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  • Robert Schwebel, Ph.D.

"All-giving” People Cause Problems

Updated: Aug 24, 2020

All-giving people will do anything for you. They’ll do your share of the housework, go where you want to go on vacation, go to the movie you want to see, and quietly absorb an unpleasant emotional outburst of any sort.

All-giving people care more about taking care of others than taking care of themselves. They consider it selfish to want things. However, that’s a questionable assumption. Why call it selfish? Wanting things for yourself doesn’t necessarily take anything away from anyone else. You can want things for yourself and also want things for others. Defining one’s own desires as selfish is overdoing it.

All-giving people accept similar assumptions of questionable merit. For instance, “It is better to give than to receive.” True, giving can be a delightful activity. It’s wonderful to do something nice for someone you care about.

It feels good to respond to the social needs of people you may not even know (for example: giving to the community food bank). On the other hand, receiving isn’t half bad, either. In fact, it could be argued that it is a downright enjoyable activity- perhaps not less desirable than giving.

Many people who see themselves as givers operate with the theory that it will “all come back eventually.” In reality, however, sometimes it does and more often it doesn’t.

Unfortunately, all-giving people tend to partner-up with all-taking people. At times it seems like a perfect match. Sooner or later (anywhere from a few weeks to seven years or more) the givers recognize that their needs are not being met. They resent that the other person has not matched their generosity. The first reaction is probably: “I’ve given so much. I’ve invested so much. I can’t stop now.”

So, they keep giving until one day they wake up angry. Very angry.

One reason individuals adopt the all-giving philosophy is because they hope they will be liked and appreciated. It’s true that generosity will be appreciated. But all-giving people are so busy taking care of others that they neglect their own development. They stagnate and go stale. Sometimes the other person gets bored and loses interest.

Worse still, being all-giving means putting oneself down in relation to others. People who do not respect themselves find others eventually lose respect.

Who started it all? Who romanticized the idea of the all-giving person? (Maybe the all takers?) In any event, it doesn’t seem like the all-giving person has much of a chance to feel good.

Hey, it’s not selfish to want things for yourself. Maybe it is as good to receive as it is to give. Maybe being half-giving and half-receiving is a better approach to a relationship.


These articles are written to share ideas about how to create and sustain loving and cooperative relationships based on equality and mutual respect.

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