The Fastest Way to Kill a Relationship: When We Want Our Partners to be the Be All, End All to All Our Needs
“I just am not being fed,” Jeanine said, sadly. “On one hand I really care about him, but on the other, our conversations are completely superficial. I am done with discussing the weather, the playoffs, the upcoming hockey season. Sick unto death of being limited to the most mundane of discussions.”
I can relate. I’ve had several relationships where perhaps the sex was terrific- as Jeanine indicates is the case in her current connection- but let’s just say the social intercourse wasn’t nearly as entertaining as that between the sheets.
In the essential and ongoing search for meaningful companionship, many of us find ourselves hung out to dry when we find someone to whom we’re deeply attracted physically, but they may be sorely lacking in other areas.
But when I explore this in the context of my own situation, I have to ask, can you or my friend Jeanine or anyone else always and forever be fully satisfied when we dine from the same dish everyday?
Put another way entirely, how fair is it to expect any one person to fulfill all our needs, desires, and the entire broad panoply of stimuli we each need?
To my mind, expecting our partner to do that is exquisitely unfair. While in the distant past, a marriage that flourished on a remote farm, in the high hills or other isolated area had to out of necessity. My guess is that any visitor, any trip to the closest village was treated with the kind of excitement that many of us now reserve for the next George R. R. Martin installment.
My god, variety. My god, different faces. My god, a conversation with someone whose primary vocabulary isn’t goo, dah, and mama.
In the so-called civilized (which is questionable, at best) world, we rarely find ourselves in that kind of isolation. Unless, of course someone makes a reality show out of it. Stay tuned. In the meantime, you and I have to be very clear about what we really do need, and manage our expectations accordingly.
In this article by Kristine Fellizar (https://www.bustle.com/p/8-emotional-needs-you-should-never-expect-to-be-fulfilled-by-your-relationship-7657639) the author points out those areas where many of us carry unreasonable and patently unfair- and frankly, overly romantic- notions about what our partners can and should do for us.
The more interests we have, the more likely we are to need to have people in our lives who share those interests. That isn’t guaranteed in a love affair. While it’s fair to hope that your partner might show at least a passing interest in your beetle collection, by the same token, is it really fair for them to demand that you be as passionate as they are in the study of dinosaur scat?
You get my point.
It’s wondrous, fantastic when we find someone who, at least initially, seems to hit on all cylinders. Over time, and after building familiarity, we all default to what we genuinely care about. Maybe your BFF doesn’t like inline skating after cranking an ankle. As for you, a week in the woods parted from Facebook and French fries doesn’t cut it.
You have every right to like what you do, to your preferences and values. So do they. Where we get into trouble is when we want our partner to partake fully in our entire lives. Not only that, somehow we wanna be fixed, completed, and in all ways entirely sated by that one poor sot, who, frankly, has their own set of needs to be addressed. When those needs bypass each other we can feel disappointed, let down, and that there’s no point.
Mature love first and foremost demands that we put the time in to know-and love- ourselves. This means we attend to our needs, all of them, and ensure that we are clear about those things that “feed” us, if you will.
Second, mature love also demands that we understand that all of us need stimuli from many sources. We have hobbies, passions, work, athletics- the range is endless. Outside Online now runs a dating column wherein flustered females and manly men worry (and whine) about how this girlfriend is an ultra marathoner and I’m not, this guy is a paraglider and I’m not. (https://www.outsideonline.com/category/dating)
To this I have to ask, who cares? So what?
When I was actively skydiving we had a term “skydiving widows.” Back in the 1970s it was mostly men whose wives didn’t partake. Now it hardly matters.
Then DON’T. However if you want to keep said partner, you might want to fill your time with something equally engrossing. If you lay down the law and tell them to stop (jumping, cycling, racing) you are likely to see their backs as they leave.
If they’re so compulsive about their hobby (or work, or whatever)that there is no time for you at all, kindly, that’s another matter.
Our interests make us unique. Some folks — including those we love dearly- just aren’t intrigued by what intrigues us. That doesn’t make them a throwaway. Or an asshole or a jerk or useless. It makes them different.
Third, a Mature love recognizes that your partner, no matter what sex, no matter who they are, likely can’t possibly fulfill all your needs for interaction. You and I need different kinds of people, friends, input, feedback. While this may seem obvious to some, I still hear people complain about a partner (typically a guy) when it seems achingly clear she needs to drag one or two girlfriends out to lunch. She desperately needs a girls’ ski weekend. That does not mean said BF is worthless. It does say that those girlfriends feed us in ways the BF cannot. His male friends as well as female friends offer companionship that we cannot.
I may enjoy a Thanksgivings Day basement football party with all the cigar smoke, yelling and hollering that comes with it. My dad was the Redskins’ first NFL announcer back in the 1940s, so that’s mother’s milk. Mothers are in the kitchen discussing afterbirth (kindly this really did happen to me)- me, I wanna watch the games. We all have our needs.
Herein lies the rub. If, for example, my BF tells me about a long-term female friend of his that he likes to spend time with, I have a choice: recognize his right to have a broad range of friends built over his lifetime, most of which preceded me, and be cool about it. Or, I can demand he give up his female friends, attend only to me.
For my money, a man who would dump his friends for me isn’t worth my time.
Because he just dumped people who love and care about him to please an immensely insecure and jealous female.
Look, if your love hangs out with a gang, and said gang is doing their best to convince your love to commit murder as an initiation rite, well then. Then, perhaps, you have a case. Although I’d argue you’re a case for getting involved with the guy in the first place, but that’s just me.
Mature love recognizes, values and appreciates time apart, time with others and time to ourselves, all of which feed us in vastly different ways. I have a dear friend who’s had a nearly 50-year marriage. While her husband is a bit lacking in the conversational department, they share many important life spheres. She has tons of lively girlfriends, a horse herd, multiple businesses and a hundred other ways to spend her time. It’s a full, happy life.
To be “fed,” as it were. She could no more have a deep discussion about Buddhism with her husband than I could discuss coding with my BF. People have- and in fact need to have-areas of their lives which simply do not include us. Their needs to be nourished are fundamentally different from ours.
This is what makes us interesting, engaging, lively and worth investing in- the development of all our varied selves, both with and away from our chosen partners.
Sometimes it takes a great many loves before we find the Mature one. However we go about it, it always and forever begins with answering the forever difficult question of who am I, and what do I need? We never stop asking, and we never stop learning.
Ultimately it’s our job to ensure that we’re fed in all the wondrously different ways we need nourishment, whether that’s time on a quiet promontory contemplating Creation, or deep in the throes of a passionate embrace.
For my part I will hope for both, plus time with my horses, my friends, my solo travel, my writing career…