There's this concept I've discovered recently that has kept coming back to me over and over again in the last few weeks. It's one that involves a lot of other concepts... it is the concept of recognizing what you need versus what you want in the context of relationships. Now there are a lot of different ways to look at this. But I want to focus on it mainly through the lens of love; love for another person and love for yourself.
Since my divorce I have done a lot of work in healing and self reflection. Ive learned a lot of major life lessons in the process. Slowly, over time I am better understanding these different concepts and how they apply in my life and in the lives of people around me. This particular subject, needs versus wants, is one that I have only just recently really grasped.
I think it's somewhat natural, when thinking about the kind of person you want to be with, to automatically assume you should find someone you need -- someone who betters you, completes you; it's the whole idea of having your "other half". And, in turn, that the other person should need you -- so you can help them become better, complete them, be their "other half". Of course finding a person who brings out the best in you and challenges you to be better is a great thing; but I think the faulty thinking comes in when we mistake those 'good' things for something we are only able to find in another person. Thus being dependent on that person to fulfill a personal need that can only truly be fulfilled from within. Therefore perpetuating an internal, subconscious belief that our happiness and possibly even our actions are dependent on the other person. From there it's easy to develop a lack of accountability, neediness, depression, hopelessness, and all of those things are draining to both people in the relationship. From there it is easy for things to become toxic. Not because either person is 'bad', but simply because either one or both are requiring something that cannot be given by the other.
So what is that something? What is it that we sometimes unintentionally expect of the person we love and care about to give us? My personal take on it, is that it is a sense of self, or self worth. When we are in a relationship where we feel like we need the other person, it's probably because we are desperately trying to gain a sense of self, self worth, control, or being grounded. The problem is, it just won't happen, or it is a false sense of security in those things. It can sometimes look like placing ourselves in the other person. For example, you may feel great and like you have it together and that you now know who you are because of how great the other person is; but what happens if that persons is suddenly gone from your life? Whether you break up, there's a death, or there is some other major life circumstance that creates a change in the other person. Whatever it is, if you 'need' that person, then your world, your foundation is now shaken. The reality is, a loss of a person we love and care about is hard no matter what. Grieving those losses are natural and healthy, but there is a difference when you are doing so as a whole person. If you have come into the relationship as a whole, you are more able to work through things, stay grounded, and make it out without losing yourself in those losses if they do happen.
So what makes up this sense of self? I think having self worth probably comes slightly different for everyone. And this concept of self worth is one I would love to get into more in a different post, but for now, I want to share the things I have discovered make up my sense of self and self worth.
1. My relationship with God
-This is my one thing that I firmly believe is necessary to be able to have any of the other things that follow.
-This is knowing who I am - that I am a daughter of God - and because of that knowledge I recognize that everyone around me is a child of God.
-God knows me by name. He loves each of His children individually and is completely aware of what is going on in my life. He hears me when I pray and wants the best for me.
2. Trusting myself
-This is one thing I am still really working on, although I have gotten worlds better.
-I trust myself because I trust God. I know when I am following His ways, staying close to Him, that I will never be led astray.
-I know what I believe with an unshakable doubt. That even those who love me cannot shake the core of what I believe.
-I have felt personal promptings and revelation and because I know what that feels like, I don't need to doubt it.
-I know what I value and that does not change based off of what those around me value.
-I know who I am.
3. I am self sufficient
-I know my strengths and I know my weaknesses.
-I know what I am capable of doing and am okay asking for help if I need it because of life circumstances.
-I have a plan.
-I have the ability to learn and grow which allows me to continue to be self sufficient in a changing world
-I know how to work hard.
-I know my physical limits, but i also know I am capable of pushing myself and doing things I never imagined I could
-I am not afraid because I know who I am.
4. I know my Weaknesses
-I know my weaknesses and I am not afraid of them
-I appreciate my weaknesses because they make me human
-I acknowledge the weaknesses I have no control over and accept them as they are
-I strive to constantly work on the weaknesses I do have control over, to become better.
-I am patient with myself.
-I am accountable - I take accountability for my weaknesses, and while giving myself grace for my weaknesses, I push myself to overcome them rather than ignore them. I will admit when I have done wrong or when my weakness has impacted someone else.
-I am not afraid of my weaknesses showing and I will not hide, because I know who I am.
5. I know My Strengths
-I recognize my talents as a gift from God and strive to share them to help others.
-I appreciate the positive attributes in myself and recognize they came from the lessons in life that God has allowed me to learn.
-I am humble in my strengths. I am aware of them, but I don't feel a need to overcompensate with them because of my weaknesses.
-I am confident in my strengths and abilities.
-I do not need to prove anything to anyone with my strengths because I know who I am.
So why is it so natural to automatically think the person we end up with should need us? Why is it that we think we should need the person we end up with? I think there is this romantic connotation that comes with this whole "we needed each other"; it feels like something special and maybe even more personal. It makes us feel like we are locked in, giving us a completely false sense of control over something that we will never have full control over... because there is another person. But I get it, if someone feels like they need you, they're a whole lot less likely to leave you. If you believe you need that someone else, you're less likely to leave them. I realized for me, (because my main thing I'm still workin on is trusting myself), the thought of needing someone made me feel like I could trust myself and feel more secure in my feelings. It's natural for things to fluctuate and change in differing circumstances, but needing someone would ensure I wouldn't make the mistake of letting go as they did change, because change can feel unsafe and like we don't have control.
Here's the reality... what we really NEED is to learn to be happy with ourselves first. Life is unexpected, things will happen (are happening), and we need to be a whole to face the challenges life throws at us so we can be ready to add in the complexity of navigating it with someone else. That's what we should want in return. Plus, I think there's something that's more endearing about knowing the person you love and care about doesn't need you, but they want you anyways; they are choosing you out of choice out of a deep love, not out of necessity.
Some of you may be thinking, 'well, duh', but I'm sure there is another good group of you out there, who, like me, don't want to discredit your strong feelings and appreciation for the person you are in a relationship with. Please don't mistake all of this; simply wanting someone rather than needing them does not undermine the relationship, it strengthens it. You will be able to give more of each other because there will be more to give. You'll be able to better handle the ups and downs relationships will throw at you because you won't need to be so affected by it. You will be choosing your person out of a pure, selfless love, rather than from a place of selfishness that is constantly taking and needing. Because you will know who you are, and that will be enough... for you and the person you want.
Take the leap. Let go. Sometimes our grasp is a little too tight because we are afraid of letting something good go. You're not. You're opening up space for a healthy relationship that will be longer lasting and beautiful. We will still make mistakes, so will the person we love... but we will have the ability to know what to do when that happens and the capacity to love through it, because we love them and we want them.