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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.

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.