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Initiators Vs Responders in Relationships



“My son never calls me on the phone. I have to call him every time. Sometimes it upsets me. Make me wonder if he does not care”

“How does he respond when you call?”

“Oh he is very happy when I call and we do have long chats. He is very happy to talk to me and we have at least 30-45 minutes chat on various things”

“Isn’t that good? He does not put off your calls. He has good conversations with you and connects to you well.”

“Yeah but why can’t he call sometimes?”


“Why should I be the one to always start the conversation about visiting my parents or her parents? Why can’t she take the lead sometimes?” the husband asked

“How does she respond to such conversation”

“Once I start the talk she gets involved in it and then begins to make a plan.”

“She does not rebuff your attempts to visit your parents or hers, right?”

“Yeah that is correct but sometimes I wish she initiated the trip. It is her parents and mine, not some strangers”


Often in relationships, we become dissatisfied when we have to take the lead every time to make a call, plan a trip, go out to eat, see a movie or have a difficult conversation. We wish the other person also did it sometimes and interpret their lack of initiative as a lack of love/care etc. But we are also puzzled that when they also enjoy the activity why can’t they start it?


This is where the idea of initiators and responders will help us bring harmony to our relationships. Some people are initiators in a relationship and some are responders. In one relationship the wife may be an initiator in certain areas and the husband may be an initiator in certain other areas. So as long as the other person responds positively when we initiate can we accept that? One area of friction that comes up is when we see the other person being the initiator in a different relationship but being a responder with us. We know they are capable of initiating it with others so why don’t they initiate with us? Each relationship has its own dynamics. While we are initiators we are not that in every relationship. In some, we want the other one to take the burden. It does not mean less care or love. Understanding this idea of initiators and responders helps us make peace in a lot of important relationships.

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