Unabashed Emotions

Reciprocal Relationship: Meaning, Types, & Tips

By unabashedemotions


Mixed couple spenting time together in a spring city

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Relationships work on continued effort and the effort needs to come from both sides equally. A rule that you would think so inherent that it would need no re-iteration. 

However, in reality, we often get so casual and lax in our relationships that we forget the very basics. Reciprocity in relationships is one such simple but oft struggled with the rule of relationships, both personal and social. 

Reciprocal relationships are set on mutual efforts and love and respect for each other and ample deep conversations about the expectations different people have in a relationship. 

What is a reciprocal relationship? 

Reciprocity is a process of exchanging things with other people to meet mutual needs or gain a mutual benefit and truly so. The norm of reciprocity does state that if someone does something for you, you do feel obligated to return that favor. 

It is not limited to your office or public life either, in your personal relationships too, you are expected to put in efforts. 

Types of Reciprocity

The law of reciprocity further depends on different types of relationships and consequently different types of reciprocity. There are 3 types of reciprocity:

1.   Generalized reciprocity 

This is the kind of reciprocal relationship we engage in, with families or friends where there is no immediate expectation of a return of a favor. That expectation here does not disappear but is deferred. 

You are sure of being in these relationships for a long time so you can pay off the favors over time. 

However, it is important to talk to be sure both sides feel the same way or there can be unexpected bitterness.  

2.   Balanced reciprocity 

This would be your social reciprocity, where the value of the exchange is calculated and is expected to be returned within a set time frame. These might be business relationships. 

Even if the duration of such reciprocal relationships is long, the expectation is that the favor would be returned soon.

3.   Negative reciprocity

This is an interesting type of reciprocal relationship, where one person in the relationship tries to get more out of it than the other, which is obviously a lop-sided arrangement. 

Another aspect that comes up with this, is negative affect reciprocity which is when a certain relationship influences a person negatively or to involve in activities with negative connotations or outcomes. 

Advertising aimed at making people buy unnecessary objects by selling a feeling of fluffiness to them or advertising aimed at fast-food consumption and by a far extension influencer marketing can fall under this category. 

It is not hard to imagine that your personal and intimate relationships can also have a negative effect on you.

That takes us to reciprocal relationships when it comes down to marriage or dating, and they take a similar but slightly different approach. It is pertinent to understand the importance of reciprocity in relationships in terms of intimate relationships as these are the closest relationships you can have with another person that you choose outside of your family.  

What Is Reciprocity Of Attraction

Believe it, some of these even begin with reciprocity, ever heard of reciprocal affection? If you are asking What is meant by the term reciprocity of attraction? Let me enlighten you a bit on that and how relationships start with reciprocal feelings.

Reciprocal attraction is the act of falling in love with or being attracted to a person based on the knowledge that they feel attracted to you. Feelings of admiration, affection, love, and respect are all parts of reciprocal affection too. 

If you feel warmth and intimacy towards a person after being made aware of their feelings of attraction, and want to spend time with them, these are also strong indications of reciprocal liking.

Reciprocal relationships sure do create a happier, healthier, and well-adjusted ecosystem in your life. However, they do not just work themselves out. They need a lot of conversations about the expectations of both the partners from the relationship and from each other. 

There might be an overarching structure in a relationship where a partner is responsible for financial stability and another for emotional stability. 

However, it is also important to understand that both partners in a relationship look up to emotional support and intimacy from time to time and should receive so when they are in need. If one person is always at the giving end and another at receiving, your relationship might be heading towards a derailing disaster. 

Give what you receive, is the basic teaching.

How to Practice Reciprocity in a Relationship

how to practice reciprocity in a relationship

If reciprocity is such an easy concept, why is it so difficult to follow? There is an understandable explanation for this and it was hinted at, at the beginning of this piece. 

Relationships may start as reciprocal relationships but over time as we get comfortable in the relationships reciprocal feelings start fading and we tend to take each other for granted. 

What this means is that we tend to start with feeling that we can rely on each other and over time we tend to forget that relying is not unloading and that everyone has boundaries. 

These boundaries come with being your own person and need to be respected in all relationships, you can love a person unconditionally and still be unaware of their boundaries and needs. 

– Communicate

Communicate your needs to your partner from time to time. Effective communication will go a long way in keeping the relationship healthy and letting your partner know what you want. 

Your partner can’t read your mind 100% of the time or could unknowingly fail to reciprocate for a certain action or instance. In such situations, conveying them from your end would help.

– Understand that the reciprocal rule 

Apart from having an honest conversation about the needs and expectations and feelings of both the partners in a relationship, it is also important to understand the reciprocal rule.

It is to be aware of all that your partner does for you and to be present in return for them when they need you around in whatever capacity you can be available.

Why Is The Principle Of Reciprocity Important

The principle of reciprocity for reciprocal relationships when it comes to personal and intimate relationships is the same as is for any other interaction. 

It requires you to be open to both free conversations and changes which need to be made in order to make it work in the capacity of reciprocal relationships. 

If you reciprocate love and keep an account of the small acts done to make you feel cherished, by your partner, even if it feels cold and calculative, this reciprocated love will go a long way in making your relationship stronger and make it last longer.

Not only does it set the basis of reciprocal relationships, but reciprocal relationship psychology also sets you up for healthier relationships in all the spheres of your life.

How Can A Lack Of Reciprocity Harm The Relationship

Let’s on a closing note talk about what lack of reciprocity in relationships does to them. If your partner continues to feel that all they do in the relationship is to give, give and give. If they feel that they never have you around as they are always there for you and never get any of their love languages catered to, it leads to long-term dissatisfaction. 

Check out these 5 love languages to help understand your partner better:

Even if reciprocal relationships last longer, lack of reciprocity can cause coldness and bitterness among partners, can have them arguing more often, blaming each other, and even breaking up or cheating. 

Related Reading: 21 Signs Of Emotional Manipulation & What Can You Do About It

It is thus of utmost importance that you notice the small changes and in sour times, sit back and reflect on what you are doing for this relationship and is it enough? A little reflection goes a long way in forming long-term reciprocal relationships.

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