What are my needs in relationships? Are they attached to specific people? That is, do I need these things generally, or do I need them just from certain people?
Casual relationships are simple. For casual relationships, I need things to be entertaining and fun, and as long there’s physical chemistry, mutual respect and general benevolence, I’m pretty good with it. Most of what factors into whether or not I pursue an ongoing casual thing hinges on if I feel like the potential fun is worth the time and risk.
More serious relationships though? Well, that’s a different matter altogether.
At the end of the day, more than anything else, I need to come home to a person or people who I can be myself around. For me, I feel like being understood is crucial to loving and be loved
After all, how can you really accept someone for what they are (a crucial component of love to my thinking) without being able to understand what it is that you’re really accepting?
And when it comes to acceptance, I don’t want a begrudging tolerance, I prefer the most passionate, exuberant “yes” possible.
Last night, you told me that prosody was my strong suit and drew a heart in black ink on my shoulder with your good pen before handing it to me so I could write. I wanted to write something. I did. You were lying next to me reading your novel, and I could feel your presence. Felt that familiar deep ache, salient to everything, that arresting surge that leaves me breathless in hallways when I’m glad I’m alone so I won’t have to explain to anyone the look on my face, won’t have to encapsulate the way we bite and scratch each other in the dark, and I find my face burning, my breasts, my thighs – all of it burning for hours. I felt it effortlessly with you there, your attention focused on something else. I needed you in that moment. I touched you lightly, even felt you shudder but withdrew my hand, flopped onto my belly, skimmed some Rimbaud, wrote fitfully, worked out some edits, toyed with a crossword, studied sales flyers. Finally I slid my accoutrements off the bed, pulled the light blanket around me, rolled away from you.
Opened my eyes an indeterminate time later when I felt your hands on me with raw desperation and knew that you needed me just as badly.
This morning in the shower, I washed off that heart you drew on my shoulder, but somehow I can still feel it there.
But these things sometimes take time to take root, and passion comes and goes — and I don’t need every relationship to burn with the power of a thousand suns, and it’s unrealistic to presume that it will always feel that way. At the very least, I have to feel that someone really likes me, at my core, mostly the way I am.
At the same time, I’m not averse to working on myself and making small changes that improve my relationships. In fact, it’s my natural tendency to continually work on them.
I’ve heard my whole life that relationships are work…In my first marriage, it was often something we said to each other, especially when things were rocky, that all relationships take work.
Thing is? While it seems that way, it’s really not the relationship that is worked on. It’s the people in it. I’ve realized that whenever I’m “working on the relationship,” what I’m really doing is confronting things within myself and doing things to be a better partner for the person I care about. It’s brutal, gut-wrenching work sometimes. It means admitting when I’m weak, scared, and wrong. It’s often uncomfortable and terrifying — but it needs doing, and frankly, the only part of our relationship that I can truly affect is MYSELF. And if my partner is doing things right, they’re also doing that work…This really came to bear in my first marriage — while we acknowledged that work needed to be done, whenever I’d state that I needed X or Y to feel more supported, more fulfilled, more loved and appreciated, my partner’s first instinct was to say, “You’re trying to change me, why can’t you accept me the way I am?” This is not his fault as it’s a message culturally that’s repeated over and over again.
For my part, I strove to be patient, to live without the things I wanted and needed, because without his cooperation, it was quite literally the only thing I could do (short of leaving the relationship, which came many years later). However, without reciprocation, this turned me into a passive-aggressive, dependent, seething nut-bag.
The question is — how do things in a relationship change without the cooperation of all members? How are you supposed to work on the relationships, really work on yourself, without changing a little bit for someone else?
I don’t think you do. I think it’s all a matter of degree, really.
You can’t force someone to change of course. That’s silly. But you can ask for what you need, and they can decide to do what they can to work towards it. They can say no of course, and then you have to reevaluate, but they can also say yes and do some work. Doesn’t make either of you an asshole.
“Not an asshole” is no longer my standard for partner selection (as it once was). I have grown to need more than this in serious relationships. Now that I’ve known people who are willing to do the work with me, I could never go back to partners that didn’t do the same.
This question begs the question (how delightfully recursive): Are these really needs, or are they standards? After all, it’s okay to ask for what you want instead of only piping up what you’re in dire need. It’s okay to have standards.
And the fact that I have different concerns for casual and serious relationships demonstrates to me that I don’t need everything from every person in my life.
For the entire list of questions, please see this indexed list.