People say it’s better to give than receive. Others say this is bullshit. But I’m here to tell you that I definitely find more joy in giving than receiving. There’s some strange pleasure in seeing the look on someone’s face when you either give them a gift or make a small, thoughtful gesture that shows how much you care. Their face takes on this weird mix of happiness, sadness, and shock. Maybe it’s because not enough people in this world are doing nice things for each other.
Whatever the reason, my eternal need to give to others has certainly gotten me into trouble in the past. It sometimes morphs into putting other people’s needs before my own. Sacrificing my wants, desires, and happiness to make the person in my life happy. It leads to being taken advantage of and feeling unappreciated. But I’ve discovered that this only happens when you’re giving to the wrong person. When you offer yourself fully and completely to someone who isn’t deserving, they will mistake your kindness for weakness and then it’s all over.
I’ve been a doormat more times than I care to admit. I made the mistake of offering the gift of myself to the wrong people. Until I met my husband. Our relationship started just like all my others. I dropped everything in my life to cater to his every whim. And like most people, he welcomed this with open arms. I rubbed his feet after a long day. Made his coffee in the morning and broke plans with friends to be with him. Not because he asked me to, but because I wanted to. It made me feel good to make him happy.
But after a short time, my husband saw something in me that I had never seen before. Or perhaps, it was the absence of something. There was no part of “me” left in me. My identity had become being his partner. Being whatever he wanted or needed me to be. And he immediately put a stop to it. I didn’t react well at first. I was confused. Didn’t he like me taking care of him? He explained to me that of course he did but that he also married me for the person I was. The girl who liked to write. The girl who enjoyed reading meditation books on the front porch and going to yoga with friends. The girl who took early morning runs and binge-watched reality shows. All of those things that I had stopped doing when I decided it was my job to be my husband’s partner.
It wasn’t until that moment that I realized I could be both. I didn’t have to suppress my own identity in order to be a giving, supportive partner. And my husband didn’t want me to. So, I slowly starting making changes. I stopped breaking plans with friends and started making them. I offered to help my husband with his family business only when it didn’t interfere with my own plans for the day. I rub his feet. And he rubs my back.
I will never be able to eliminate the internal giver that lives inside me. I will still make my husband’s lunch and write cute notes on his sandwich. I will fold his underwear and iron his work pants. I still find joy in being a doting wife. And that’s because I’ve found the right person to give to. A person who appreciates my selfless gestures and offers them in return. If an internal giver lives inside you, don’t stop being who you are. Just stop giving to the wrong people.