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At the point when Needs Are Confused With Love

Love seeing someone is frequently admired, especially in the most punctual stages. This is most obviously seen when couples are in the “fixation stage” right off the bat in their relationship. Amid this time we may see our accomplice as close flawless; finishing our needs and giving a feeling of wholeness. The “I’s” turn into a “we” and with that there is an obscuring of “my” needs and “your” needs. We neglect to see our accomplice as a person, as partitioned and unmistakable from ourselves. It is not until later in the relationship that every accomplice recovers what are “my needs” and “Gracious, by the way you’re not satisfying them”. What’s more, the reasons can incorporate, “in light of the fact that you’re a control monstrosity”, “you don’t love me enough or like you used to”, “(clear) is more imperative than me”, etc. The hallucination of flawlessness has dispersed and is supplanted by hurt and hatred. Whenever love and mental needs are befuddled and interlaced the individual needs of every individual in the relationship is mistaken for that of their accomplices and may even be obscure.

Perhaps this situation is seen at no greater time than in emotionally intimate and/or committed relationships, as in spousal or parent-child relationships. The commitment allows for greater trust, which provides a foundation for intimacy, and thus the expression of our deeper emotional needs. Psychological needs may include, the need to be heard, needing to feel loved, supported, accepted, acknowledged, approved, wanted, etc. Partners often believe they “know” their own needs and that of the other but the presence of conflict between the two individuals will prove otherwise. According to Harville Hendrix in the book “Getting the Love You Want”, conflict is growth trying to happen or express itself. In this case, the conflict might suggest the growth of individual personalities expressing themselves. Or more aptly put, the expression of individual needs and the attempts to gratify them.

Confusing our own needs with that of another’s is very common. For example, a woman once told me she enjoyed helping her spouse complete tasks. These actions provided her with a sense of loving-kindness as she often witnessed in her own home growing up. Her spouse, however, would often become irritated which she interpreted as ingratitude for her help. When asked, it became apparent that her helpfulness was viewed by her partner as intrusive and further triggered a personal sense of incompetence. Her need to help conflicted with his need to feel self-sufficient. While we are certainly not responsible for how someone interprets another’s behavior or what this may trigger in them, it does serve personal growth and growth within the relationship to understand these perspectives. Oftentimes, the experience of emotional discomfort is viewed as caused by our partner. “I feel unloved because you don’t love me enough!” It is believed that our internal experience is somehow the result of someone else actions. Why, because it feels that way. In actuality, we can’t make someone angry/sad/unloved or afraid unless the issues creating such feelings are already there lying dormant waiting for someone to trigger the circumstances that give rise to such feelings. For example, if I feel loved, no one can “make” me feel unloved. Most of our intense painful feelings originate in our lives during a much earlier time when we were impressionable and vulnerable; a time when we lacked skills to cope or the ability to remove ourselves from the situation. While actions of another can certainly trigger dormant feeling in another, these actions cannot cause or create such intense feelings.

When attempting to untangle the enmeshment of needs there is an underlying or overt fear that if these needs are released there will be a loss of love and the relationship will fail or end. In other words, if “we let go of needing each other” then “we” will no long “love” each other. Years ago I worked with a mother who was attempting to allow her adult daughter to make her own decisions while owning her own feelings of separation, loss of control, and guilt; her daughter was nearly 30 years old and beginning to push back to reclaim her life. The anguish this mom experienced brought her to seek help. She continued to work hard in her attempt to be a “good mom” but this time it was in an effort to let go of needing her daughter so much. At one point in her process she came in one day and exclaimed, “Oh great! Now I don’t feel anything for my daughter.” Her anxiety was palpable. I reassured her through the explanation that this is exactly what it feels like to let go of need as we begin to move toward authentic love. The process of separation or individuation is often met with great resistance or push back. This can take the form of anger, arguing, pleading, or sadness as the new space between the individuals can trigger fears of emptiness and loss. However, in this space between the individuals people can grow as authentic individuals and develop a more mature, adult love and respect for one another.

With so much on the line why is it important to separate the needs of each partner? Here in lies the key objective as well. How does it feel to “separate” ourselves from someone we love? Can we still feel connected and love from the person from whom we are now emotionally separate? To many people the fear and anguish of separation is intolerable. It is easier to argue to change someone than to accept our needs and take responsibility for their fulfillment. To coexist with someone we are different from means in part we have to coexist with ourselves without depending on some one else to feel loved, wanted, supported, approved, etc. These needs are important and relationships with loved ones provide a vehicle for satisfaction of such needs. It is the intensity of these needs and the attempt to force fulfillment through another that differentiates these needs from love. Further, expressions of needs through relationships serve as a means to discover what our needs are and their importance to us (as evidenced by the intensity of arguments that may ensue when such needs are unmet).

Now that the tremendous resistance to separation is understood, why is it so important to identify our needs and to distinguish them from the needs of others? Because when needs are enmeshed with another’s, individual needs are obscured. Individual needs, such as to be heard or comforted, that are not seen cannot be met. To separate our needs from others helps us to see ourselves and allow others to see us. It helps us to get to know ourselves. As this knowledge of ourselves grows, it becomes clear that the needs we have are ours. They always were ours and the desires to have these needs fulfilled are our responsibility. It has to be our responsibility because no one knows us like we do. Our partner, child, parent or friend can’t fully appreciate our needs because as we have now learned they have individual needs of their own that hard as we try we cannot fully experience and thus fully appreciate. So if there is a need to be heard, are you listening to yourself or disregarding or dismissing your internal dialogue? Are you supporting yourself? Are you loving toward yourself or do you frequently criticize your looks, your thoughts, feelings, or actions? This process involves many layers. As we identify a need and begin to gratify this need, personal trust in our ability to satisfy or soothe our needs deepens. The authentic person within begins to emerge sometimes gradually and gracefully and sometimes with a few growing pains, but emerges all the same.