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How Do I Need Thee

"Why would I seek to consume that which I profess to need? For in that hunger my beloved would surely be devoured."   - M. Gleason

One of the great confusions that arise between partners is the difference between needs that are left over from childhood and those that reflect the genuine adult need for connection. Nearly all spouses will harbor expectations that their partner is somehow responsible for fulfilling unmet childhood needs that can never really be fulfilled. Childhood needs reflect our own egocentricity. They are really thinly veiled demands that our partner make up for what our parents failed to deliver.

Couples are largely unaware of the nature and strength of their childhood needs. The often do not even express them overtly. But the existence of such needs generates an insidious strain within the relationship that deprives each person of being able to fully see and love the other. Surrogate parenting of each other is not equivalent to mature love. It is not one partner’s duty to rescue the other from the dungeons of the past. The childhood needs that are remnants of the past will trap us in preservation-based styles of relating. 

As an example, if one spouse had a parent that was unpredictable and erratic, she may place a silent demand that her partner always by calm and available. The partner senses this and may either try to accommodate or act in ways to resist the subtle sense of being controlled. Even the most accommodating spouse however will never fully make up for the unmet childhood need.

While childhood needs are remnants from an earlier time in life, genuine mature needs emerge from the awakening of the consciousness of ourselves as deeply connected. That is, as we come to realize how much we are part of something larger we open our eyes to how much we truly need. If we came from a background of insecure attachment we typically either defend against the reality of our human need, or we become demanding children who are seeking to make up for what we didn’t get. In mature need we realize that our partner is important to us. They are not here to give us what mommy or daddy failed to deliver but as a source of honest human connection. It is highly courageous for couples to begin to acknowledge that “You matter to me.”

When couples are able to see each other in truth (neither idealizing nor demonizing) they can open up to feel mature adult need. To allow ourselves to experience the full bodied, wholly conscious, undefended need for our partner is high up on the list of peak experiences. To feel, to express, to reveal that “I need you”, from the fullness of your heart and soul can transport you to the absolute highest levels of human experience.

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