Relationships & Potlucks

by | Writing Exercises

Loving relationships are like potlucks.

A potluck is a gathering during which different parties agree to bring themselves and something valued to the table. Similarly, in a healthy loving relationship, both parties need to bring things to the table consistently and voluntarily.

Whether it is a friendship or an intimate relationship, no one really likes an uninvited guest: someone who shows up, eats dinner, and leaves. Rather, we tend to value those who reciprocate in their give and take. Giving and receiving do not necessarily need to be tangible: authentic presence, truly listening, and being seen are also incredible ways to give and receive.

Sometimes culture and gender roles muddy our perception of what friendships and relationships “should look like.” For some, they may grow up to believe that they should give, give, and give. Relationships absolutely are meant to give, but if we start harboring resentment for something we are not receiving in return, this is a likely indicator that proper emotional boundaries have not been set. We also cannot expect someone to like us or love us. Our expectations don’t cause things to change; only our perception and skillful actions do.

Just like a potluck, relationships are meant to give, to share, and to commune. While we cannot control if/what someone else brings to the table, we definitely can be thankful, receive, and cherish their offerings with humility and acceptance.

It is incredibly powerful when we allow others to show up just as they are. In doing so, we do not have to put forth any guesswork about where we stand in someone else’s life. Individuals are telling us in every interaction they have with us if and how much they value our friendship and time. Are you listening?

Things to ask yourself if you’re questioning who you’re breaking bread with:

  1. Is this relationship reciprocated?
  2. Am I bringing my genuine self to the relationship and consistently adding value to the relationship?
  3. Does this other person feed me, or are they doing all the eating as an uninvited guest?
  4. If I cook, do they clean? If they clean, do I cook?

Photograph by Natalia Mok

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