Since we’re now in the full swing of the holiday season, it’s the perfect time to talk about receiving graciously!
Why is receiving graciously an intimacy skill?
Think back to a time when you complimented someone and they brushed your compliment aside with a response like, “Oh, this old thing? I’ve had it for years,” or you told them how great they looked and they said, “I’m having a bad hair day.”
How did you feel? Disappointed? Hurt? Rejected?
Compliments are spoken gifts, and it can feel painful to compliment another person and to not only have it not received, but actively pushed away.
People who are good receivers naturally receive more because it’s enjoyable — even fun — to give to them. In a word, they’re please-able. When they receive a compliment or gift, they accept them with a simple, “Thank you!” and nothing else. And they don’t feel compelled or obligated to immediately offer a compliment or gift in return.
When you know how to receive graciously, you multiply the happiness between you and the giver, which automatically increases connection and intimacy.
Examples of things you might receive from your spouse:
- Physical affection
- Material gifts
- Help or assistance in all forms, including “can I carry that for you?”
- Quality time
Men naturally enjoy fixing and offering help. In heterosexual relationships, when women receive graciously from a man, her receiving creates a natural flow and balance between giving and receiving, and increases the masculine/feminine polarity in their relationship.
Women often — and unconsciously — reject gifts from their spouse and block the flow of giving and receiving in the following ways:
- Not accepting help when it is offered. For example, your spouse offers to carry a heavy package or bag and you say, “no thanks, I’ve got it.”
- When receiving a compliment like, “You look beautiful today,” you respond with, “I need a haircut,” or, “I need to lose some weight.”
- When offered a special treat like going to a new restaurant or a weekend away, rather than graciously accepting, you respond with, “That’s too expensive,” or you make a negative or critical comment about what is offered.
- Complaining about not getting enough of something you want (the other person’s time, attention, or affection), while ignoring or not expressing gratitude about getting that same something when it is offered. For example, your spouse stops by your office unexpectedly for a quick lunch and rather than accepting and appreciating the time with him, you say, “I wish we could spend more time together than just this short lunch break.”
I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve not been a gracious receiver in the past.
A few weeks ago when I was reflecting on my capacity for receiving graciously, I remembered an incident from last summer when my husband brought me an amber necklace from Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia when he went to the World Cup. Although I love amber, my immediate response to the gift was something like, “Oh, that’s pretty. But you know how I feel about Russia right now — I will never wear it.” Ouch!
When I recalled this incident, not only did I feel embarrassed and sad, I also panicked wondering what I had done with the necklace, because I couldn’t recall ever wearing it. Thankfully, it was tucked away in a jewelry box, and I have been wearing it proudly every chance I get, as a reminder of my husband’s generosity and thoughtfulness.
Many a woman has found herself in a long-standing pattern over-giving and feeling resentful because no one seems to want to help her while she’s doing “everything.” Sound familiar?
The culprit may not be so much that those around her are stingy and self-centered, but that she’s said no so many times she has trained others to stop offering her help because she rarely — or never — accepts the help. Sadly, women who consistently reject gifts of time, compliments, or help eventually become seen as “unplease-able” by those around them.
If you struggle with receiving, here are two experiments you can try over the next week to help build your receiving muscle:
- In the next week, every time your partner asks you if he can help you, or wants to take you somewhere, say “yes” except if to do so would be distressing, would harm you, or destroy intimacy. An example of how receiving may harm intimacy is when you know you will feel unhappy or angry if you accept what is offered. For example, when the Astros were in the playoffs this year, my husband got tickets to game 6 of the American League Championship Series and he invited me to go. He knows I’m not much of a sports fan, but even after 32 years of marriage he almost always invites me. Although it sounded like it might be fun, I declined the invitation because baseball games can get extremely long, and sometimes go into multiple overtime innings. I knew that if I was “stuck” at the stadium watching the game for 5 or 6 hours I was going to get cranky, be no fun to be with, and my mood would cause disconnection between us.
- When receiving a gift or compliment, or someone paying for your lunch for example, say “Thank you,” and nothing more. It can be more difficult than it sounds!
Until we can receive with an open heart, we’re never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgment to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help.
― Brené Brown
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© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2019)