Some exchange agreements are laid out clearly, and many others are assumed.
At the end of a love relationship a few years ago, after I had moved in with this man thinking it was a long term agreement, and then six months later he gave my child and I the boot, we were in a counseling session.
I was speaking about the agreements that we’d had, and the counselor said to me one of the most illuminating things I’d ever heard. He said, “Sarah, were these agreements stated or written, or did you assume them?”
In fact, I had assumed them. Based on his character as I’d known it to be and his invitation to build a life together. But I had assumed that that had meant certain things about the exchange agreements.
Now, I’m not still heartbroken about that in the least, but I was reminded of this while walking and talking with a friend this morning about EXCHANGE AGREEMENTS specifically between men and women.
And I would apply this to the workplace as well.
When I took a job on a leadership team in a startup, I got a massive raise from my previous charter school job. And then I would receive texts when I was putting my child to bed, or after ten PM. When I decided that I would not be answering these texts because they were invasive, I caused some disruption. Nowhere was it written in my contract that I was obligated to answer leadership team texts at 10pm if I was not on call. The unspoken expectation was that I would answer because I’d gotten a good gig. Then it was as if they thought they owned my energy.
They did not own my energy. No one owns my energy but me, even when there is an exchange agreement in place.
For hundreds of generations, the exchange dynamics between men and women were very skewed. A woman couldn’t own land or even have her own last name, and her food and housing security depended on her husband or her father, and she had to keep them happy. So she made certain decisions about her body, who she permitted access to her body, how she gave her energy, and how she specifically did not exert her energy or risk being “too much” in order to preserve her access to resources for her and her children.
Women still carry the TENDENCY to get wrapped up in unspoken, unwritten exchange agreements with men and employers, because we’re subconsciously still wired to expend our energy in order to not piss off the man or authority figure that has control over our resources. If an employer decides whether or not you get a paycheck, and that paycheck feeds your kids, then you will do things like turn down your opinion or answer the text after hours in order to ensure your security.
This happens at every tier of employment, and women who have climbed ladders to achieve more are not immune to this.
And I’ll go on record right now and say that I believe that this is the root cause of burnout. How we use our energy based on what we perceive the unspoken exchange agreements to be is making women more tired, more depleted, and wondering how in the world their quest for leadership did not land them with a life of actual fulfillment.
Where is your energy going? Why? What is actually contracted, or agreed upon, and what isn’t? How is this happening both at work and with your spouse?
When that personal relationship ended, I couldn’t understand why this man wouldn’t have been happy. Because I had tried to keep him happy. He was, after all, inviting my son and I into his house. I’m not too proud to admit it. Of course not. How could I recommend that we take an honest look at these dynamics if I’m not willing to own it myself?
I did, eventually, piss off the employer with the edge that I was walking. I was getting too big for my britches, asking for equity in too many ways, and this was the last job I had before becoming a women’s coach and masculine feminine polarity consultant.
My friend and I this morning talked about the insidious nature of the unspoken exchange agreements between men and women, between money and sex. Who gets access to your energy? Why? Are you trying to keep them happy? Are you happy in this behavior and in your agreements?
Because I’m here to tell you, you are the only one that decides who gets access to your energy, when, and why. Every day, you get to define and redefine your agreements. You get to ask for that. You get to stop the habitual self sacrifice right now.
Now wouldn’t that just be the end to burn out right there?
If you’d like to discuss personal coaching about taking back your energy from unspoken agreements that are depleting your life, contact me by setting up a consultation at www.SarahPoet.com/book.