Reciprocity is everything in relationships. We deserve to be filled the same way we pour.


If our feelings are mutual, the effort should be equal.

There is no duty more indispensable than that of returning a kindness…everyone distrusts one forgetful of a benefit.                                --Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman Philosopher

Everyone has known a friend who does not have a problem letting others pick up the check at dinner without offering to pay.  This individual does not mind receiving a benefit without giving back.  They are magically entitled to receive without giving.

Webster defines entitled as having a right to certain benefits or privileges.

I watched a friend open a surprise gift on TikTok.  Her face exploded with joy as she toyed with the mystery box containing her surprise. But I could see the wheels turning in her head. This young lady has a heart of gold.   She was already thinking of how to bless her friend in return for the nice and very welcomed surprise.  My friend has no entitlement issues. She is the first to help out a friend without any strings attached. She instinctively knows that it is always better to give than receive.

The universe is established on a sowing and reaping premise. You cannot reap what you do not sow. Or at least not for very long. Consequently, the happiest people in the world are always sowing joy, delight, and love into their friends, knowing their actions pay monster dividends.

It's not tit for tat. Its reciprocity.

Reciprocity comes from the Latin "reciprocus" returning the same way, alternating. The definition of the root word reciprocal is "shared, felt, or shown by both sides."  

In a relationship with healthy reciprocity, each individual feels they give and receive energy; this feeling of mutual exchange strengthens connections overall.  Conversely, a lack of reciprocity can create an unhealthy relationship where one partner experiences burnout or feels used or unloved.

Emotional reciprocity is a critical factor in any relationship—romantic or otherwise—because it is a crucial indicator of love and support.

In 1995, Roy F. Baumeister and Mark R. Leary, two social psychologists, proposed an explanation for much of human behavior: the need to belong to a larger social group, often achieved through maintaining positive relationships.2 This explanation finds its roots in evolutionary theory, which states humans had a better chance at survival when cooperating to work towards a common goal.

Consider our ancestors, who are primarily hunters and gatherers. In these environments, living alongside other humans provided protection against threats and a means of sharing resources when facing scarcity. Over time, the advantages of living together evolved into humans' innate need for belonging. Reciprocating is one such mechanism that allows humans to maintain positive relationships and originates from the fundamental human need to belong.

Although Baumeister and Leary provided theories for reciprocity's origins, the idea has existed since immemorial. In a 1960 analysis of the concept of reciprocity, Alvin W. Gouldner listed the works al scholars dating back to 1916 who invoked this concept. Neil Coffee traces reciprocity even further, all the way to ancient Rome. Gift-giving and exchanging favors were common in ancient Roman society and enabled trust among people. It contributed to mutual benefit and social cohesion within a community.

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The reality is that reciprocity signals mutual respect and kindness toward each other. The absence of reciprocity is a lack of trust, as Cicero stated above, and a sign that "feelings" are not mutual.  

Generally speaking, there are three types of reciprocity in relationships.

  1. Balanced reciprocity is giving something and anticipating a specific (and roughly equivalent) outcome in return.
  2. Generalized reciprocity is giving freely without expecting anything specific in return as an act of general goodwill. Generalized reciprocity harbors a sense of mutual respect and connectedness. These reciprocal relationships are with people you love and trust deeply, including friends, family members, romantic partners, and other loved ones.
  3. Negative reciprocity is giving minimally to receive something (usually of greater value) in return. It does not have a place in healthy relationships. (1)

It is gut check time. Honesty ask yourself are you giving as good as you get? Are you sure?

Until next time. Travel safe.


(1) Reciprocity in relationships -