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This is an example of a beautiful reciprocal relationship:


After you,

no after you.

Lets go in together.


Nature never allows a vacuum or imbalance to exist for very long. Sooner or later nature will restore equilibrium or balance even if it has to destroy everything around it.

Relationships are no exception.

Like a landslide that blocks a river, that river will find a way around the slide or build up enough pressure to move it out of the way. Depending on how long this takes, the river might take everything out down stream after it clears that blockage. When emotions are blocked or out of balance in a relationship they will behave in the same way as the river. The longer they stay blocked, the more damage they will do when they find an outlet.

It is imbalances that lead to blockages which then lead to the eventual damage caused when the blockage is removed. But what causes these imbalances in the first place?

For a relationship to be balanced it has to be reciprocal. The simplest example of balanced, reciprocal relations is as follows:

I walk up to the door of a department store and as I reach for the door I sense someone is behind me and I hold open the door and let him or her walk in first. As the person passes, he or she says thank you. The situation is in perfect balance.

Now let’s say I hold the door open and the person walks in but keeps his or her head down and says nothing. How do I feel? Not great. Of course the person had no obligation to say thank you or smile, but the question is how do I feel?

Let’s say I do it again and this time the person stops and asks me not to hold the door because he or she does not want me to. I agree and walk into the store. How do I feel? Not bad, not great, just okay.

Remember, we are talking about having a great relationship, not the legal obligation someone has if you open a door for them. The first time it felt good, smiles all around. The second time it felt incomplete. The third time it didn’t feel great but it felt fair. So let’s break down why it felt different every time.

The first time there was a shared balance of giving and receiving. I offered to put out an effort to be courteous, that person accepted my effort and responded with a smile and a thank you for my efforts. It was perfectly balanced because it was reciprocal on both of our parts.

The second time the person accepted the effort but did not reciprocate, leaving the situation out of balance — no joy.

The third time the person refused my efforts, so we each opened the door for ourselves and there was balance but no joy.

So if you had to spend all day at that department store door for free and each time people smiled as you opened the door and thanked you could you enjoy yourself?

If you had to spend all day at that department store but no one was going to thank you but you were getting paid a great deal of money could you enjoy yourself?

If you were going to spend all day at that department store and no one was going to let you open the door but you were going to be paid a fair wage could you enjoy yourself?

In each case I tried to strike a balance. The second example is the most obvious in that I substituted the joy the money would bring for the lack of positive human contact.

But what if all three situations were treated the same? You simply have to stand at the door all day. I believe that the first situation would be rewarding, the second would be boring and the third would be intolerable. The first situation is a reciprocal relationship between two people, the second is a disconnection between two people (one giving and one taking) and the third is fair but without connection.

When we ask for something or are willing to receive what is offered we need to understand our reciprocal responsibility (we must know what that person wants in return) before we accept their effort. So if we accept their effort, we are equally inspired to give to them in the form they require. If we are not clear about their needs or we are not inspired to give to them in the form they require then we should not accept the effort. When two people are clear on what they want to give and what they want to receive, they have created a reciprocal relationship.

Below is an example of how something beautiful can be misunderstood and perceived as terrible when you fail to see the whole picture that creates the reciprocal relations.

On the web for many years has been this page out of “Housekeeping Monthly” from May 13, 1955. Some say it is real while others consider it to be urban lore, but it makes no difference either way. It is titled “The Good Wife Guide” and it chronicles how a woman should act when her husband comes home from work.

There are many websites on which you can find this article and it has universally been seen as a dark and misguided time for women. Many women have been downright enraged and one even countered with her own version which included feeding your husband high fat foods so he would die earlier and you would be free of him.

In searching every response to this article I couldn’t find anything positive. It is taken universally as a put down to women reflective of a time when they were second-class citizens and men lorded over them.

This is a classic case of not understanding a reciprocal relationship and the danger of building views with only half the picture.

In order to have an objective view you would have to read the “Good Husband Guide” during the same period. If you leave out the role of the male you make it impossible to objectively evaluate the role of the female. A great relationship is reciprocal, so there has to be two halves that come together as one.


First, the Good Wife Guide:

1.    Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his
needs. Most men are hungry when they get home and the prospect of a good meal is part of the warm welcome needed.

2.    Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you’ll be refreshed when he arrives.  Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.

3.    Be a little gay, and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it.

4.    Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives. Run a dust cloth over the tables.

5.    During the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering to his
comforts will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.

6.    Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all the noise of the washer, dryer and vacuum. Encourage the children to be quiet.

7.    Be happy to see him.

8.    Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him.

9.    Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first. Remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.

10.  Don’t greet him with complaints and problems.

11.  Don’t complain if he’s late for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this    as a minor inconvenience compared to what he might have gone through at work.

12.  Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or lie him down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.

13.  Arrange his pillows and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.

14.  Don’t ask him questions about his actions or question his judgement or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right
to question him.

15.  A good wife always knows her place.

Now take a breath. Before you read the good husband guide of the 1950s, think about who this man is and what life is like for him. He survived The Great Depression, World War 2 and Korea. His life is hard and about only one thing: doing the job of a man. There is no license taken here, it is simply the life of the man in the 50s and if you don’t believe me, find one and ask him.


The Good Husband Guide, if it were written, would go like this:

1.    He must be willing to sacrifice his life at any time to keep his family, and the country they live in, safe.

2.    He must repress any emotion that would cause him to fail the above duty because he cannot fail his family or country.

3.    He must be willing to put all his dreams and wants aside for the good of his family.

4.    He must never show fear or weakness no matter how much he feels it for the good of his family.

5.     Accept any level of abuse or danger in the workplace to make sure he keeps his job for the good of the family.

6.    He must do everything out of a sense of duty, honor and commitment for the good of the family.

7.    He must accept for the good of the family that he will die younger because of stress and work dangers.

8.    He must live his life silently proud of his sacrifices for his family and silently terrified of failing them.

9.    He must wake every morning and go to work out of a deep sense of honor, duty and satisfaction that he is providing for the well-being of his family.

10.  Again, a good husband knows his place.

This was the role of the “good husband” of the 50s, which is why he was deserving of the “good wife” of the 50s.

When you put these two lists together you see the beautiful role of the sacrificial, disposable man to the loving, nurturing female. Together they make a beautiful reciprocal relationship. It has to be recognized that both partners were volunteers. The woman chose to be taken care of and the man chose to take care of her. This goes back to the door opening example. If a person offers to hold a door and you accept, then your responsibility is to say thank you. If you don’t want to reciprocate for the gesture then you must turn it down. If the woman accepts being taken care of then she has a reciprocal responsibility to the man that is willing to take care of her. No relationship works if it is not reciprocal.

The most important part of a reciprocal relationship is understanding what the person wants in reciprocation. It is not enough to decide how you are going to reciprocate; you must understand what the other person needs in reciprocation and be willing to give it. If you are not inspired to reciprocate in the way the other person needs then you should not accept the gesture.

For example:

If I loan a friend money and all I want in return is for them to pay me back on the schedule we agreed upon, but instead they are late making the payments and instead try to substitute payment by taking me out to dinner.

Taking me out to dinner is not how I want them to reciprocate, so the gesture will have no positive effect. Before you accept an effort on your behalf, you need to understand what that person needs in return and be willing to give it. Otherwise you must turn down the effort.

In the guide to the good wife it says “catering to his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.” It did, but she was not catering, she was reciprocating. And he received the same reciprocal satisfaction by providing for her and keeping her safe. It was truly a beautiful reciprocal relationship.


If your goal is to have a beautifully committed satisfying relationship then build your selection process around an inspired desire to reciprocate.