Everything to know about the 'cup and jug' relationship theory

Has anyone ever told you that ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup?’

It may have sounded naff at the time, but like all old sayings, there is wisdom flowing from it.

The ‘cup’ in this instance, is your mind, body and soul. If you are emotionally and physically fatigued, you can’t provide for anyone else without caring for yourself first.

The cup theory comes up again and again when the general conversation about life turns deep and inward. And now, it has materialised in the topic of dating and compatibility.

In a recent episode of the podcast ‘Out of Character with Millie’, Australian TikTok star Millie Ford talks about the ‘cup and jug theory.’

‘Okay, so you have got your cups and you have got your jugs,’ she explains.

‘Some of us walking around are cups and some of us walking around are jugs. But what you need to make sure when you are dating is that you are dating other jugs – you are not dating cups.’

She continues: ‘Say that I’m a jug and I’m dating a cup and I’m pouring so much of myself into this person – it starts to overflow.

‘They don’t have the capacity [to deal with it]. It’s overwhelming. They start to get avoidant. They are like get me out of here.’

Neither one is good or bad – just another way to think about compatibility! we unpack it more on the pod, link in bio!

Millie then flips the roles of the cup and jug and says that if you pour the cup into the jug ‘not much of it is getting filled up.’

Her argument is an interesting one, and something many of us have dealt with romantically. We have dated people who give us so much, but then we can’t reciprocate it.

We have also found ourselves involved with those who give us very little, meaning we don’t feel fulfilled or valued in the partnership.

But what does a dating expert think about this cup/jug hypothesis?

Dating your equal

Dating and relationship expert Sarah Louise Ryan says the analogy can be interpreted in many ways.

‘One way to look at this analogy of the cup and the jug is to consider if you are dating your equal,’ she tells Metro.co.uk

‘Two jugs will be equal and aligned and two cups will be equal and aligned. Whereas, a cup and a jug would not. In real life, when dating, it’s important that two people are like-minded and feel equal in the relationship and what they put forward.

‘It’s about giving and receiving time, energy, emotion, attention, affection, love.’

The cup and jug theory can also help you identify how personal issues like low self-esteem and negative patterns are hindering your romantic life.

‘It can force your to look at how you feel within yourself and how you feel when dating someone new,’ Sarah says.

‘If have low confidence and self esteem, you may find yourself drawn to those who have more to give (jugs).

‘On the other hand, if you are feeling so happy in yourself and fulfilled in your life, you may want to share it with someone else, but find yourself with people (cups) who can’t handle that or don’t have these feelings themselves.’

Emotional compatibility

In the podcast, it is noted that neither a cup or a jug is good or bad, and Sarah agrees. Different individuals simply have different needs, and emotional compatibility is dependent on a multitude of reasons.

Sarah notes that it is crucial for your wellbeing to check in with how you are feeling in a relationship.

‘Decipher whether you are having your needs met and if the other person isn’t pulling their weight emotionally,’ she adds.

‘If a relationship is making you feel anxious, burned out, frustrated, drained, tired and questioning your partner, it is not a good sign.’

To avoid finding yourself with an emotional opposite once more, Sarah says it is time to look inwards.

‘Take stock of what you want, need and desire in a relationship, in the bedroom, and in your life,’ she says. ‘You have to be clear on what you want and how to get there. Consider consciously creating a love life that you desire.

‘You can do this by taking stock of the lessons you have learned from previous relationships and dating experiences. This experiences will have had aspects you liked and didn’t. This is good base to move from.’

However, Sarah warns that the cup and jug idea is a simplified way to look at more complex issues and should not be taken verbatim.

‘It skims over the complexity of personalities, behaviours, energy levels, values, communication and more,’ she says.

‘I think it’s helpful for those who want to identify how they show up in a relationship in a simple manner.

‘Perhaps some “cups” will look at it and wonder how they can work on personal development and be more abundant in a relationship. “Jugs” may look at it and realise they are always giving and not receiving in the same way, and ask themselves why that is.

‘And perhaps, cups and jugs will now start connecting with their equal – which is the seed needed for real trust and respect. This, in turn, allows love to grow.’

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