A Tip About Relationship Dynamics

Thursday, Jul. 21st 2011 2:57 PM

When your mate does nice things for you, do you feel (and show) appreciation? Or do you simply expect a romantic partner to do those things? If so, consider this: No one has to do anything for you, and expecting your mate to do things he/she hasn’t bargained for can leave you both frustrated.

I am a giving person, but being expected to give makes me feel much less charitable. For example, I have issues with tipping. Admittedly, when I dine at a restaurant, I expect to tip my server … and do so happily. Having food served by a polite and courteous professional, whom I know is making less than minimum wage as a base salary, while I relax for an hour is a treat and a service. This is an understood and accepted part of the contract we make when we eat out, and so the service has to be terrible before I’ll walk out without leaving the customary 15 to 20 percent. But as tip jars keep popping up in a variety of different quick-serve businesses, and “service charges” are showing up on more and more invoices, it seems as though tipping has well reached its tipping point.

I spoke to a caterer a few days ago who explained that he adds a 15-percent service fee for all jobs and that this is an industry standard. I asked, “What if a patron picks up the food and does not ask for servers to be provided?” The charge, he said, still applied. So, I explained to him my thoughts on the matter: When I am negotiating a fee/price, I wish to do so based on the cost of the commodity/service. I don’t appreciate being expected or forced to tip.

I further noted that if I patronized a particular carry-out restaurant near his establishment, I would not tip the gentleman at the window for handing me my food. He said, “That place has a tip jar,” and asked, “You would not tip even if the food and the service were good?” Probably not. I would not expect poor food or service from any establishment, because providing both is how a company keeps customers coming back and stays in business.

So, the caterer tried another approach, pointing out that people sometimes tip their mail carriers or give their bankers a bottle of wine at Christmas. And I can certainly think of situations in which I might choose to bestow gifts on a service professional other than a waitress. But choose is the key word. Perhaps my banker called me when someone tried to cash a check I’d written several months earlier (just to make sure there was nothing funny going on). And maybe my mailman personally ensured my mail was held while I was out of town. In either case, I might purchase a thank-you gift, but it would not be a tip.

Tips and displays of kindness are not the same thing. The former is given to fulfill an expectation, while the latter is a show of appreciation. This distinction is important in romantic partnerships. Most of us like to do nice things for the ones we love, but when our acts of kindness become expected (and often no longer appreciated), it’s not as much fun anymore. For example, let’s say that you do most of the cooking in your household. Perhaps you work from home or get off earlier than your mate, or maybe you just love cooking and getting that smile of appreciation from your partner when you serve it up. But if, over time, your mate begins to think of your effort as something you are “supposed” to do, you might feel less inclined to do it.

Even worse is when we expect our partners to do things they never agreed to in the first place – either because of societal norms, or things past partners have done for us, or what our mothers did for our fathers. Your mate is not your mother, your ex-boyfriend or the leading man in a romantic comedy. He/she may or may not care to fulfill the expectations you bring into the relationship, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a successful relationship. If you let those things go for the sake of what you do get out of the partnership with this person, perhaps you can negotiate a fair “exchange” with your mate for providing some of the “services” you’d like. Just be sure to sure to communicate about it up front, rather than expecting a “tip.” Doing so will make you a more Powerful Person in a Partnership.

Keep Rising,

Frank Love
www.FrankLove.com

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Leave a Comment: Let Us Know Your Thoughts

How to Gracefully Exit a Relationship

7 Comments on “A Tip About Relationship Dynamics”

  1. D. Fry Says:

    To those who will give the shirt from off their back, beware. Your article shows how not setting our priorities straight and not requiring accountability can destroy our relationships. Keep your articles coming. Thank you.

  2. Fiona Beddoes-Jones Says:

    What a great site Frank! A wealth of information that’s as relevant to us, over here on the other side of the pond, as it is to everyone else.

    Great writing too, you have a gift. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  3. C Says:

    Love this one! Couldn’t agree more about expectations and gifts. It is in everyone’s best interest to be as clear as possible about the expectations going into a partnership and when you both are forming the “foundation agreements.” Additionally, if one partner or the other decides unilaterally to change things that were agreed to in the first place, it can be detrimental to the partnership. In a marriage these foundation agreements include agreements about living situations, money, children and sex. Individual decisions regarding these topics should always involve the partner because it affects the partner. As the partnership is in motion, expecting partners to do certain things can make the partnership more powerful if both partners agree to the terms of those roles (i.e. one make dinner nightly). And you are right, Frank, that if it isn’t working for one, it needs to be ok for that partner to bring it to the table for negotiation. In the best case scenario, the partners will listen to each other and be able to make sacrifices to arrive at a place that
    works for both. In any long-term partnership, the foundation rules will remain (like with the Jolley’s) and amendments will be made as needed. This is how our Constitution is designed, too. Another important element in this blog, is the importance of gifts. There are different types of gifts we can give a partner: physical things, spending time with someone doing something that they want to do, doing a favor for your partner or just expressing your feelings about someone. “Gifting” your partner in any of these ways is a beautiful way to show appreciation for that person. Communication is key to any successful partnership.

  4. Self-Esteem Expert Loren Gelberg-Goff Says:

    I like your article about expectations, choosing to do for someone we love, and tipping… I agree that as soon as something becomes expected we often lose our desire to “offer” the service. Now it’s an obligation, not a gift. We all like to be appreciated for what we do or give…I know I appreciate when my husband and children say thank you, and even when my clients let me know that they are grateful for the work we do together. It’s much better when these “gifts” of thank you and tips come unbidden, rather than solicited…

  5. HH Says:

    Wow Frank this post is great, as a longtime fan I can really see the maturation in your work. You are really hitting your stride and as a runner and a writer I know how important that can be. Love the relationship advice in this piece, but if folks will indulge me for a minute, to put it plainly those “service fees” piss me off. Especially when you are not made aware of them and you tip anyway. I’m not frugal by any means, in fact I over tip on purpose. My mother owned a restaurant and I’ve been a waiter several times in a former life, so I know it’s important but the forced expectation ….all the things you said! Great analogy, great blog!

  6. Martha Says:

    Dear Frank Love,
    I could’nt agree with you more. Great article!
    When did you become sooooo smart? 🙂

  7. Leta Says:

    Very well written. This one hit home for me. While reading this blog I thought of times when I’ve unconsciously expected my spouse to wash my car, fix things around the house, etc. without offering up a thank you and times when he’s done the same, expecting laundry to be done, dinner to be cooked, etc. Being in any relationship long term can sometimes put you in this place where you feel entitled to certain things. I thought about times when I’ve done this with friends too. This article gave me the nudge I needed to get back on track. Thanks for this one, Frank. You are much appreciated.

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