The most important relationship you will ever have, is the one you have with yourself. Think about it. Your sense of self is the foundation to every other relationship in your life.
Granted, you are not wholly responsible for the health of your connections with others. It takes two to tango, as they say. And yet, it’s difficult to enjoy a healthy relationship if you cannot connect with yourself in a positive way.
One of the most troubling trends I see in relationships today is the tendency for partners to talk about whether or not their needs are being met.
This was really common language among the evangelical circles of my youth. Pastors nailed it into our heads that “husbands need sex and wives need emotional intimacy.”
And if those needs aren’t met?
That’s supposedly the beginning of the end of the whole relationship.
This idea that a spouse or partner is responsible for fulfilling our needs runs deep. Even beyond any religious bubble, it’s still common to hear people judge their romantic interests by how well they meet their needs.
People cheat because they feel neglected by their spouse. They have miserable days because their partner didn’t do something for them the way they hoped. Even some of my polyamorous friends talk about looking for multiple partners to fulfill each of their needs.
And I think that all of it is bullshit.
Of course, I used to buy into the whole thing like everybody else. It sounds good, right? That’s often how you’d judge that a relationship was working--if you met each other’s needs.
But what happens when life happens and your partner can’t meet those needs like they used to? Is your relationship doomed? Or are you supposed to make sacrifices?
God forbid, if one partner dies or leaves them, is the other person unable to function until they find someone new?
These are sticky questions. Who’s actually responsible for fulfilling your needs?
I don’t think I can handle this notion any longer that anyone other than me is responsible to meet my needs.
Sure, there are basic principles to a healthy relationship. Things like respect, communication, and love. We help each other because we love each other, but meet needs?
I’m starting to wonder what that even means.
I used to think I needed words of affirmation. Physical touch. Quality time. Hey, I took the love languages test and I got a three-way tie. I used to be resigned to the fact that I was hungry for love.
And so, I brought that hunger into my relationships. Do you know what?
Knowing my love languages was still not enough. No amount of sweet words, time together, or sex was ever enough.
After a while, I had to look at myself much more clearly. Much more deeply. What was lacking in me that I felt like I needed constant affirmation or words of love? Why wasn’t I happy when there was space and time away from each other? And why did nothing ever feel like it was enough?
I have carried such a deep attachment to the idea of being loved. In one way or another, I think we all do. Everybody has that tragic little broken bit inside of them that wants to be loved.
We all want to be loved.
But we don’t always know how to do it. How to let love in or how to give it away. How to be healthy in our dealings with love.
Healthy love is not some transactional thing. It’s a relational thing, and that can be hard for any of us to grasp.
We want love, but we think that means having somebody to make us happy all of the time, or cheer us up when we’ve had a bad day.
We want love to do all the legwork we don’t want to do for ourselves. Instead of making happiness an inside job, we look to someone else and decide they need to make it happen for us.
As if it’s their job, and not ours.
All of this is unhealthy attachment and expectation. We’re simply putting our choices and attitudes upon somebody else. And it’s not good for anyone.
I’m not entirely sure what made me quit looking for some love to meet my needs. I suppose it started when I grew disenchanted with the whole idea of “people shopping.”
I’m tired of looking at potential dates for their disembodied positive traits. And tired of being examined in the same rigid way.
What are we shopping for anyway? Why are we so concerned with having our needs met instead of simply creating a healthy bond with someone we care about?
Real love and healthy partnerships involve helping each other. But meeting needs should be reserved for grown adults in certain circumstances. We need to meet our own needs and also meet the needs of our children who cannot fend for themselves.
It’s up to us to figure out why we feel like we need our partner to… dot, dot dot. Everyone has their own list of expectations. But is that lost really fair to them or us?
I’ll be honest. It’s hard to change your line of thinking to understand that your romantic partners do not owe you the pleasure of meeting your needs.
But on the upside? It’s liberating. There’s a certain sort of freedom in learning how to value rather than fear your independence. And it even makes your relationships better because nobody is guilting, manipulating, or playing games to get what they want.
It’s good for your relationship and for yourself to take your happiness and fulfillment into your own hands. It’s good to love without attachment, because attachment is that thing that breeds fear and resentment. Attachment makes us feel like we own the people we love.
So, give it some thought as you go about your day. How many times to you look to another person to meet your needs?
How often do you feel entitled to the service of someone else to make you feel happy and loved?
Are you really lonely when you’re away from your partner? Or are you simply unacquainted with your true self. These are the questions you need to consider.
Let yourself and your lover(s) off the hook. Pay attention to the subtle mental shift that happens when your satisfaction in life isn’t dependent upon anyone but you.
Once you start thinking about it, you might be surprised where such introspection leads.