“Tell me who I have to be to gain some reciprocity. See no one loves you more than me, and no one ever will.“
Disclaimer: I never like to speak in generalities, especially when it comes to describing people, because at the end of the day no group of people is homogeneous. So as I open this blog with a general statement, I’m well aware that it does not describe 100 percent of the women that walk this earth; however, it does describe 98 percent of the women I know.
By nature women love hard. They nurture, they sacrifice and they make sure everyone on their team is well taken care of…especially their men. However, women often forget to look for partners who reciprocate these qualities.
Reciprocity (noun): a situation or relationship in which two people or groups agree to do something similar for each other (m-w.com).
Reciprocity is imperative when it comes to relationships. Imagine you and your partner are two pitchers of water and love and support is the water inside the pitcher. If you’re constantly pouring that love and support out, you’re going to be empty soon…unless your partner chooses to pour love and support back into you. And it’s not only important that your partner pour back into you to keep you from becoming empty, but he needs to pour in the same amount that is being poured. That way you all break even. No one gives more than the other. No one leaves with less than they came to the table with.
Unfortunately, as important as reciprocity is to a healthy and productive relationship, most women don’t include it on their list of non-negotiables. To be completely transparent, I’d never even pondered the concept of reciprocity until I was 16 and heard Lauryn Hill sang about it in “Ex-Factor.” After looking the word up in a dictionary (yeah, that’s how foreign of a concept it was to me), I was like, “Yeah, that’s what I want.” But it wasn’t until six years later, after I’d endured a ton of heartache, did I decide that reciprocity should be the first thing on my non-negotiable list.
Why so stupid? Why so long? I’m glad you ask.
Somewhere in our culture (and I’m not sure if I’m talking Black culture, pop culture, or sexist American culture), we’ve decided that having a man is the grand prize for women everywhere. So you have generations of women seeking and settling for men who are not worthy of them in order to achieve the personal and societal validation that comes with having a man on your arm. And once these men are hooked, women pour out all their water and do whatever it takes to keep them. Women bust their busts to prove that they are the perfect woman, wifey material, the Proverbs 31 woman, a woman in the streets and a freak in the bed, yet they fail to set the expectation that their men should come to the table with reciprocal qualities.
This all came to a head for me over the past month or so while watching television. First, Mara Brock Akil, creator of Girlfriends, The Game and Being Mary Jane, thanked her husband on BET’s Black Girls Rock and made me break out in my own personal praise break.
“Thank you for seeing me when I don’t see myself,” she said. “YEEEESSSS!!!” I yelled from my bed. That was it. If I’m going to constantly pour into you, which I have no problem doing, I need you to be the type of man who sees me when I’m unable to see myself. When I’m too hurt, too broken or too discouraged to see the brightness that is my future, see it for me and push me toward it.
The second ah-ha reciprocity moment came from a character I’ve spent the past year and a half despising: Melody “Mellie” Grant, First Lady on ABC’s Scandal.
If you knew the sacrifices that I have made, the things that I have given up, the pieces of myself that I have given away for you…and you treat me this way? You declare war on me, and you shame me, and you make me beg for scraps when I have done nothing but fight for you. You don’t have to love me, but we are in this hell together and the flames are burning both of us with equal intensity, baby, so the least you could do is be my friend. Just a little bit. The least you could do is show up.
I don’t mind making sacrifices for in a relationship. That’s a part of partnership. But it’s imperative that my partner does the same. See me when I don’t see myself. Show up for me. Give me the reciprocity I’ve been searching for since I was 16.