One thing I’ve learned about relationships – from my work with couples and from canny observation of my own patterns over the years – is that we often gauge our happiness in coupledom according to whether we feel like our partner is meeting our needs.
Lots of us also have a need to feel like we’re meeting needs…the need to be needed, or something like that.
In good relationships there’s a natural flow – couples learn to recognise and empathise with each other’s needs and we feel safest and most comfortable when there’s a balance between us that makes it feel like we just click.
But when things get kind of clunky (for all kinds of reasons) and partners either stop serving each other or stop allowing each other the opportunity to serve, levels of happiness in relationships can quickly plummet.
Needs become demands.
Demands breed resentment.
Resentment creates defensiveness.
Defensiveness blocks connection.
Disconnection means we can’t see each other’s needs.
The once happy couple becomes two unhappy individuals who each feel like they’ve been forgotten by the other. Sound familiar?
We’re human. And that means we’re not suddenly going to transcend the fact we have needs.
Having needs in our relationships doesn’t mean we’re unhealthily co-dependent despite what you might have been told.
Anyone who says that you should be solely meeting your own needs or that having the desire for your partner to meet your needs is selfish and means you’re deflecting responsibility for your own happiness has probably never had a functional relationship. Perhaps they’re reflecting survival strategies that have enabled them to stay in unfulfilling relationships that have been disconnected over time.
The truth is that healthy relating is about that magical space in the middle of the Venn diagram – that place where the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts. An aligned energy won’t reside there, right between you, unless you’re both equally ‘in it’ – both of you AND your needs.
This is the space where needs can be safely expressed, acknowledged and met and where we can create the balance that makes us each feel valuable and valued in equal measure.
So how do you get to this happy place where your relationship enjoys this kind of flow?
Communicate – unless you share honestly about who you are and what makes you tick, you can’t hope that your partner will be able to identify your needs or understand where they come from.
Create a vision – unless you work together to develop a vision for your relationship you can both buy into, you’ll risk having different expectations that will mean you’re never truly reading off the same page.
Embrace intimacy – the vulnerability that’s revealed when you express your needs or consciously meet your partner’s needs can be admirable, beautiful and bonding.
Appreciate – use your sense of gratitude for your relationship to take delight in meeting your partner’s needs. When you both come from a place of appreciation the risk of needs becoming demands (or being perceived that way) reduces a thousandfold.
Conscious relationships are a dance. Sometimes we step forwards, other times we step back. But we do our best to synchronise. There may be moments when we’re required to hold and support the other, but there will also be moments when roles reverse and that’s okay.
The way we manage needs in our relationships is similar to the way we handle the changes in pace, rhythm or style so that we can keep the the choreography together and really enjoy the dance.