The importance of a reciprocal relationship (Plus tips)

In this blog post, we talk about the importance of reciprocity in a romantic relationship, what it means to be in a reciprocal relationship, and about our need for symmetry. 

What is a reciprocal relationship?

If we were to define what reciprocity means in the context of romantic love, the definition would be simple: we love those who love us. A description of this definition would sound like this: we are not truly loved, except when we learn that love takes two. The description is a romantic one, but as the article is about reciprocity in romantic love I could not have continued with a description devoid of romance. Reciprocal relationship has requited love.

My description was inspired by the Adlerian principles in psychotherapy, but it is a topic generally approached, studied, researched by specialists from all orientations in psychotherapy, psychology and more. 

There are guidelines that after some studies or after some researchers claim that in a couple of relationships, each partner makes a contribution of 50% in the relationship and as there are two in total 100%. What is certain is that, regardless of the percentages, each partner has a contribution to the relationship. Following this contribution, the idea of ​​reciprocity intervenes.

In the book “Paths of Love”, Ayala Malach Pines says that there are studies that show that the process of falling in love is determined by the important role played by the needs met by the loved one and the sensual effect of confirming that a person feels attracted to us. 

At the same time, the moments when the participants in those studies felt that they fell in love were the following: when what the loved one offered was something they wanted (important needs) and when the loved one expressed love, appreciation, admiration for them.

The romantic attraction also means reciprocity. The partner gives you love and satisfies certain needs: the need for safety, protection, encourages you, validates the fact that you are able to achieve certain things, maintains the connection, so you feel connected to him, even if he is not next to you at all during the day or every day, you feel like it’s there.

You feel valuable, you count and you are aware of this aspect because your partner encourages you to feel valuable. Then there is the need to feel admired, attractive, and so on. In turn, you also offer your partner love, manifestations of it and you fulfil certain needs, which I have already listed.

Reciprocal relationships mean giving love and receiving love. Conflicting debates about reciprocity begin when percentages or accounting for gestures that express love begin to be discussed when you begin to list what your partner has done to show that he loves you.

Positive or beneficial reciprocity is that exchange of gestures between partners, or between lovers, or between lovers, which expresses love and which come naturally, simply because you feel that way. 

It is not accounted for, it is not compared, it is offered and that’s it. And it’s not just about the ideal! It also exists in reality! It may happen that you give your partner an expensive birthday present, a vacation in the Caribbean. 

You enjoy your vacation together and at some point, your birthday follows, when he offers you a romantic evening at home, a time when he cooks, which he does not usually do. Why would you count or compare? Either manifestation is one that expresses love. 

Or if he or she forgets it’s your birthday or doesn’t respond to a message or doesn’t write you what you want to read or hear… start charging him or her for wanderings? It can happen to anyone, even you! Also, your boyfriend or girlfriend can’t read your thoughts, so they may not respond exactly as you expect. 

For example, there are families where the birthday is not celebrated or is not part of the special days, so the partner has not developed the habit of celebrating your birthday with a party. It doesn’t necessarily mean he doesn’t care about you, he just wasn’t part of his family “culture.” However, he can surprise you with breakfast every morning, value or habit from his family “culture”.

The moment you tax the little wandering and start opening the agenda of accounting for manifestations of love or for love, the couple’s relationship no longer works on the principle of positive reciprocity. The tendency is to move towards negative reciprocity. 

Affectionate gestures, in addition to expressing love, are related to appreciation, admiration, devotion, appreciation, they are not made out of an obligation by which we maintain reciprocity in the couple. On the principle: let’s check reciprocity!

I believe that negative reciprocity maintains a power struggle, in order to gain control over the relationship, or out of a desire to constantly validate the fact that love exists, amid insecurity. There may also be personal shortcomings that tend to surface at some point. Thus, we are talking about accounting for love gestures.

Positive or beneficial reciprocity simply expresses romantic love, where nothing is accounted for, only moments are lived.

Negative reciprocity will always be on the useless side of life, it will exhaust you. Remember that you cannot force someone to show affection for you exactly as you want or as you see fit. He will manifest his affection as he feels it.

This aspect is very much related to the values ​​with which he grew up within the family, to the atmosphere of the family, from whom he or she learned the affection and how the affection manifests or what it means for him or her. If he thinks he can learn the condition with you the way you feel, then he will try.

But if he can’t, and you are stubborn enough to make him manifest the way you want, the feeling of belonging that you will feel will consume all your energy, will lead you to the useless area of ​​life. Not only will you become an unpleasant company for him or her, but it’s very possible that you don’t like you very much anymore…

Briffault’s Law describes relationships, not reciprocally but something one chooses by weighing the cost and benefits.

Reciprocity and the need for symmetry

The need for symmetry is what characterizes any system in this universe. And the couple you are part of is a system of elements that, if not balanced individually and together, will fail.

Reciprocity – a word that may not be liked by those who do not intend to give and who prefer to only receive: money, services, attention. Because they were used to it and because they also noticed that it is convenient. If you have woken up from this sleep that may have lasted for years and you want to receive what you have offered, it is most likely that you will force yourself to change these things in vain.

For the one to whom you show that your needs and expectations have changed and that you have become aware of what can no longer be the same as before, your demands will be overwhelming. You will not see results for a very long time. 

You will feel devalued, you will feel unappreciated, you will see much better how your needs and expectations – even though you have begun to learn to communicate them to you – will not be taken into account.

There are many young couples who turn to a psychologist at this stage of their lives. It is important to know that in the office you can both learn what you have to do, to balance the balance we talked about at the beginning of this article. And it is important to want to make an effort together if you feel that the relationship is worth the effort.

However, equilibrium is not reached immediately. Because the one who does not want very much to make changes will be able to sabotage the therapy giving only the impression that he wants to make changes, but concretely, at home, refusing to show that he wants to integrate what he found in the office.

Concepts and quotes related to “not having expectations” and others from the same range, have no applicability in real life – if you want to have a relationship in which to feel fulfilled. Not “at some point”, but now, when you need it – the greatest need.

At times, one might become too clingy in a relationship, suffocating the other. Therefore, it is very important to maintain balance in all aspects of your life.

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

FAQ about the reciprocal relationship

What is a reciprocal relationship?

A reciprocal relationship means that you feel valuable, you count and you are aware of this aspect because your partner encourages you to feel valuable. Then there is the need to feel admired, attractive, and so on. In turn, you also offer your partner love, manifestations of it and you fulfil certain needs, which I have already listed.

What are the reciprocal relationships with families?

Reciprocal relationships with families mean respecting each other’s values, desires and resources. Parents should respect their children and value their insights.

Why is reciprocity important in a relationship?

Reciprocity is important in a relationship because otherwise, you will feel devalued, you will feel unappreciated, you will see much better how your needs and expectations – even though you have begun to learn to communicate them to you – will not be taken into account. When there is reciprocity in the relationship you will feel loved, respected and valued.

What do you do when love is not reciprocated?

When love is not reciprocated, you need to take into consideration whether things may be changed. Talk with your partner, but don’t torture yourself – you deserve to be loved and appreciated. 

What is a reciprocal attraction?

A reciprocal attraction means feeling sexual attraction for someone, and learning that they feel the same for you. 

Is it wrong to expect reciprocity in a relationship?

No, it is not wrong to expect reciprocity in a relationship, it is actually something that should be expected and required. Reciprocal relationships mean giving love and receiving love. Conflicting debates about reciprocity begin when percentages or accounting for gestures that express love begin to be discussed when you begin to list what your partner has done to show that he loves you.

Conclusions

In this blog post, we talked about the importance of reciprocity in a romantic relationship, what it means to be in a reciprocal relationship, and about our need for symmetry. 

The romantic attraction also means reciprocity. The partner gives you love and satisfies certain needs: the need for safety, protection, encourages you, validates the fact that you are able to achieve certain things, maintains the connection, so you feel connected to him, even if he is not next to you at all during the day or every day, you feel like it’s there.

If you have any questions or comments, please let us know!

Further reading

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert B. Cialdini 

Reciprocity, by Lawrence C. Becker 

The Reciprocity Advantage: A New Way to Partner for Innovation and Growth, by Bob Johansen 

Reciprocity and the Art of Behavioural Public Policy, by Adam Oliver

What we recommend for Relationship & LGBTQ issues

Relationship counselling

  • If you are having relationship issues or maybe you are in an abusive relationship then relationship counselling could be your first point of call. Relationship counselling could be undertaken by just you, it does not require more than one person.

LGBTQ issues

If you are dealing with LGBTQ issues then LGBTQ counselling may be a great option for you. Maybe you are confused as to your role and identity or simply need someone to speak to. LGBTQ counsellors are specially trained to assist you in this regard.

 

References

Paths of Love, by Ayala Malach Pine

Creativeconflictresolution.org – Kinds of Relationships: mutual, reciprocal, fiduciary

Goodtherapy.org – Relationships and the Importance of Reciprocity

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