When Do You Put In The Effort?

In a polyamory group I participate in, I had a very cool discussion about listening in relationships. Here’s how it went:

OP:

Do you expect your partners to provide emotional support/listen when you need to vent? If so, do you have that expectation towards all of your partners or just your primary/the person who is best at listening/etc? If not, how and where do you satisfy the need for said emotional support?

I’ve been told that it’s best not to expect anything from relationships and just take them for what they are, but I find this approach rather difficult to apply in real life. Especially with people who seem to expect emotional labour from me but aren’t willing or don’t have the skills to reciprocate.

My original response:

I don’t have specific expectations for interaction.

However, if a relationship with a partner does not make me fell like I get FAR more out of it than I put in (and the other should feel that way, also), I simply let it go. We’re not a fit.

OP responded:

So, essentially you want people who will willingly put the work in and listen without you having to ask for it?

My reply:

Sometimes. Everyone is different.

I will ask, if other things in the relationship give me reason to believe that they are worth the effort.

It’s very much a balance. Are they putting effort into me that shows that maybe their failings are simply not knowing better, rather than narcissism and selfishness?

OP asks again:

That’s interesting. So, let me know if I understand correctly: if someone is otherwise a good partner, you are willing to accept the fact that they’re not a great listener and not the best person to provide support and comfort you?

My reply:

Not at all.

I’m willing to accept the fact that they are not NOW a great listener, but with some gentle coaching and encouragement, might become one in pursuit of the relationship that we both share and enjoy.

Not listening is not just a flaw, it’s a sure sign to me (over time) that they actually don’t care what I have to say.

And sometimes, they just don’t know HOW to care, that way, or why. So I’ll say something, and see if they choose to move towards me or away with their response.

It’s about a balance of efforts. Do they make me feel good enough within the relationship that I’m willing to put in the effort to make it extraordinary?

I love discussions like this, because the questions help me dig deeper into my own reasoning, and clarify my thoughts.

In this case, it was a clear “A-HA” for me about when I put in the effort… and in the past 4 months or so since, I’ve seen this popping up with clear lines of demarcation in very many spaces (not just relationships).

What are your reactions to this discussion? When do you put in the effort?

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