January 31, 2010 | 5:15 pm
Posted by Merissa Nathan Gerson
I have a friend who comes over for lunch or dinner once or twice a week. He never brings any gifts or offers to help clean up or takes me out to eat or invites me over to return the favor. While I do enjoy being generous and give without the incentive of receiving, I do expect some show of appreciation. Should I say something to my friend?
In the words of Mother Theresa, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.” In the words of me, tell this guest to get cleaning or get out. I am not completely sure the gentle way around a greedy grubber, but I do know the feeling of giving until you are exhausted of all energy. There is no written law that insists you have to enjoy giving when the receiver begins to leave you drained.
Gentle suggestions, “How about you cook next week?” Or “Would you mind helping me with the dishes?” often suffice. Another option is to reel in the generosity. Sometimes when we think we are being generous we are, in fact, addicted to being needed. Figure out your role in this situation, as much as the free loader’s. Why have you been able to set up this dynamic continually, despite the energy suckage? What are you afraid of in simply asking for reciprocity?
Reciprocity and forced gratitude are very different. “Hey, could you bring lettuce for the salad tomorrow?” is not the same as, “You ungrateful shit, I can’t believe you have never thanked me, or even bothered to lift a finger. I am not your slave wife.” Be good to yourself by learning to ask for help. You might be pleasantly surprised by how willing your guest is to rise to the occasion.
If that doesn’t work, and this person continues to feed off of you, get nasty. You aren’t obliged to be generous unless it makes you feel good, with or without a thank you. Don’t cheapen your gift-giving nature by dishing it out half-heartedly. Create a scene where giving in and of itself makes you feel full.
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