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If you want to get a good sense of what your needs are, take a good look at the company you keep in your relationships. While you can do this with all of your relationships romantic and otherwise, you will find that it’s in the interactions where you feel most vulnerable and where you’re most concerned with your ‘worth’ that you get a true sense of not only what your needs (and values) are, but how you truly feel about you.
I frequently hear from BR readers who have great solid friendships and possibly even a loving family… and a rap sheet of shady relationships that makes you wonder if they’re leading a double life. This inconsistency with ‘identities’ happens because people have a funny habit making exceptions and busting their own boundaries when there’s love, sex, validation and a projected future at stake.
I used to be like this. I have long, enduring friendships stretching back to when I was ten, yet I couldn’t choose a decent guy to save my life. I thought that ‘love’ was basically having no boundaries and feeling tormented by my feelings as well as the drama and anxiety.
When you don’t understand who you are, which includes your needs, values, expectations and desires, and you’re possibly reactive and seeking a ‘type’ that stimulates you in the fireworks department, you tend to find yourself waking up in a relationship that leaves you hungry.
As you didn’t necessarily go through the discovery phase of dating and basically have an awareness of looking out for consistent actions, interactions and experiences that would indicate being able to satisfy your needs, you may assume that what drew you initially to them as well as the content of the honeymoon period means that you ‘should’ be able to rustle up the missing parts and fill what may be a growing void. It will feel confusing because you’ll have built up these feelings and expectations and yet you no longer have a relationship that’s able to satisfy your needs and that you feel confident about moving forward with plus you may begin to question whether it ever had it in the first place, but feel confused about what was real and what was fake.
When we recognise that our needs aren’t being met by someone with whom we feel emotionally, sexually, spiritually, and physically bonded with (or even just one of these) plus we may have ties such as living together or hopes built on proposed plans, we expect, rightly or wrongly, that they can be met and that the other party will be willing because they’re bonded too. Then we feel incredibly hurt and rejected when they don’t because we think, But we’re already together. If they say these things and if they do this and that, why don’t they want to at least attempt to meet my needs? Maybe if I do X,Y,Z or am more A,B,C they’ll do it. What’s wrong with me?
The frustrations we feel about a relationship and the things that we feel or felt were missing, provide a window into understanding ourselves further as well as showing us what we need to give attention to in our own lives whether we’re in a relationship or not.
When we practice being and doing the things that we expect others to be and do for us, we have a far greater level of self-knowledge that makes us hugely aware of who we bring into our lives. We need people that add to what we already do, not subtracting from where we’re already malnourished.
If you tend to neglect you by not treating you with love, care, trust, and respect, any ‘ole person can come along and they can make a fanfare with some hot air and crumbs and it will look like a golden loaf because it is more than what you’re doing for you.
Self-neglect magnifies the contribution and ‘good points’ of those we deem to have power.
We’re easily impressed and tend to be drawn by impressive, often all shirt, no trousers type people who are chat rich, action poor. Everything looks out of context and these people can end up being idolised, when really, they’re just not that special and you’re worth a lot more than you’re giving you credit for.
I used to be terrified of abandonment, which in my mind was being left, not taken care of, not wanted and basically anything that felt like aspects of my childhood. I’ve walked away from people who I’ve known that it was the right thing to do because the whole partnering was toxic and then felt agonised about being away from the very person I’d left! The self-doubt, the guilt, the fear, the pain, the need. Two two’s, I was on the phone, pushing to get back together, or lying in bed feeling tormented by lacerations of ‘abandonment’.
Whether I was bored, lonely, tired, stressed, worried, insecure, needed to make a decision and the list goes on, my ‘solution’ to all of these things was variations of validation seeking. ‘Soothing’ on men had to stop.
All of my previous relationships showed me time and again that I needed to develop an identity and personal security and address the source of my original abandonment. The better I treated me, the more I represented who I was instead of abandoning my identity every time I felt an attraction, the more secure I felt, simply because I knew that I had my back. Being the other woman was like an exorcism (a topic for another day) because it dragged up and out every ugly thought and feeling and by facing all of the pain, something that was oh-so-bad ended up showing me what I needed to be and do.
I wanted to be loved. I wanted to be a priority. I’ve learned that continuing to participate in relationships where you’re deprioritised is a sign that you need to prioritise you in your own life which could include cutting down the people pleasing, not invalidating you, not being with people who carry on like they’re busier than a world leader or who are already in a relationship with someone else, and certainly not going around needing to be needed and playing Florence Nightingale.
If you look at the person you claim to love and what’s looking back at you is someone who doesn’t truly value you, who treats you without love, care, trust and respect and even takes advantage of and even abuses you, it’s time to address how you feel about and treat you because if you did, putting up with someone who treats you in a less-than manner would be unacceptable. You’d know what love, care, trust, respect and security felt like and you wouldn’t trade it for the hollow cake with stale icing that is a pain filled relationship.
When you’re willing to positively learn from the insights gained, each dating and relationship experience is actually taking you closer and closer to a mutually fulfilling relationship where your needs are met within it and also independently by you. That’s why I always say that you shouldn’t fear so-called ‘mistakes’ – they’re often feedback that if you listen without judging your worth, they pave the way to a relationship that’s more befitting of you.
Natalie Lue is the founder and writer of Baggage Reclaim and author of the books Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl, The Dreamer and the Fantasy Relationship and more. Learn more about her here and you can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter – @baggagereclaim .
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