Early on in life our parents, teachers and other family members teach us the importance of “taking turns” – an important lesson because it’s learning the value of patience and courtesy. Knowing how to take turns becomes even more important as we move forward in life as adults, as we build relationships and alliances with others that we need in order to sustain. But adult “reason” can get in the way of this – making some people, events, and things more important or convenient. This can be hurtful.
As adults we are more apt to apply judgment as to why some things are more important than others. We can slight people without knowing because our reasons seem just, so it is easy to assume they should be accepted by others. When we do this, we block other people from having experiences that they need to feel valuable and “part of.” We also block people from truly being known and appreciated outside of the roles that we tend to put them in.
A couple of types of situations come to mind. One is the position of “mother.” I have many clients in my West Chester and Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, PA based counseling practice who are mothers. Their lives are busy with raising children and taking care of their families. They are the nurturers and always aiming to make things better for the people they love. Through their commitment to their families they often sacrifice of themselves. Over the course of years as children grow older and grow up mothers can continue to be viewed as the “givers” and not receive as much. Mothers may not be asked questions about themselves – How they are doing; what is going on in their lives, opinions, and thoughts, etc.. It is easy to overlook that “mother” is also a woman, friend, sister, professional, essentially a person with needs, wants and dreams of her own.
Imbalances can happen with friends, too. For instance, in a friendship between two young women one can be the talker, entertainer, and center of attention while the other can be quieter and go with the flow, but seems to be the “supporter’ or audience for the other. Over the course of years this imbalance can take its’ toll. Perhaps the “go with the flow” friend, realizes that she is no longer amused with her entertaining – high energy friend who seems to dominate conversations and require constant attention. She decides to move on in search of more equitable companions.
There is a time to turn the table and start giving back – Striking balance. This is important in all types of relationships, including friendships, coworkers, spouses, and siblings.
As much as we might not want to take turns and do what we feel is wanted or suits us, taking turns is necessary to relationships. At times we must let go of what we want for the greater good of relationship and of the other person. People can get stuck in roles within families, couples, friendships, workplaces and communities and not have enough room to be more of who they really are. Often, when people are stuck in roles they may either clamor or become withdrawn. Sometimes people do not know what is going on inside of them, but something seems off and there is dissatisfaction and conflict. Roles prevent people from growing – and, we are designed to grow. One cannot have a relationship with a “role” only with a person.
Stepping back and looking at your most important relationships, what do you see? How are you with taking turns? Is there someone or some people in your life with whom you could have a better relationship?
We invite you to explore your relationship skills. Are they working for you? Is there room for improvement? Do you have a friend or family member who might need a refresher?