Last week Sergio and I found ourselves in a heated discussion (ie fight) in a park in Oaxaca City. Yes, I was full-on channeling my inner Latina, yelling at my boyfriend in a park. It had been a tiring day on our trip and don’t tell me you’ve never had a road trip brawl.
All I can say is, Spanish is a super satisfying language to fight in, and once you can have a verbal disagreement in a second language, you can say you are truly bilingual.
It was the end of a week of mostly beautiful experiences and laced with some relationship tension. Almost anytime you travel with others for more than a few days, this will come up.
That’s how it was for me when I first started traveling. Now, several countries and thousands of miles later, I’ve developed not only an appreciation for solo travel - ha! - but also a more flexible internal response to traveling with others.
But that doesn’t mean I never have days of fatigue or annoyance, and this day was one of them.
My sweet man and I are at a transition point where we’ve uncovered each other’s current no-budge zones. We are now at times asking for that which the other feels they cannot give. Its not a death knell for our duo by any means; I think all authentic relationships have this phase.
The following morning, in the clarity of those first waking moments, I thought, “What are my needs? If I get clear on that and get clear on his, than we can figure this out, right?”
It was weird, it felt like an echo of an old recording of the past.
Then next thought, clearer and fresher than the previous, was, “What? Kala, ‘getting your needs met' is the wrong basis for a relationship with this man, with friends, family or anyone else.”
Really, is "getting our needs met" not THE most childish thought pattern we carry into adulthood? I can see our inner toddlers, red in the face, fists clenched, wanting that cookie, NEEDING that cookie, and mama says no.
The phrase “get my needs met” comes up so often in American conversations about relationships that we’ve become accustomed to thinking it is a reasonable expectation. Google the phrase and you will see dozens of blog posts from supposedly credible sources, like Psychology Today, for example.
“I need to get my needs met” is a passive statement that sets up expectation from someone else. Dangerous territory from the get-go.
To state the obvious and reset to zero: A true need is something our body requires to stay alive. Our most basic need is for air. Then we need water. And food. We must learn to source these things to survive.
Humans have developed cooperative ways to source and share food, of course - so we don’t have to be the lone hunter. When the tribe bought back the buffalo from the hunt, everyone shared in the distribution because it was a community effort. No one sat on a rock and demanded that their needs get met, except maybe the 2 year olds.
We are mammals so we don’t develop properly without human contact, but we don’t die. Some people say sex is a basic human need. Who has ever died from not having sex?
So lets say the definition of a true need is something that if we don’t get it, we will die or it measurably increases our chances of death.
Because we are complex humans, we obviously don’t stop there. There is an infinite list of wants that we confuse with needs because they make us happy or content or make us feel safe. Or, on a less healthy note, things that feed a dysfunction or enable an addiction.
This gets tricky because very often that which we think we need isn’t really the response that is going to make us happy and content after all.
The marriage counseling industry has a steady demand based on this dynamic. We fight to get our needs met, and then realize, huh, that really wasn’t what I wanted after all. Our partner, who we have asked to stretch to meet our need, is hurt, and the damage is done. Or vice versa.
Humans are masters of projection. What we think we “need” can be a projection of something we lack in ourselves. This is where the idea of "you complete me" starts. It may be something that we need to work on in ourselves, but don’t, because that is the really scary hard work.
It’s much easier to load up our ray gun and spray our relationships with expectations of unmet needs and then point the finger and feel hurt because they are not giving us what we want. Most people have been experienced both sides of this dynamic.
In the next post we'll talk about your soul-house, a visual construct you can use to create and protect peace of mind and contentment for yourself, without relying on others. This is important work, because women over 50 are initiating divorce at the highest rate of any other group.
Big Love - Kala
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