Letting go of needs in relationships.

Like most days I was out riding my bike this morning. Until last week when they stopped working I normally rode wearing headphones and listening to music. With no music and just the sounds of the ride I’ve been reflecting more on things. Today I was reflecting on needs and relationships. This was prompted by my interest in growth and learning. More recently this interest led me to participating in the The Zen Habits Sea Change Program where I’m finding much benefit.

So to my reflection on relationships. We often form relationships with people who we find meet some need we have. Often we are not conscious of the need that’s being met. If we are conscious of it then we may not choose or be able to share with the other person the need that forms the basis of our relationship with them. This could be because we feel ashamed of our needs, we don’t know what they are, because we are scared of looking bad or because we want to look good.

Having a need met may sometimes not be the best thing for us. We may need to compensate for something unresolved that we would be better off working through. It may be that we need to be distracted or find a means to avoid something that is too painful for us to deal with. I’m sure that there are lots more examples. Such needs are probably not a good foundation on which to start a relationship.

I’m thinking that relationships often develop in line with the frequency, number and nature of the needs being met and the reciprocity of this process. Relationships that seem one sided may not be as one sided as they might seem. For sure everyone can probably tell a story about a person being dumped on by their partner, boss, family and so on. The thing is though the person being dumped on is probably still having some need met or at least investing in the hope that this will happen. It’s just that the needs which are being met are either not particularly healthy or are being met in an unhealthy way. I’m suggesting that in a needs based relationship if ever we become present to and accept that our needs are no longer or are ever going to be met the relationship is on borrowed time. This includes unhealthy needs. Conversely if the relationship continues, needs are being met or the hope remains that they will. Healthy or otherwise.

The longer we stay in a relationship we perhaps become more aware of our needs; those that are being met and those which are not. There is a tendency to begin forming the expectation that the other person should be meeting more of our needs. Not only more of them but also meeting them more regularly and more thoroughly. We also develop new needs and expect them to be met too, whether we share what these are or not! The unmet expectation of this always ends in upset.

With that understanding it’s easy to see how our personal relationships can break down. It does not have to be like this. In order for our relationships to stand a chance we must let go of any expectation that the other person is responsible for meeting our needs.

Healthy relationships are perhaps developed and sustained by what we can and want to give. Not by what we think or hope we can get. We can give in this way when we can see intrinsic qualities that we love. If we can see and love the humanity in ourselves we move into a position of being able to see this in others. This takes awareness, compassion and acceptance. By recognising this, and practising these habits, the possibility of healthy reciprocation in our relationships grows. We can unconditionally give ourselves and be protected from harm, and from harming others in this way.

I’m learning and working on my habits. No doubt there are many other ways of understanding relationships that I have no awareness of. If you have any thoughts on the ideas I’ve written about in this post I’d love for you to share them by commenting below. Thank you.

3 Comments

  1. Fascinating.
    I had a long-term relationship implode suddenly last year. Your last few paragraphs about the other person’s expectations had a huge resonance.

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