Many marriages and relationships are not violent, but neither are they healthy, happy, or ideal. Why?
Often, it's because one person in the relationship becomes a giver, and the other a taker. Here's an example of such a relationship described by a young woman who wrote to me for counsel:
"This summer I found out from my fiancé’s sister that he was sexually abused when he was little. We have been together for almost 5 1/2 years and he has never told me. I think some of his present behavior could be caused by this. For instance, he has cheated on me in the past, he thinks very highly of himself, and he is very critical of others. I believe I can help him, but I just don't know how?"
Here was my response:
"Dear friend, from your description above, 'he has cheated on me in the past, he thinks very highly of himself, and he is very critical of others,' your fiancé has character qualities which are not conducive to a lasting and healthy relationship, those being unfaithfulness, egotism, and perfectionism. His past sexual abuse issue now is not as important as dealing with your relationship and whether he will be able to change.
Secondly, you say you believe you can help him. That is co-dependent logic which results in excessive dependency and the taking on of someone else's responsibilities. You have not changed his character and behavior yet. Only he can change himself and work through past issues in his life. The issue here is that you are the giver in this relationship and he is the taker. You are willing to do anything to keep this man in your life no matter how he treats you.
What makes you willing to put up with his behavior and a relationship based on his terms and needs? Maybe you are suffering from low self-esteem and fear of abandonment. What if you decide now that because you are a person of value and worth you deserve to be treated as such? Instead of thinking about his needs and issues, determine to think about your needs and how he should treat you because you are worth it! Tell him that in order for you to stay in the relationship you want him to give back to you – faithfulness, acceptance, and concern for your needs. Write out specifically what this will look like.
Aren’t you worth being treated with respect in a relationship? Aren’t you worth getting something back and being treated like "number one?" After all, you are planning to be married. Make some personal goals now to grow in self-worth, assertiveness, setting boundaries, and understanding God’s love for you. It’s not wrong to be a giver in a relationship when both are givers. But, when one is a taker, the giver tends to give up everything, including her dignity and self-esteem. Don’t let that happen to you. So, let’s look more specifically at how to become a giver in relationships without giving up our dignity and principles. Here’s the list of characteristics of givers vs. takers.
Characteristics of biblical relationships: Givers vs. Takers
Consideration vs. neglect 1 Peter 3:7 says, “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” Consideration is basic to any healthy marriage. Philippians 2:1-2 tells us to put one another’s interests above our own. It’s difficult for a taker to consider anyone else’s opinions or interests above their own – because they are only focused on self.
Freedom vs. coercion, isolation, suppression: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).
Gentleness vs. harshness or intimidation: “But you, Timothy, belong to God; so run from all these evil things — follow what is right and good. Pursue a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11 ).
Grace vs. legalism: “But just as you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us - see that you also excel in this grace of giving” (2 Corinthians 8:6-7).
Honesty vs. deceit and lies: "Good people are guided by their honesty; treacherous people are destroyed by their dishonesty” (Proverbs 11:3).<
Integrity vs. impurity: “People with integrity have firm footing, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall” (Proverbs 10:9).
Love vs. threats or fear: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, ‘I love God’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also” (1 John 4:18 -21).
Negotiation vs. power: “And now I want to plead with those two women, Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. And I ask you, my true teammate, to help these women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News” (Philippians 4:2-3).
Partnership vs. selfishness: “Don't be selfish; don't live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don't think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing” (Philippians 2:3-4).
Peace vs. disunity: “Always keep yourselves united in the Holy Spirit and bind yourselves together with peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
Protection vs. danger: “He grants a treasure of good sense to the godly. He is their shield, protecting those who walk with integrity. He guards the paths of justice and protects those who are faithful to him” (Proverbs 2:6-8).
Respect vs. rudeness: “So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband” (Ephesians 5:33).
Responsibility vs. control or manipulation: “For we are each responsible for our own conduct” _(Galatians 6:4-5). _“When the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
Safety vs. anger and violence: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31 -32). “The LORD examines both the righteous and the wicked. He hates everyone who loves violence” (Psalm 11:5). “And I hate a man's covering himself with violence as well as with his garment, says the LORD Almighty” (Malachi 2:16 ).
Self-control vs. dominance: “We should live in this evil world with self-control, right conduct, and devotion to God” (Titus 2:12 ).
Servanthood vs. superiority or privilege: “Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all. For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others, and to give my life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:43-45).“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21 ).
Support vs. alienation: "So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11 ).
Trust vs. suspicion: “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
What about you? Do you think yours is a healthy, biblical relationship? Are you a giver or a taker? What about your significant other?
Complete the Giver-Taker Inventory.
Circle the statements below that are true in your significant relationship?
I'm the one ...
- Who usually calls.
- Who feels disrespected.
- Who cleans up after other people.
- Who listens and shows empathy.
- Who sacrifices to make others happy.
- Who does extra work around the house (so my spouse can rest).
- Who works extra hours to pay more bills.
- Who is more affectionate.
- Who keeps the peace at all costs.
- Who gives special gifts to him/her.
- Who feels manipulated.
- Who feels stepped on.
- Who is resentful for caving in.
- Who gives much more attention to him/her?
- Who has to account for my day?
Total your scores from this column. Each statement you circle = one point. 1-7 = Giver. 7-15 = Codependent Giver
Circle the questions below to which you would answer "Yes."
Does your spouse or significant other...
- Take advantage of your desire to help?
- Rarely call you?
- Rarely help with your needs?
- Disrespect you?
- Care only about their needs?
- Overlook your interests or choices?
- Demand you do things their way?
- Tend to shirk their responsibility?
- Tend to expect you to make ends meet?
- Abuse you verbally or physically?
- Often tell you to do one more thing?
- Tend to distrust you?
- Hide the truth from you?
- Seem to not appreciate you or the things you do?
- Plan activities without asking for your input?
- Harass you and intimidate you?
- Demand you perform sexual acts you would rather not?
Total the questions you circled. Each questions circled = one point. 1-6 = Taker. 6-16 = Egotistical Taker. If you circled any of these: 4, 7, 10, 16 and/or 17 – your spouse or significant other is abusive.