Last week we talked about how to effectively negotiate within relationships. Negotiation and bringing awareness to your own needs go hand in hand. Today I want to dive a bit deeper into the world of needs and common misconceptions or conflicts that arise in relationships when it comes to sharing needs and expectations.
Where Do Needs Come From?
“Why do I love affection?” “What is it about getting flowers that means so much to me?” “I get so mad when my partner doesn’t talk to me about their feelings!” These are the kinds of questions you may have asked surrounding needs in relationships. We talked about Love Languages last week and that different people require different forms of love and attention. I asked you to examine your core needs last week and I hope that this exercise was useful in understanding what you need in any relationship. Now it’s time to dive a bit deeper and think about the root of those needs. And no, there doesn’t have to be an intense story from your childhood that impacted how you view relationships today or developed your own needs. However, if there is something or certain memories or relationships you observed growing up that impacted things in a good or bad way, this is what I mean. I encourage you to complete a timeline of note-worthy, good, and bad memories when it comes to relationships and see what you come up with. Maybe your parents have been in love for 40 years and you’ve always wanted the type of love or affection they show. Maybe you developed a need for affection from getting too much or too little of it when you were young. Maybe you had a long-term partner break up with you or cheat on you and this left you feeling worthless and wanting consistent validation from others. Maybe you had a traumatizing experience where someone close to you got hurt or passed away, and ever since you want to hear from loved ones daily or want constant attention for fear of being alone. No matter the memories, your view of relationships and needs can certainly be impacted from these good and bad experiences. That being said, understanding and processing these experiences and their impact on how you view things, communicate your needs, or react to others’ needs is valuable time spent and I encourage everyone to take the time to do so.
Nobody is a Mind Reader!
I felt that this was important to touch on because so very often in couple’s therapy, I hear clients talk about all the “should have” and “would have” kind of statements. Ever found yourself saying things like, “I didn’t ask him that I wanted flowers because he should know what I like,” or, “I refuse to ask her for more affection because I want her to WANT to give me affection, I shouldn’t have to ask for it.” These types of statements are dangerous because they ultimately get you stuck. This can then lead to feelings of resentment (if not resolved), because the partner who is feeling as though their needs are not being considered will often retaliate by not meeting the other person’s needs, and so on. With this mindset, needs are not being communicated because partners are essentially wanting the other person to make the first move or initiate meeting the need. What you need to remember is, we don’t know what we don’t know. And if you’ve felt like you’ve communicated this need before, yes, that is frustrating. However, giving your partner a nudge in the right direction is far more useful (and can pay off in your favor!) than waiting here in this stuck place, further feeling unwanted and developing further negative feelings about yourself or your partner.
Fulfilling Your Own Needs
To put it simply, I love the idea of falling in love with yourself. So often I find that the clients I work with (and myself included!) can put themselves last or meet the needs of everyone around them and neglect their own personal time and needs. My colleague, Mackenzie, suggests this awesome exercise to those who need a bit more self-love, and that is to take extra time during your morning or evening routines to touch your face or patiently observe and admire your own features in a mirror. What does this have to do with needs, you ask? I truly believe that before we will follow through with taking the time to meet our own needs or take time for ourselves, we need to find ourselves worthy of that time. Self-worth is a topic for another day, however I encourage you to examine your own and the root of it, whether it is strong or needs some attention. Once you find that you are worth time and attention, I want you to empower yourself to meet any need and avoid waiting for others to do it for you. Want to explore new coffee shops, get a massage, or take yourself out to lunch? Go for it! Need some words of affirmation? Write a few phrases on your mirror or leave them on a post-it for you to discover in your work bag or on the fridge in the morning. Love yourself as hard as you want others to love you, you are worth it!
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