Perhaps the biggest threat to any relationship is our unmet needs. Somehow, many of us have an inbuilt habit of giving up our needs in favor of being loved and feeling secure.
The beauty of relating with others is fulfilling each others needs. We all have needs that take us out of being self-sufficient islands! We need connection, companionship, touch, empathy...a whole bunch of great things that we receive from our relationships (including relationships with friends).
So we fall in love, and it seems we have found someone who fulfills all of our needs! We love, we touch, we listen, we make love, we care about each other...all of these wonderful things that make us feel truly MET. These are the kinds of reasons we chose to commit and build something together with another person.
But over time, we are likely to discover some needs here and there that are not met in this relationship, and this is when the problems begin...
...Often one partner wants more sex than the other, or one has a need for kinky experiences the other is not drawn to. Or there may be emotional needs unmet...there is great sex, but no empathy. Perhaps even your mind is not nourished by this other person's intellect!
It is rare, if not impossible, to find one single other human being who can meet all of our needs!
I have this with my musical needs. I love music and I especially love to sing in harmony. It fulfills a deep part of my soul. Yet I have rarely ever fallen in love with a man who shares this. In fact my last two great loves had hearing problems!
Of course, this need is easy to fulfill without threatening the relationship. I sing on my trainings. I sing with friends. I go t dong circles. My needs are fulfilled without needing this from my partner.
But what if the unmet needs are sexual or intimate? This can be way more threatening to your relationship. It is one thing to go off to sing with someone else, but it's another matter to go get our touch needs from someone else. Not every relationship is so open to this.
The pattern that I see that we often do is this: if we try expressing those needs but we feel unheard or our needs threaten our partner, then we start suppressing our own needs in order to preserve the relationship. A slippery slope. (OR e go behind our partner's back to fulfill our needs, and that is also a slippery slope!)
I've met many a woman who gave up asking for foreplay, smiled through years of unsatisfying (or even painful) sex to please her husband, and suddenly hit mid-life (often when he has an affair or the kids leave home) and wonders where all of her pleasure went. She may slump into resentment, or march off to reclaim all the pleasure she "gave up" all those years.
I've met men too, who go through twenty years on a sexless marriage to be the good husband and respectable father, and then wonder where their life force went. Again, some find new life and others let their life fade into a sorry version of its full potential.
Usually at this mid-life moment, if the person decides to make a change then first a surge of anger comes. At first we feel angry at our spouse. "You stopped me from being me!" But later, if we do inner work and can take responsibility, we see that we CHOSE to forfeit our needs for love, security and relationship.
But we do't need to wait until a mid-life crisis before we start to resolve the problem of unmet needs,
Why is it that we are we so unsuccessful at getting our needs met in long-term relationships? And is it actually possible to find a way to have a secure long-term relationship AND get our needs met?
One of our biggest problems is that we tend to suppress voicing our needs for too long, and then finally blurt them out in a super-clumsy way. We may express our needs as a demand ("You should give me way more foreplay!") or express them as a criticism on the other ("You are useless at foreplay!"), because it has built up inside us and then comes out with force.
It often completely shocks the other as its the first they ever heard about it, and it comes as an attack. ("I thought she loved our sex life, then suddenly she attacked me saying I was the worst lover ever")...and when we feel attacked, we defend ("well my last partner said I was the best lover she ever had") or attack back ("its your fault because you're so closed up").
So perhaps THE most important thing we need to create in our relationships is creating the safety to both express our needs.
Which is, by the way, easier said than done! But really there's no alternative other than becoming deeply repressed, highly dissatisfied (but secure) partners! And don't forget that this security can all be blown to smithereens almost instantaneously the moment that those repressed needs come bursting out...
How to make it safe to hear each others needs:
This is NOT an easy topic. But remember, if its left unresolved, it can fester and then erupt volcanically, causing way more harm than if you were both in open communication all along.
As children, we all had experiences of asking for something (or crying for it) and being denied our needs or shouted at for asking/crying. In this way, we all learned that we will be denied love by expressing our needs.
So wouldn't it be great if, in our adult relationships, we start to rewrite that? We recognize how scary it can be to express our needs. We start to make it safe for each other. And we learn to balance safety with fulfillment. This is next-level relating.
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