Are you sick of not getting your needs met? Do you feel like you have been screaming at the top of your lungs, but your partner claims to have no idea what you want from them? Do you feel hopeless that this equation will ever right itself? Let me take a controversial stab at the heart of this dilemma. Maybe you don’t know your own needs!
Here’s a paradox for you . . . We can’t meet our needs alone, we look to our partner to help us meet our needs, they miss the mark and we are left wanting. It is the equivalent of lather, rinse, repeat. We keep doing the same thing over and over, but the result is always the same. How do we stop this cycle and finally get our needs met in a deep and satisfying way?
Often, this quandary gets blamed on “communication”. (This always makes me chuckle.) I rarely have someone come into my office who just fundamentally lacks the ability to communicate. We communicate just fine with our friends, coworkers, service personnel, therapist, etc. The problem isn’t that we don’t know how to communicate our needs to our partner, it is that we don’t really know what we are trying to communicate to them!
Let me give you an example: He had a bad day at work and a long, frustrating commute home. He greets his wife in the kitchen. Frustrated and drained, he says, “Are you going to make me spend time with you tonight?” She has abandonment and takes offense to the comment. He gets mad that she takes offense and storms off to his den claiming he was just joking around and wondering why she’s so sensitive. Can you identify what his real need is? He’s frustrated and tired and needs some time to decompress. Understandable. He wants a little time to himself so he can recharge his battery. Of course, he does! Now, how did he communicate this to his bride? By making his unmet need about her by indicating through a joke that she is unreasonable, demanding, and overly needy. What does he get in return? A hurt and angry wife and some discord to contend with later. And how effective was his battery recharging time when he knows he’s got to deal with that? Not very.
I liken this kind of dynamic to a game of Pin The Tail On The Donkey. In this example, the wife was blindfolded, spun around, and then challenged to find his need amidst the hurtful joke he made. How likely is it that she will hit the mark and recognize that his comment about her ‘making him spend time with her’ translates into ‘I need some time to myself before I can enjoy some time with you’? My guess is she’ll miss by a mile, especially given that she only got one try AND she’s got abandonment to inflame the situation! Both parties leave the game feeling angry and blaming the other for the conflict.
The point here is that getting our needs met is OUR responsibility! To get them met, we have to be in touch with our deep essential needs, and sadly, few people are. In the absence of this intimate knowledge about ourselves, we go about getting our essential needs met in all sorts of primitive, backwards, and unhealthy ways. If we are not in touch with our deep essential needs, we are actually communicating a fragment of an imaginary path to our perceived needs. This leaves us unsatisfied and those who love us and want to meet our needs frustrated.
So next time you get frustrated because your needs aren’t getting met, try to identify what exactly the need was that you had. What was it that you needed? Why did you need it? What can your partner do to help you meet your need? When you know your needs and can share them clearly and calmly with your partner, you’ll spend a lot less time playing the frustrating game of Pin The Tail On The Donkey and more time feeling satisfied and loved!