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Meeting Needs

Love Yourself, Love Your Partner

Far too often in counseling sessions I have heard things like: I don’t feel like s/he loves me, I feel like I come second, third or fourth, I feel put aside, I feel unappreciated. Statements like these are often followed by, “I love him (her), but I am not in love with him (her).” When people’s needs are not being met in their relationship there is a tendency to withdraw and withhold, creating an even larger wedge between partners.

Love

Our unsatisfied needs move us to action. When we are feeling that our partner does not love us or that we are not important to them, we will do things to try and reassure ourselves that we are loved and important to our partner. Too often the action that we take moves us farther away, rather than closer to getting our needs met. Consider the wife who feels neglected because her husband is frequently staying late at work. When he does finally get home she is sullen, hurt and angry. What she needs is to feel loved and like he values and wants to spend time with her. However, her behavior ends up pushing him farther away and the time that they do spend together is unsatisfying to both.

For each of us, it is ultimately our own responsibility to meet our own needs. That being said, it feels amazing when our partner helps us to get our needs met. We cannot control what our partner does. We cannot make them behave as if they love us or as if we are important to them. But we can control our thoughts and actions. We can behave as though we love them and they are important to us. Feeling that our needs are not being met can at times make us blind to the needs of those around us.

Before you can jump in and work at meeting your partner’s needs, it is vitally important to first take some time to work on meeting your own needs. Give yourself the gift of loving and accepting yourself. Give yourself the gift of acknowledging and knowing that you are important and that you are worth it. Self-sooth. Find ways to strengthen and energize yourself. Love yourself first, then offer love to your partner.

When you come at trying to help your partner feel loved and important, from a place of knowing that you are loved and important by and to yourself, then your feelings will be more those of giving rather than resenting. When your partner’s needs are met, it is more likely that they will be more aware of your needs and behave in ways that helps you get your needs met. As you can see from the example above, unmet needs too often lead to behavior that is counter-productive. At those times, it takes skill to recognize the need underneath your partner’s behavior.

You can choose to deal with what you can control and decide to reach out to your partner and focus on giving, rather than worrying about what you are not getting. Be aware of the human tendency to give love in ways that feel loving to you. It is extremely important to know your partner and to learn what it is that feels loving to them. Giving gifts of love can feel like a credit or deposit in their emotional bank account. But as Stephen Covey pointed out, “Nothing you do is a deposit unless the other person perceived it as such. “

If you do not know your partner and do not give in ways that are meaningful and feel loving to them then your sacrifices and gifts of love will not be recognized as such. When we focus on giving love, rather than focusing on what we are not getting, we will feel more loving toward our partner and hopefully they, as their emotional bank account fills up, will start behaving and feeling more loving in return.

Boundaries Protect Relationships

Setting boundaries is an important relationship skill. Good boundaries protect relationships. Many people find it difficult to ask for what they want. They go through life giving to and pleasing their partner, hoping that some day their partner will return the favor. Resentment and frustration can build until the pendulum swings too far and those who for years have been bending over backwards to please others, suddenly become obnoxiously insistent that things go their way for a change. Finding the balance between being too passive and too aggressive can be a challenge.

The following 4 tips can help you achieve an assertive balance when setting your boundaries.

Boundaries

1. Know Yourself In order to be assertive, you first need to know your values, preferences, and limits. It is important to recognize the difference between your principles and values, and your preferences. Once you are clear on who you are and what is really important to you, it becomes easier to share this with your partner.

2. Set Boundaries Share your expectation with your partner. When setting boundaries, be honest, direct and specific. Try to create boundaries based on your values and principles, rather than preferences. Cleanliness is a value; the color of the towels in the bathroom is a preference. Try to remain open and flexible about preference; and firm and consistent about values. The more we stay true to our values the better we feel in our life. Persistence is key when setting boundaries. It becomes easier with practice and it is freeing to be open about your needs and desires.

3. Open Your Mouth Your partner cannot read your mind. If you want your needs to be met, the best way to help that happen is to open your mouth. You can start small by expressing your preferences for shows to watch, places to eat, and things to do for fun. It can be easier to start by talking about how you felt about things that happened in the past and what you would have preferred and work up to expressing how you feel about what is happening as it is happening.

4. Be The Example Of What You Want Respecting your partner’s boundaries sets an excellent example for your partner. If he wants you to call if you are going to be home late, then call. If she wants you to keep the clutter off the bedroom dresser, then do so. The small choices we make every day, speak volumes to our partner. You can also check in with your partner to see if what you are expecting and asking seems like a reasonable request to them. Your partner may be more willing to respect your boundaries if they feel respected in return.

If you have clearly set your boundaries, you are being respectful and consistent in setting or maintaining your boundaries and your partner still refuses to respect you and your boundaries, it may be time to consider seeking professional help.

Three A's For A Happier Relationship

Expressing appreciation, admiration and affection consistently will increase your individual as well as relationship happiness. These habits will infuse your relationship with positive energy and help to fortify it against the frustrations and problems that any relationship encounters.

Aim for at least four 6 second hugs a day. Men, remember that hug does not equal groping. A six second hug is long enough for you both to relax into the hug and open yourselves up to a feeling of connection. Find ways to remind your partner of your love. Say, text or email, “I love you,” frequently. Little kindnesses can go a long way toward helping your partner feel cared for and cared about. Human beings die, at least on the inside, without loving touch. Find ways to reach out to your partner and express affection.

Everyday without fail, let your partner know that you admire and respect them. Point out their strengths in positive ways. Let them know that you are impressed by their talents and abilities. Make a habit of talking positively about your partner when s/he is not around. Avoid, like you would the plague, the temptation to gripe and complain about your partner to others. The more you focus on, talk about and point out your partner faults; the more reasons you will find to complain. Instead put your focus on what you like and admire about your partner. You will begin to create an upward, rather than a downward spiral in your relationship.

Practice saying thank you. Gratitude feels wonderful on the giving and receiving end. Showing your appreciation for what your partner does helps to keep you from falling into the relationship destroying habit of taking each other for granted. It is far too easy to fall into expecting and maybe even demanding the things that we used to appreciate. Choose each day to find ways to feel appreciation for something that your partner has done.

Beware of Indifference

Neglect

Many relationships die a slow and painful death due to neglect. As J. K. Rowlling said, "Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike." Ask yourself, “In what ways might I be indifferent in my relationship? Where has apathy crept in? Do you make an effort to connect each day? Do you find ways each day to show and tell your partner that you love him or her; that you are grateful for who they are and what they do? If you find signs of indifference in your relationship, you will need to act fast to counteract the damage:

  • Listen with both ears and your heart. Let your partner know that you care about what they think and how they feel.
  • Take time for your relationship. Every day say and do something loving for your partner.
  • Be careful about special days. Remember and honor birthdays, anniversaries and other days that are special to the two of you.
  • Enthusiastically support your partner’s dreams. When something is very important to your partner, it should be important to you, because your partner is important to you.

You damage your relationship when you disregard or ignore your partner or the things that are important to your partner. Your indifference gives your partner the clear message that you do not care about what s/he cares about; it may also send the message that you do not care about him/her.

Do not allow your relationship deteriorate due to neglect. Choose to be generous with your time and your love.

Self-Care Improves Relationships

Eating healthy, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep, surprisingly enough, may improve the quality of your relationship. Taking responsibility to take good care of your self makes it easier to be your best self in your relationship. A healthy diet helps to strengthen your immune system and protect your health. Poor health can decrease your quality of life and put extra stress on your relationship. Eating regular balanced and healthy meals, including lots of fruits and vegetables, helps to keep your energy high. When you feel healthy and energetic, you tend to feel more generous, optimistic and patient, all good for your relationship.

SleepExercising regularly can improve your mood and increase your libido. Activity improves blood flow, as well as releasing endorphins or feel-good chemicals in the brain. When you are physically fit, you feel more attractive and energetic, again good for your relationship.

Adequate sleep is important for health and a sense of well-being. Sleep deprivation can greatly reduce your enjoyment of life. It can make you snappy and ill tempered and reduce your ability to cope with day-to-day situations. It will reduce your ability to make good decision and to problem solve. Sometimes when life seems overwhelming, a good nights rest can improve your ability to cope.

The better we feel about our self, the more accepting we tend to be of our partner. Choosing a healthy lifestyle may do more than lengthen your life, it may also improve the quality of your relationship and make living longer more enjoyable.

Improve Your Relationships By Loving Yourself

It may seem a bit contradictory to say that loving yourself will improve your marriage or relationships. Shouldn’t I be telling you instead to be more loving toward others. For most women caring for and loving others is something they consistently do. There is a prevailing tendency for women to give and give, secretly hoping that some day someone will take care of them. When that doesn’t happen can they become hurt, frustrated and burnt out. In reality, in order to truly love others, you need to love yourself. Unfortunately many women struggle with loving and accepting themselves. If you don’t particularly like yourself, how do you begin to turn that feeling into a healthy self-love?

Be Kind to Yourself

To begin, remember that loving feelings follow loving thoughts and deeds. So watch what you think about yourself. Start replacing put downs with positive and supportive thoughts. Talk to yourself the same way you would talk to a favorite girlfriend—respectfully, kindly and honestly.

Accept that you are wonderful just the way you are. Stop wishing that you were different than you are. Self-acceptance means recognizing that you are unique, special and wonderful just because you are.

If there are changes that you strongly feel you need to make, involving your behavior, not your being, then choose now to be as you want to be. Your actions will follow your firm decision and commitment. You can more easily change your behavior from a position of self-love than you can from a position of self-loathing.

Take time for You

Next, in all their taking care of, mothers and women need to begin with taking care of themselves. If you don’t take time to sharpen the saw, you will eventually grind to a halt. If you are one of those women who has been taking care of others at the expense of yourself, then you may need to do a self-intervention.

You may need to de-stress your life. If you are over committed and overwhelmed; find ways to delegate some responsibilities to others. Also give yourself permission to say no without feeling guilty. If taking on yet another project is going to increase your stress and build resentment, it is better to say, “I am choosing not to take on extra projects right now.” You don’t have to apologize for recognizing your limits.

Make sure you carve out some time for self care in your busy schedule. Make time for things like exercise, meditation and proper nutrition. Make sure that your needs are also included in the budget. Some women continually forgo what they need and want, in order that their children or spouse can have what they need or want. While the willingness to sacrifice for each other is part of a loving family, it is important that there be some balance as well.

Enjoy Life

When was the last time that you did something you enjoyed, just for fun? Make a list of activities that help you feel great, whether it stimulates you intellectually, entertains you or makes you laugh. Make sure that you do something from that list at least once a week. Preferably you should do something that gives you pleasure every day.

When you love and care for yourself you will find that you have a lot more to give to your relationships. Respecting yourself enough to take responsibility for your self-care will have the added bonus of increasing the respect you receive from others. When you love and respect yourself you will find yourself more able to feel the love and respect of others.

Do You Know What You Need?

In any relationship, clearly communicating our expectations, needs and wants, makes it much more likely that those will be met. This means that we need to be clear about what we expect, want and need.What stops people from asking for what they need in their relationships? It could be pride, fear, or a lack of awareness.

If what keeps you from letting our partner know what you want and need is that you do not know yourself what it is that you want or need, it is time to get to know your self. Awareness begins with paying attention to your feelings, paying attention to what you enjoy, what tastes good, smells good and feels good to you. You can begin with food and entertainment preferences and move on to what is it that helps you feel loved, accepted and respected in your relationship.

If it is fear that keeps you from speaking up, you might do well to consider that although asking does mean there is a possibility of hearing, “no;” not asking almost guarantees that you will not get what you need or at least not consistently. If fear is getting in your way then it is time to take a deep breath, face your fear and speak up.

Sometimes it is pride that keeps you from sharing your wants and needs with your partner. You think, “I shouldn’t have to tell him/her, s/he should already know,” or you may choose to withdraw and stop communicating when you feel hurt or upset. Stubbornness can prevent you from getting your needs met. What you choose to do may be moving you farther and farther from what it is that you need, but you may refuse to see it. Consider for example a husband who feels his wife is too busy with school, work or the children to spend enough time with him. He feels hurt and withdraws. Later when his wife says lets go do something, he chooses to reject her offer because he felt rejected and hurt. What he needs is quality time with his wife, but his actions are moving him farther from getting those needs met.

It is important to stop and think about if our actions are getting us closer to what we need and want or farther away. Gratitude and open-mindedness are the antidotes for pride. Stay open to possibilities and look for solutions rather than problems.

Beware of Indifference

As human beings we all need to feel important—to feel that we are somebody and that what we do matters. This is especially true in intimate relationships. It meets our needs at a basic level to know that our partner sees us and what we do as important. During a communication exercise in a Marriage Preparation Class that we teach, where couples practice talking through issue, one groom-to-be brought up the issue of feeling that the bride-to-be was not interested in something that he had spent a good deal of time making. He thought she felt it was silly and not worth her time. He wanted her to take time to look at and possibly appreciate things that he had put time and effort into doing.

accomplishment

Robert Gordon Menzies said, “More good things in life are lost by indifference than ever were lost by active hostility.” We may not be putting our partner down, but if we are indifferent to their successes and discount what is important to them, we are giving them the message that they do not matter to us.

Pay attention to the ways that you may be giving your partner the message that he or she is not important to you. Remember that something that is of great importance to your partner should be important to you, simply because it is important to your partner.

Give your partner the gift of your excitement for their accomplishments and successes, whatever they may be. Don't let your relationship dwindle because of indifference.