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Expect the Impossible December 18, 2008

Posted by downton in Expect the Impossible.
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Expect the Impossible

     During the romantic stage of a relationship, we can fall into the fantasy that the person we love will satisfy all our needs. The good news is that, if it’s the right person, many of our needs will be met. The bad news is that even the right person can’t meet all of our needs. Remember, we’re different animals. If we marry the animal who is high on thinking and low on feeling, we might not receive the hugs we need. On the other hand, we can have our need for deep and meaningful conversations met if that thinking type is fascinated by social, political, or spiritual issues. Also, remember that your mate will have values that might make it difficult or even impossible to satisfy one of your needs. For example, if that person isn’t a believer of your faith, your need for a community of understanding might not be met.

     When our mates don’t meet our needs, we may harbor resentments that can last for years and, in not so subtle ways, undermine our feelings of love. What’s impossible is that our mate will be able to satisfy all our needs. What’s real is that some of our needs won’t be met. I can hear Maryann, a woman I coached say, “Dr. Bob, you mean my relationship with Roger will never be perfect?”

     Bob: “Relationships not only can’t be perfect, it would be terrible if they were.”

     Maryann: “How’s that?”

     Bob: “Think about it for a minute. If Roger were perfect, how would you feel about it?”

     Maryann: “I’d love it!”

     Bob: “Think again, but be honest. What would happen to your sense of self if Roger were an icon of perfection in your life?”

     Maryann: “Hum, as I think about it, if Roger were perfect, I’d feel worse about myself. In fact, I’d probably be down on myself more than I am. I’d be asking myself, “Why would Roger want to be with me?”

     Bob: “Anything else coming up about that?”

     Maryann: “Being more insecure, I’d probably be worrying all the time about him leaving me.”

     Bob: “So, what are you seeing now?”

     Maryann: “A bit of imperfection isn’t too bad.”

     Bob: “Absolutely. You know you’re not perfect and you know that Roger isn’t perfect, so your relationship is normal. See, as long as you and Roger can meet many of each other’s needs, your love for each other will grow. Balance is the key.”

     Maryann: “I don’t get the balance piece.”

     Bob: “Think of it this way. Anytime something is taken to an extreme it will create problems. For example, if Roger met all your needs you might begin to feel that he’s better than you. Also, you’d feel the pressure to satisfy all his needs. How would you like that?”

     Maryann: “It would make me uptight I think.”

     Bob: “When both of you try to satisfy as many of each other’s needs as possible knowing you can’t meet them all, you’re coming into balance. Not too many needs met; not too few. Just right, we might say. When you achieve that middle position, neither of you will think you’re perfect.  This will take the pressure off, which will make it possible for both of you to laugh at the idea that relationships can be perfect. Yet, knowing that, you’ll still be able to satisfy many of each other’s needs. You don’t have to be perfect to do that, just be willing to do it.  If you get half of your needs satisfied, feel lucky! If you get more than half, feel blessed!”

     One of the things that screws up love is expecting the impossible from our mates. We’re all limited in the ways we can respond to each other’s needs. Having said that, I have to tell you that most people don’t do a very good job of communicating their needs to their mates. Why is that? It’s because we hate feeling needy. It makes us feel dependent, which for most people, makes their egos feel small. Since they hate feeling small, they hide their needs instead of expressing them. They wait, longing for the moment when, as if by magic, their mates will read their minds and satisfy an important need.

     This is part of what I call “magical thinking.” We believe that our mates should be able to read our minds as well as our feelings. They should be able to know what we need and respond in the ways that we desire. When they don’t, we become frustrated and upset. Well, the fact is that your mate can’t read your mind and you can’t read your mate’s mind. Realizing this, doesn’t it make sense to be out front in communicating what each of you needs from the other?

     Well, it does to me. So, instead of waiting for your mate to give you a hug when you’re upset about something, ask for a hug. It will feel almost as good as if your mate did it without you asking. When both of you ask for what you need, your love will grow because you’ll realize how dependence on each other is a good, not a bad, thing. By balancing independence and dependence, you will nourish your relationship so love grows.

     The more you communicate your needs, the more satisfaction each of you will achieve. But, be prepared not to have all your needs met by your mate. Some of those needs you’ll have to satisfy on your own or perhaps friends and family can help out.

     Relationships are flawed from the beginning. The secret of creating a loving, long-term relationship is to accept the flaws you can’t change and to work toward changing the ones you can. This is what makes love an adventure. Hey, if it were easy, reaching your 50th Anniversary wouldn’t be so special.

Coaching Tips

■ Sit down with a piece of paper and write down a list of needs that you want your mate to satisfy. Then, put checks alongside the ones your mate satisfies on a regular basis. The next step is to circle the needs that your mate isn’t satisfying. Have your mate go through the same process and then get together to discuss your discoveries and how you can make some changes so more of your needs and your mate’s needs are satisfied. Make satisfying each other’s needs one of the goals of your relationship. From this, love will grow and deepen.

■ Knowing that your mate won’t be able to meet all your needs, think about other ways to meet them. If your mate doesn’t like to travel and you love it, what about joining a travel club? Think creatively about what you can do. You have resources for satisfying your own needs. Use them.

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