural to give more.
But when it comes to dating – giving more does not necessarily result in someone liking you more. In fact, it can have the opposite effect. Let me explain.
The principle of “sunk costs”, explains how people have “a greater tendency to commit to an endeavor after a prior investment of time, money, or effort.” While this is often a term used in economics, the same principle applies to relationships. Essentially, the more we invest in a person or a relationship– be it time, energy, gifts or favors – the more we value the person. Those investments build up over time and the person doing the giving feels more committed to the recipient of their giving.
This is not advice telling you to be selfish, calculative or manipulative in courtship. If you’re only taking, you also kill the relationship growth.
You need to both give and receive to complete the circuit of love. It’s as generous to give as it is to receive.
This problem occurs when the giving/receiving is one-sided and imbalanced. This is why following a matching approach is helpful – you give a little, you receive a little, and eventually through time, both people are investing and valuing each other in a natural flow.
The courtship process is a dance. You take a step and the other person takes a step. It’s a gradual building of rapport and connection. When I say dance, think waltz, not Zumba. There’s a progression of steps that escalate in vulnerability and commitment and you take one step, see how it feels, take stock of how your new romantic interest is showing up, and if the conditions feel positive, then continue. The fatal mistake of over-givers is instead of letting a progression build, they rush intimacy and often end up falling flat on their face.
The quickest way to kill a romantic spark is to smother it.
This is why learning the principle of matching is important. Matching means taking the time and space to nurture a spark into a flame. It means when you initiate, you also give space and time for the other person to initiate. It means you don’t reveal your deepest darkest secrets on the first date, and allow trust to build before a tell-all memoir. It means if you’ve texted and don’t hear back, you don’t rapid fire five more texts and escalate your emoji game.
Matching does not mean you manipulate or play tit for tat, it means you honor balance.
Matching means overall, you put in an equal investment as your partner into building the connection. The great thing about matching is that you can feel out if the other person is as invested as you are, instead of racing to give your entire heart and soul to someone who may not even want it!
This is the classic mistake of over-givers: you take three steps and your partner takes one, and you react by taking an extra two steps to make up for their lack of steps. You end up taking five, they’re still at one, and eventually, this imbalance leads to resentment or desperation.
The opposite of matching is smothering. Smothering includes the following:
- Oversharing. This is when you reveal your deepest secrets and vulnerabilities too early on. You’ve already launched into a monologue of your childhood trauma, the losers you’ve dated and the X before he can utter the words amuse bouche.
- Over-giving. He buys you lunch, you balance it out by making him a 3-course meal, buy him a bottle of cologne and write him a letter expressing your feelings. It’s too much too fast.
- Over-texting. Triple dip texting. This is when for every green line you respond with 3 blue lines. And when you don’t hear back immediately, you text again, this time with a question, more exclamation marks or some other bait to get them to respond. Let your anxiety breathe. Do not make assumptions because you’re not hearing back right away and let go of your attachment for validation or reassurance. Not hearing back from someone is not an invite to text-bomb them into replying.
- Over-expecting. You’ve gone on a few dates and you’re already expecting your new crush to treat you with partner status. The expectations are fueled by entitlement and a dash of projection, which result in disappointment and resentment. Even if you felt soul mate vibes by date one, it doesn’t mean your new beau is on the same wavelength. Do not assume someone is exclusive, committed and at partner status just because you want or will them to be.
In conclusion, for all my recovering over-givers out there (myself included), I hope you embrace receiving, and remember that a healthy connection requires a balance of giving and receiving. While there’s a superhighway to lust, there isn’t a super highway to love. Building trust, rapport and connection which are the fundamentals of love require time.