Give and Take in Friendship

What a Balanced Relationship Means for Friends

Give and take in friendship doesn't mean things are always equal. Cultura/Matelly/Getty Images

The term "give and take," as it applies to friendship, means that two people make concessions and compromises in order to have an emotionally balanced relationship. Give and take is an attitude and approach to a healthy friendship. While you can never totally "divide" things equally in friendship, if you realize there needs to be a give and take, you will both give up some things and both gain some things.

Balance in Friendship Isn't Always Well-Defined

In friendship, give and take is sometimes a difficult concept to maintain. The balance of who is doing "more" for the friendship will go back and forth, and over time it should be a fairly equal thing. But in the short-term, it is impossible to determine who is giving more. Only in hindsight are you able to really look back and access.

For instance, one friend might be going through a difficult time and as a result, the other friend needs to be flexible with scheduling or in making the first move in suggesting a get-together.

Or perhaps one friend always makes plans for their group, while others happily go along without lending a hand. In this case, one of the friends will have to pay attention to things they can help with, which in turn will create a more balanced friendship.

The reason you can't have a completely equal give and take is that life doesn't offer those kinds of opportunities, and relationships are all as different as the people involved in them. While one friend might be a great listener, sitting patiently whenever a friend needs to vent, another friend might be more proactive in communication and keeping in touch. Everyone has strengths and personality traits that play into the give and take of their friendship.

While give and take is never totally equal, you should do your best as a friend to make sure you're doing your part as best you can.

How Can You Give More Than You Take?

The times where the balance of a friendship can be off are all opportunities for someone to make an extra effort, and put more "give" into the relationship and "take" less. These might include:

  • Taking the initiative in communication and keeping in touch.
  • Making plans and inviting friends along.
  • Being the first one to apologize after an argument.
  • Forgiving friends when a disagreement happens.
  • Paying for your fair share during the activities you attend.
  • Volunteering to drive or arrange for transportation.
  • Listening fully when your friend needs to vent.
  • Stepping back to allow your friend the spotlight.
  • Doing something nice for a friend just because.

Correcting an Unbalanced Friendship

When the give and take is off-balance, one friend may feel used or at the very least as if they are putting more into the friendship than they are getting back. It's dangerous to put too literal a "line" on give and take because it's often hard to define. However, if a friend feels that they are putting in more effort into the friendship than the other person, this can signal a problem that hasn't been worked through and needs to be discussed.

Sometimes friends will get stuck with an unbalanced situation for years, with one friend feeling resentful and the other thinking everything is fine. If you feel you're putting more into the friendship than your pal, don't get angry. Instead, think about the things your friend might be doing that actually makes things more equal that perhaps you hadn't noticed before.

If you still feel that there is an issue after that, bring it up gently with your friend. You could do this by just changing the "routine" of your relationship. For example, if you're the one that always drives, ask your friend to do it next time. If you listen more than your friend, ask her to please hear you out because it's important to you. Try this first and if your friend won't change, bring up your concerns.