Lack of reciprocity

by Patricia
(Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

My husband and I entertain quite a lot, both at intimate dinners and fairly large parties. These are neither overly formal nor very casual events, but we do put a lot of effort into trying to make them nice.


Some friends have been to our cottage several times and to parties at our house, and yet few of them ever invite us back, even for a drink.

I know that some of them entertain regularly and organize outings to restaurants, the theatre, etc., but they don't include us. They seem to enjoy our company enough to accept our invitations, but never reciprocate.

Obviously, it would be rude to ask them what's going on, but how do we handle this situation? Should we just stop inviting them? We enjoy their company, but get very tired of the relationship always being a one-way street.

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Dec 27, 2014
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I empathize with the hurting and despise the callous comments NEW
by: Bill

I know that this post is old. But the predicaments described regarding reciprocity are important. I am amazed at some of the responses to people who have been treated unkindly. It also saddens me that some Christians (I am also a Christian) would respond in such a callous manner. I too, am baffled by the lack of reciprocity from those that I frequently give to, invite, or just plain treat well. We are told to love others as ourselves. Many people that need friends are told to reach out. They often do but are left empty handed. We blame them and not ourselves for being too busy. Admit it, we often look the other way. We tell ourselves we'll get to them. We tell them - "we must get together". Too many of us flatter people rather than treat them honestly. We can't resist accepting their generous offers because they save us time and effort and they are nice respites for us. However, we do not want to return the favor or have them as friends. Here's a thought - if you are not interested in a person - be kind and thoughtful - but don't accept favors and gifts. We, Christians are supposed to be salt an light and different - yet we are no better than the world. Actually we can be worse because we know better. Sorry about the Christian speech. As I said - I am a Christian and not perfect but by the responses from my fellow Christians I am ashamed. Human contact and friendship are key to good health. If one does not have that it becomes difficult for a person to have perspective on life in general. It can work on the esteem and become devastating in the long run. It's a human need - not a want. Sadly, people are not important to people anymore - stuff is! Why am I saying all of this - I had many friends and was very active in my church. I would say I did not mind giving more and receiving less - it brought me joy. I was just happy to have friends and be a part of their life. I loved them and them and their kids. Their children treated my like an uncle. It was awesome. Then we had a wonderful son. His name is Timothy. He has severe autism. Tell me, where are they now when we need them. They live all around me. Blindness has struck our neighborhood. They can't see what is under their nose. Or is it that they don't want to see? We still reach out and give to others even though it is even more difficult in our situation and we have greater needs them many we are helping. I find family to be this way also - although they live far away. Our community of contacts know that we have no family as well. It's funny, we are very approachable and independent. We won't ask for anything like babysitting, money, favors. How about this - my son leaves for school everyday after 8:00 AM. There is a so called friend that walks every day right past our house and through the neighborhood. We have brought her and her husband dinners and invited them out (our treat) and did things just for them just for thoughtfulness sake. She has never asked my wife once to walk with her or invited her for coffee. She is an empty nester and quite active and she is more than willing to preach to you. I have many similar stories concerning so-called friends. Where is the compassion? It seems from some of the posts the gifts of encouragement, compassion and generosity have been replaced with discernment - a.k.a judgement! My fellow Christians look in the mirror. Also remember this - when we act like this to those who have given to us or need friendship - what are we showing them? What if they are struggling with their faith? What if they don't believe in God at all? How does your preachy do nothing behavior help. It may drive them further away and discourage them. Also, to Rachel - your second post was not better than the first - don't blame the hurting person and say that they are self focused. Your excuse that "Maybe they did not ask you because they thought it was too far to drive for you?" How bizarre! Have we gotten to the point that we don't ask and provide the answer to ourselves that is convenient for what we want. Be kind and thoughtful and ask and left them determine if they can not make it. Don't decide for them.

Jun 10, 2011
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similar situation for 10 years
by: Anonymous

We became part of a large social circle that involved about 15 people or so. The person I was closest to in the circle always made it a point to tell me that we were never on the "B List" and that everyone was equal. Over time it became clear that certain people were always selected to do what might be considered the "special" events, such as vacations, birthdays etc. We used to extend birthdays to them, and tried very hard to organize vacations b/c we were told that they "wanted" to go with us on a trip. We did manage to go away a few times. However, I felt like we had to beg to make this happen, and went through several incidents of discussing inflexibility in terms of when this happened and who could be included. Having to work so hard to make it happen was very difficult. On top of that, the "chosen" group are very elitist in their interactions and often insult others in the group based on their education and socio economic status. We shared out birthdays once in a while and never had an expectation that they would share every single birthday with us, but it would have been nice to have been asked to dinner every few years or so. The final straw was our closest friends disbanded with an annual Thanksgiving ritual and we recieved an email explaining they wanted to spend time with us but that Thanksgiving itself was going to be held for a very small group of 'charter members' along with a list of who the 'charter members' were. I think this was not done to hurt me but to let me know who would be there in case I heard it from someone else. That was sort of the last straw. I couldnt even bring myself to go out with them on an alternate night b/c it just felt like left overs. I decided about 3 years ago to greatly scale back my expectations for these people and only make as much effort as I receive. This means we no longer share our special events with them and we acknowledge their birthdays, anniversary etc with a card and maybe on email, but that is it. It became too painful to make a big deal out of special events in their life and never be included. I now constantly ask myself, "does this work for me emotionally?' and if the answer is 'no,' I just try to detach from it the best I can. This was very painful b/c I had wanted to be part of this so badly but I will no longer beg for it or compromise my dignity. I think its fine to give and not expect anything in return but for me, after awhile, I started to feel sort of foolish, especially when I have to hear about what they are doing with others within the same circle. We stopped bring up vacation altogether and this works for us At times I think they are sort of confused as to why we have scaled back, and I have explained it to my closest friend, who I dont think does it to be mean, but I think he is so set in these rituals (which always involve large quanities of alcohol) These boundaries, though hard to set, are working for me.

Apr 18, 2011
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Reciprocation Makes for A Warm and Healthy Society
by: Anonymous

Reciprocity is, in most societies a basic human value. We do something for somebody else, and while we may not expect an immediate 'payment', it's generally understood that sooner or later people should pay back to other people, whether it's helping them fix their car a few weeks after they invited you over to dinner, or whatever. There is some form of 'reciprocation'. It's a trait which has made human societies successful. We make stored up investments without knowing exactly when they will be repaid.

When my wife and I moved to the USA from Europe, we did not understand that some groups of people or sections of societies may have lost that human value.

We too would invite my business colleagues and their spouses over for dinner at our home.

About two of those couples, when leaving muttered somthing about 'we'll have to take you out to a restaurant sometime' but they never did. The rest could only muster a 'thank you'. There was no invitation back to dinner from any of them. After about 7 or 8 of these dinners, we realized that a large percentage of people, at least in that part of the USA (South Florida) did not feel they had to reciprocate anything.

When life gets to be all about taking and not about giving back, society loses a lot and people generally get lonlier. When your lawn mower breaks down, don't think of asking the neighbor to take a look at it, even though you've seen that he's handy at fixing his own. You have to call the mower repair service instead, and pay them $150 to fix it, while your neighbor looks on from a distance. To me this makes for a cold and socially unhealthy society.

Is this what creates "the world's largest economy" - because so many of the things that you pay for could in fact have been done by your neighbor, but arn't, and nor are the things you could have done for him/her? Perhaps we don't have such a great "quality of life" in the USA after all, because EVERYTHING has to be paid for, all the time.

It seems to be a very shallow life where people have on every transaction being money-based, and make a point of 'not giving'.

We live in Los Angeles now, and it's as bad or worse than in Florida. The few people I meet here who do reciprocate are usually from another country or perhaps from small town USA.

I read about the value of human reciprocation in a book called "Influence" by Robert B. Cialdini. I found it to be a very worthwhile and enlightening read.

Jan 08, 2010
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Rephrasing (and a question)
by: Rachel

I'm very sorry if I offended you, Patricia. That was not my intent. Looking back over my post, I can see that I didn't phrase things very well. Please accept my apologies. It's so hard to communicate without misunderstanding over the internet!

I don't know the situation, obviously, but is it possible that some of the people would like to invite you, but can't, for various reasons? E.g. size of the dinner party (they feel they have to invite certain people, but adding another couple would make it too crowded), time (they feel their event would be too far away to ask you to drive), etc.

I realize that those might very well have nothing to do with it, but you might try thinking of what reasons they could have.

I wish that I could give better advice. I'm not very wise in social matters, you see. *smile*

Before I end my rambling post, may I ask you a question? Are you a Christian? Because that has direct bearing on not only how you will handle the situation, but also how other people might advise you.

May God bless you. :)

Jan 07, 2010
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Tired of always being the giver
by: P.R.

Rachel,

We've been focused on others over all these many years of inviting them to our home or cottage - planning pleasant evenings or weekends, buying good food and preparing nice meals, making our surroundings as comfortable as possible.

We didn't expect them to reciprocate every time or in similar manner. We haven't been keeping some kind of social ledger book.

However, after five or 10 years of this being a one-way street, it hurts that some of these people never ask us back, even for a glass of wine, or include us in other social events they're organizing.

Contrary to your comments, it seems to me that they are the selfish ones, always taking but never giving back.


Jan 07, 2010
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Different Perspective
by: Rachel

I understand your predicament, and I'm sorry that your friends seem to be leaving you out.

However, I must say that it sounds like you are looking at this situation the wrong way. Your motive for having events and inviting people to these events should not be simply to get invited to their events in turn. The purpose of inviting someone to a party is to serve and bless THEM. If you can do that, then you will be satisfied no matter whether they return that favour or not.

It depends on whether you focus on yourself, or on others. If you only think of yourself, then by all means, be offended. But if you focus on the other people, then it won't matter to you, and you'll be able to forgive any slight offense they give by neglecting to invite you.

I'm sorry if that sounded harsh; I'm not thinking how to articulate very clearly this morning. :) God bless you!

Dec 18, 2009
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Stop Inviting Them
by: Anonymous

In reading your post, you sound like lovely people. It's always nice to have friends who will return the invitation to their get-togethers but if they have left you out several times, I think I would refrain from extending any more invites to them, as well. See what happens.

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