I was facilitating one of my men’s groups recently, and one of the topics that came up as a “hot button” was how to navigate the slippery slope of getting needs met while not appearing needy, and what are even “appropriate” needs to look to your partner to satisfy/support.
This gets so tricky, because we are relentlessly conditioned to see relationships as almost a Utopian idyll where all problems go away and we get to walk around blissed out for as much as possible (and get to have TONS of sex while you’re at it). When you add any gender-specific ideas/ideals to what relationship should be like, it gets even trickier. For example, a lot of men are brought up to believe that communicating just about anything from their hearts that could be conceived of as insecure, unconfident, or fearful is sure-proof sign that they’re weak or wimpy.
In an effort to avoid appearing weak or needy (combined with perhaps an equally obsessive drive to avoid conflict), one partner will start looking to the other for what they think are clues/cues to what the other wants from them…not realizing they’re really looking for clues as to what’s going to be OK for THEM to say or not say that will “fly” with the other person. Add to all that that we’ve gotten ourselves into such a restrictive box of over-DOing, that how we want to Be gets lost in the shuffle. When any or all of that is going on, the relationship is no longer yours, but more the hostage of all your hidden (and not-so-hidden) emotional wounds and conditioning, partnered up with all your defense mechanisms that will often project onto your partner that they are the one that needs to change or be fixed.
It’s critical that we begin to wake up, on a much bigger level, that our romantic relationships – hell, all of our relationships – are, first and foremost, about us. I don’t mean that in a nihilistic or narcissistic way, but in the sense that every relationship is a product of two people bringing themselves – and their conscious & unconscious baggage – to a joint enterprise that we want to believe is about loving each other and creating a whole bigger than the parts…but, often turns out to be two people trying to get years of unmet needs met and satisfied by another person onto whom they have projected all kinds of old-need-generated fantasies on. When the other person doesn’t meet those needs and expectations, they can easily become the one who doesn’t love us or care about our needs. From there, the spiral can go downhill pretty quickly.
So, what to do?
Firstly, start getting over any illusions you may have that there’s a Magic Bullet that will solve it all overnight. This is a life-long process, in my opinion. So, you have to start with a first step. What might that be?
Start by practicing re-orienting yourself back to your Self…your Highest Self. What does that mean? For simplicity, I define Highest Self as the truth of your heart…your Spirit. The wisdom that part of us has is on 24/7, if we only will turn to it. One problem many of us encounter, though, is that we’ve been conditioned through a lot of our childhood wounds to not believe in, or trust, that Self. Beginning to re-orient to that Highest Self is – initially – an act of Faith…faith that that Self is in there and can be dug out from under the rubble of our patterning, our past, our shame, our guilt, and our multitude of “I’m not enough” stories to be able to hear its guidance.
When you are upset with your partner, or feeling relentlessly unsatisfied, turn and look into the mirror of yourself, and ask yourself – in meditation, in journaling, or in visualizing yourself (as you imagine your Highest Self might look and feel like) talking to the part of you that’s upset and frustrated with unconditional love, patience, and compassion, simply asking “What are you needing that you’re not getting.” If you “hear” an answer, then practice NOT looking to your partner, initially, but looking to yourself and your own inner resources to see if that need can’t be soothed by your own patient attention. One essential trick, though…you have to be willing to see things – including you – as they really are, not as how you magically wish they’d be.
When you are true to your Self, the rest usually falls into place with a fair amount of ease…you just have to be willing to receive it and start imagining that life does NOT always have to be hard, even when your circumstances are challenging.