“You don’t get to tell people how to love you; you get to choose if you want to participate in the way they love.” Tracy Kaufmann
We’ve all been in relationships where our needs aren’t being met. It’s frustrating and even maddening at times. We can’t understand why it’s so damn difficult? As women, it’s not like we’re asking to get in a private jet and go to Paris this weekend.
In my first marriage, there came a point about eight years in when I wanted affection and more connection in my marriage. That wasn’t what we had ever done together; that wasn’t the implied agreement between us when we got together and decided to marry. Many women might see that as my husband not meeting my needs.
I had communicated with him what I was longing for and although he tried to give me what I needed, it wasn’t something in him to give (and frankly, I wasn’t great at receiving it when he made the attempt). That didn’t make him a bad husband or a bad person; but it did make us a couple that wanted very different things in our marriage.
Not knowing all that I know now, there weren’t a lot of things I did well in un-winding that marriage. But one thing I didn’t do is try to contort him into someone who he wasn’t so that I could get my needs met. I saw and appreciated him for who he was (and who he was not) and made the very difficult and painful decision that the relationship, from my perspective, was now complete.
By all accounts, my ex-husband is very happily re-married and with someone that thinks the way he loves is absolutely perfect. He deserves that and I don’t know her, but I’m certain she does too.
We all deserve to give our relationships our very best and for that to be considered a beautiful gift.
Where it all goes wrong is when we have our list of needs and set out on a mission to change our partners into being the person that can check those boxes for us.
(And when he can’t or won’t meet our needs, we will sometimes get those boxes checked by someone else.)
Believe me, I understand this better than you may think.
We tell him again and again (which he interprets as nagging…)…
He gives a few more hugs or kisses, flowers or notes, but surviving on crumbs only keeps you starving and wanting more.
He makes changes for a few days…a few weeks…or even a few months…but eventually he goes back to who he really is and how he really loves (because well, that’s who he really is and how he really loves). You just don’t like that answer so you remain in the circular struggle.
I always say that no one ever taught us how to do this well, so I AM NOT saying people cannot evolve and change the way they engage with their partners. They can if they choose to seek help and support in making those changes (let’s be honest….no one just changes the DNA of who they are on a random Tuesday because you want them to).
I am also NOT saying that your spouse is here – on this planet, at this time – in order to meet your needs. (He’s not. Neither is anyone else, by the way. #sorry)
But our job is NOT to convince, nag or attempt to control others into being who we need them to be.
Our job is to understand and meet our own needs, love others for where they are and tell the truth to ourselves about what is possible and not possible in the relationship between two people.
You don’t get to force people into being who you want them to be so that you can get your needs met.
You do get to choose whether or not what they’re offering works for you and aligns with what you want to create in your life.