Have a healthy balance of these three types of relationships


When I first started my career as a minister, a friend gave me some good advice about maintaining a healthy balance of three types of relationships: takers, balanced, and givers. 

“Don, there are some relationships that will constantly drain you; you’re always giving to them but they seldom give to you. These are takers. You can’t totally avoid them (particularly in the ministry) but if they represent the majority of your relationships, you’ll burn out and lose all hope for humankind.

“In other relationships there will be a nice reciprocity; you give to them and they give to you. These associations are normal, healthy, and balanced.

“You’ll also have a few relationships in which people generously give to you with no thought of return; they will give more to you than you will give to them. Accept their magnanimity.” 

In life, it’s important to have a healthy balance of these three relationship-types. If you only have “takers” they will drain you dry. Balanced relationships, in which there is a mutual giving and receiving, should be the dominate type. And be extremely grateful if you have those rare friends who delight in freely and unconditionally giving to you with no thought of return.

I think I can live a reasonably sane life if I maintain a ratio of 30/60/10 (30% of my relationships are takers, 60% are balanced, 10% are givers).

For a moment, consider what type of person you are to other people. 

  • Are you primarily a taker; high-maintenance and selfish? 
  • Or do you strive to maintain balance in your relationships—you’re sensitive about the give and take ratio of relationships and work toward equilibrium.  
  • Name several adult relationships in which you are, by choice, the primary giver. 

I now express deep appreciation to these people in my life who have given more to me than I have given to them: Dean F., Mike F., David H., John M., Chuck S., Jay W., Ruth M., and others. 

[reminder]What are your thoughts about this essay?[/reminder]

10 Replies to “Have a healthy balance of these three types of relationships”

  1. I really like this good practical wisdom and the question that asks us to reflect about what kind of person we are in our relationships. I enjoy these emails.

  2. Relationships are not all equal. Our relationships within our families; with co-workers; our boss or bosses; our friends and neighbours will have different dynamics. You could say that our employer expects our time, energy and skills in exchange for a salary. It is simply a transaction. However, some employers can be also be friends. It is not the same type of friendship as one where you have entered into it without either party having any power over the other.

    If we are seen to be a reliable and capable person, others will depend on us. They may not see themselves as takers, just those needing something from us that they cannot supply themselves. When we have been blessed with intelligence; a healthy bank balance; and a happy home we should remember that those who have received much should be willing to share their good fortune. It may not last! Also remember God loves a hilarious giver.

    Life has many seasons and the time may come when we become the takers due to ill health, bereavement, dementia and loneliness. The Ecclesiastes passage on “a time for ……………” sums it up well.

    The balance lies in living sustainably so that we can continue to love and serve without becoming burnt out. Friends who we can laugh with are such an asset because they allow us to let go of some of the stuff that starts to wear us down. Friends who can tell us the truth are invaluable.

    As usual, thanks for the opportunity to think!

    1. Angela, as usual, your thoughts are spot on. You think well and express your thoughts well. I particularly like your thought that one day we may become takers because of the season of life we’re in. Thanks for writing. Don

  3. Great article!
    I remember something that Marlo Thomas said in one of her letters, “Takers eat well but givers sleep well.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *