There are two types of people in a relationship; Collectors and Investors.
Collectors WANT something from you; it might be romance, intimacy, friendship but they want something that you have to offer. They want to vent to you, have you listen, appreciate and witness their lives and when they’re done with you, they put you on the shelf. Not a great feeling, believe me; especially once you’ve discovered your own worth. That’s when these types of relationships start to flounder, because as long as you DON’T know what you deserve to have in a relationship, you can subsist here for quite a long, lonely time.
I’ll admit to having been a collector. I’ve collected friends in the past who have tended to the relationship and who, for whatever reason, did not give me up even though my end of things was supremely lacking. They showed up for me when I needed them and conveniently disappeared when I didn’t, until summoned. They were few and far between, because honestly there were reasons I wasn’t investing; misalignments that got in the way of developing trust and intimacy that I wasn’t able to or was unwilling to try and address. It was just easier to let them in an out of my life as needed. They would feed my ego, tell me how wonderful I was, and listen to my stories, my issues, my dramas, and then they would let me shelve them. It only happened once or twice in my younger days and I don’t do this anymore. At least I hope not. Not intentionally, and if I have done this to you, I sincerely apologize and invite you to call me out. I probably didn’t know how to be authentic in my relationships yet.
Collectors (as most things) are on a SPECTRUM. They can struggle with a lack of self-awareness (as I did) on the one end and they can actually LACK compassion and empathy on the other. In the middle is someone a bit lazy, self-absorbed and only mildly interested in the concerns of others. This may happen in a developmental stage where we are typically caught up in our own world…the teen to young adult years. Having said that, when Collectors move out of this phase and into the mature adult world, they are often identified as NARCISSISTS. I would venture that all narcissists are Collectors (falling on the lacking empathy end of the spectrum) but not all Collectors are narcissists.
Investors give to you in a RECIPROCAL way. They INVEST their time, energy and resources into the relationship with you, at or about the same level that you do. They listen, encourage and challenge you, and you do the same for them. You both want the best for the other, and are concerned about whether their needs are being met, and equally as able to advocate for their own needs in a mature and reasonable way. You are able to be vulnerable and they have earned your TRUST, and they, in turn, yours. Both of you feel heard and valued. This is the type of relationship we all need and want in our lives. This is AUTHENTIC intimacy.
You know what I’m going to say. There is a spectrum for Investors as well. They range from giving you the world in terms of what they have to offer, to just giving enough to let you know you matter. I prefer to have relationships in the middle. We give to one another enough that we feel important, not just that we matter. We don’t give so much that it feels overwhelming or like we could never appropriately match the offer. And we don’t give so much that we ourselves feel drained. Enough to feel that we are tending to and nurturing the relationship is the ideal balance to give and to receive. It’s a good idea to check in from time and time, even if it feels a bit awkward, to find out if they feel cared about. A direct question is better than saying “I hope you realize how much I care about you”. While this is commonly used to direct the other person’s attention to the fact that we care, a direct question, “Do you know that I care about you? Do you feel that when we’re together? Or when we aren’t? If not, what do you need from me to feel cared about?” Awkward AF, but WORTH IT because then you gain CLARITY.
With clarity, you aren’t operating under assumptions (we all know how well that works) that all is well, and you can make adjustments that allow them to feel more LOVE and APPRECIATION. If you’re in a relationship with another Investor who by their nature is concerned for your well being, they actually WANT you to tell them what you need to feel their LOVE and APPRECIATION as well. They won’t take it as criticism as a Collector would. They will be happy to do what they can to help you get what you NEED.
When an Collector collects an Investor – wow, it’s unhealthy. It works because the Investor is giving, giving, giving…and the Collector is taking it all in but there is no equity in this relationship. Ultimately the Investor becomes drained and depleted, even as they are fulfilling what they see as their life purpose; to please others. They become a shell of their former vibrant selves because in all the time that they’ve been with their Collector, they have never once received any RETURN on their constant investment. The Investor, meanwhile, becomes almost tyrannical in their enjoyment and use of the Investor. Their EGO flourishes and they are driven to seek out more Investors. This dynamic can become quite the powerful addiction for a Collector.
I have seen this dynamic played out over and over with my clients, and it does take a lot of support for an Investor to leave this kind of toxic relationship. The Collector is never motivated to leave so ending it must be done by the Investor. What can they do to get out? The Investor can work on developing a deep and abiding recognition of their intrinsic value, and on seeing their relationship REALISTICALLY. Often because an Investor has been working all their lives on the premise that by giving they will receive, (which as a foundational principal for KARMA and good works is worthy, but as a relationship dynamic principal it is seriously flawed) these drained and depleted Investors are still holding on to the idea that their Collector must actually love them (and in fact they may think they do). Collecting is EGO-DRIVEN and is about laziness at best and lack of empathy at worst.THIS. IS. NOT. LOVE.
So…if you are an Investor…PLEASE know that there are other Investors like you in the world who are willing and able to have an equitable and reciprocal LOVING relationship and with whom you will feel supported, heart and understood and will find real TRUST and INTIMACY. Don’t settle for being part of someone’s collection. You are worth so much MORE than that!