Emotional Bartering

kelly shibari emotional supportThe other day, I had an at-length conversation with someone who felt hurt because she didn’t feel supported by someone she felt she had supported. Her disappointment, she said, was caused by the fact that she had spent time, money, and energy promoting someone, only to find that the support was not reciprocated. She was noticeably upset, and although I tried to console her, I really didn’t know how.

You see, I believe in emotional bartering.

It’s not the same as keeping score, or a tally, or a checklist. It’s not the same as “I bought you dinner last time, so you buy this time.” I don’t have the time nor the energy to keep tabs on the incremental things I have done for someone, and make sure that the other person has done exactly the same number of things in reciprocation.

However, I do believe in equal support. And in the case of the woman in question, I couldn’t really help because all I could tell her was to walk away from the fight.

I don’t set out with a mindset of “Hey, I scratch your back, you scratch mine.” Rather, I set out just being as nice and helpful to as many people as possible. It’s part of my nature – I’m a people-pleaser at my core. If I see someone needing my help, I’m usually the first to offer it. Jewish people call it a “mitzvah,” I just call it “perpetuating the happy” in my life. I know a lot of other people that do this. It’s this ongoing attempt to keep the world around you happy.

The problem, though, is that sometimes, you’re let down. The support isn’t reciprocated.

Sometimes it’s because the other person is just perpetually unhappy or miserable. You know these people – they go around looking for things to complain about every chance they get. They hate life, they hate their job (or lack of it), they hate the weather…and it doesn’t matter how helpful or nice you try to be, there is no changing their core.

Sometimes, it’s because the other person feels as if the world owes them something. Your help or support or general niceness is something to be expected – it’s beneath them to help you out in return, because, after all, the world revolves around them. Their thought process is that you are benefitting so much from your interaction with them and just being seen in the same circle as them, and that must be enough. After all, they’re a certain so-and-so; you should consider yourself lucky you’re ever allowed in their universe! You also can’t help these people because their narcissism is just something that can’t be changed without something drastic.

As a hedonistic person, you hope that your happy-go-lucky, see-the-cup-as-half-full attitude will rub off on them. You hope that they will see your interactions with other people who are supportive, and see you succeeding, and think that perhaps a change of attitude might be just what the doctor ordered. Unfortunately, it’s just not the case. With both of these kinds of people, unless something drastic happens, they don’t change. Because, as we all know, we all fear change. Change is new, untried, untested. Why move out of your comfort zone? What if *gulp* it doesn’t work out? They fail to see that what isn’t working is how they currently are.

As cup-half-full people, we have three choices: we can either decide to be just like them, try to reason with them, or walk away. The first two options usually end in frustration and further disappointment.

I’ve also been disappointed, hurt, lied to, betrayed, cheated, been made the butt of a joke, and conned. Making the choice to walk away or stand and fight has always been hard for me. But at the end of the day, I only have me to depend on. So more often than not, I have ended up walking away to save my own sanity and self-worth. As a result, I’ve walked away from more acquaintances, groups, employers, boyfriends, and job offers than I care to list.

Emotional bartering is just that. It says, “I am there for you, if you are there for me.” I don’t pay for anything, buy you any gifts, cover you in glitter, put blinders on, or shoot sunshine up your proverbial butt. I’ll be honest with you and tell you what I believe to be true. I’ll never talk badly about you or criticize you when you’re not there to defend yourself. Sometimes you won’t like what I might say, but you’ll never heard about anything I’ve said from a third party. At the same time, I will be your biggest cheerleader and pep squad and confidant and fan. If you tell me something and tell me not to tell anyone, I won’t. And trust me, when you’re in a time of need, I’ll drop everything and be at your side.

But you better do the same for me. Otherwise I’ll feel cheated.

I only wish other people felt this way.