Lately I have been a voracious reader of relationship books. Not only do I find them extremely interesting, but I am also trying to shore up my own relationship against the tides of life that cause so many to partnerships to buckle and fail.
My most recent read was the book “Attached” by Amir Levine and Rachel S. F. Heller. (Linked here in case you are interested yourself.) The book details the three different attachment systems that people tend to have, which was quite illuminating and has proven to be a lot of food for thought over the past couple of weeks.
My most freeing takeaway, however, was the fact that all needs in a relationship are valid. Just because someone else doesn’t have those same needs, you should never try to suppress or squash the things you want out of a relationship just to align yourself with the other person (Guilty!).
For me, this is a novel concept. Even though I see myself as a strong, independent woman, I have always found myself capitulating to the needs and desires of the men I have been romantically involved with. Then, I feel guilty for the resentment that bubbles up when I don’t receive the things I need, and guilty for asking for them since they clearly don’t need those same things and I must be “weak” or “weird” or “not independent” for wanting certain things. What a relief to embrace the fact that that sentiment is utter nonsense!
My favorite quote from the book is “most people are only as needy as their unmet needs.” I think this is such a profound statement, and looking back on my relationships, I can see the truth of this assertion from miles away. If I don’t have my needs for communication and love met, I can turn into a sulky, angry, game-playing girlfriend. Which seems immature, because who gets that bent out of shape due to a day without a text message? Clearly I am a kindred spirit of the “Overly Attached Girlfriend” meme.
What I’ve realized is, however, that I am not a clingy, needy, resentful person IF I FEEL LOVED AND LIKE A PRIORITY. If the man I am with validates my need for daily attention and sincere communication, I am the most calm, low-maintenance girlfriend on the planet. Go a couple days without really talking to me, however, and my unmet needs spill out in various unflattering ways.
This leads me to realize the importance of being with someone who can either instinctively meet your needs, or who places importance on the things you need even if they aren’t needs for themselves.
When you understand how the attachment system works, it is easy to look with kinder eyes on the actions of the “crazy girlfriends” that are so popular to scoff at. “Oh my god, she did WHAT? She’s clearly not right in the head–I would NEVER do something like that.” But put yourself with someone who doesn’t meet your basic needs in a relationship, and you could easily find yourself smack dab in crazy town.
Overall, owning your needs in a relationship is very empowering. No longer do you have to be held to the standard of the other person’s needs, whatever they may be. Instead, you can clearly state your own and be unashamed about asking for them to be met. I’ve learned that those needs, no matter how much you try to lie to yourself about them and stuff them deep, deep down, never go away and their lack of pacification will always make you miserable.
So, I’d like to encourage all my readers to really take stock of what they need out of their relationships and to release anybody who demonstrates that they cannot meet those needs. No matter how much you love someone, denying something so fundamental about yourself will never lead to anything but misery. We deserve to be loved in the way that we need to be loved, and don’t let anybody convince you otherwise.