“This is everything I have to tell you about love: nothing.
Only that the world out there is complicated,
and there are beasts in the night, and delight and pain,
and the only thing that makes it okay, sometimes,
is to reach out a hand in the darkness and find another hand to squeeze,
and not to be alone.
Because there are things you cannot know before you experience them.
Because no study can prepare you for the joys or the trials.
Because nobody else’s love, nobody else’s marriage, is like yours,
and it’s a road you can only learn by walking it,
a dance you cannot be taught,
a song that did not exist before you began, together, to sing.
And because in the darkness you will reach out a hand,
not knowing for certain if someone else is even there.
And your hands will meet,
and then neither of you will ever need to be alone again.”
~ Neil Gaiman
I know I am ok alone in this world. That I can face all the beasts in the night and enjoy the delights in this life. Cause I am never truly alone. And yet, I want to be able to reach out my hand in the darkness and find another hand to squeeze. Know that there’s someone who loves me, and adores me and wants to figure this life out together with me.
Using the concept of the triangular theory of love (i.e., the various configurations of intimacy, passion and commitment make up different types of love/ relationships), I am most interested in intimacy – I want to feel connected and bonded with my partner. Although I need both commitment and passion as well, if I don’t feel intimacy, I will likely feel unsatisfied with the relationship, more so than if the passion dies down over time. I will be ok with that. And I am looking for commitment, because that’s the glue that holds it together.
Using the concept of the five love languages, I feel most loved when my partner spends quality time with me (focusing all your energy on your partner, sharing experiences, thoughts, feelings and desires in a friendly, uninterrupted context.), commits acts of service (simple chores, it is important to understand which acts of service your partner perceives as acts of love) and through physical touch. If I lack quality time and acts of service, I am likely not going to feel loved. When we’ve had an argument, I will most likely seek reassurance through physical touch and when I don’t get that, will likely feel insecure about your love. I am also likely to show love in these ways more so than others.
I have been thinking about love and relationships a lot and I’ve come to the conclusion that one can absolutely have expectations for relationships. I think that you need to know what your relationship needs are, communicate them clearly and expect them to be met and you need to know your boundaries, communicate them clearly and expect your boundaries to be respected. You need to know your wants and be able to differentiate those from needs. And you need to be assertive about your wants but pick your battles and be ok when you aren’t getting everything you want.
You want to get at least some of your wants some of the time. Focus your attention and gratitude on the times you are getting what you want.
And I think that you need to understand that an unmet need remains unmet even if you get something you want. Getting what you want or like does not outweigh your needs not getting met or your boundaries being violated. That took me nine years to figure out. Based on this, here’s a list of my needs in a relationship. Your’s are likely different but if we want to be in a successful relationship, you will need to be able to meet these needs for me as much as I need to be able to meet your’s. A lot of these can be summed up with the words Quality time, intimacy, commitment etc., but they are more specific in how I operationalize these words. And I want to be specific. I don’t want there to be room for interpretation.
- I need frequent, open and honest communication about needs and wants. I need my partner to know and share what he needs, is feeling and thinking. Especially when I have poured out my own heart.
- I need my partner to make decisions together with me and to take everyone’s needs and wants into consideration in the planning process.
- I need my partner to follow through on commitments they’ve agreed to (big and small).
- I need my partner to validate my emotions/ experience/ needs with empathy.
- I need my partner to respect my boundaries.
- I need my partner to take responsibility for his decisions and behavior as well as his role/part in any situation and work to make amends when appropriate. “I’m sorry you feel that way” is NOT an apology. “I’m sorry I said that, because it hurt your feelings. I won’t say that again.” is.
- I need my partner to listen to me with his full attention and show an interest in what I have to say, how I feel and what I think.
- I need my partner to want to spend a significant amount of their free time with me.
- I need my partner to be physically attracted to me and to show physical affection. I need to be physically attracted to my partner.
- I need my partner to actively engage in problem solving with me when either partner has an issue that involves the other party.
- I need my partner to see me as their first source of comfort, their confidant, their partner in life.
- I need my partner to actively work on areas of the relationship that need work, be it intimacy, passion or commitment.
- I need there to be a balance in workload in regards to housework and responsibilities.
- If my partner is lacking skills or stability, is coping with trauma or mental health issues or is lacking life skills etc., I need him to make an active effort to change this, either by reaching out for support, seeing a counselor, taking a class or whatever else may work.
- I need my partner to want to be a parent using positive parenting strategies and be willing to share that big responsibility 100% with me, and that might mean staying up in solidarity, supporting your partner in any way possible and putting your own wants second after everyone’s needs.
We are humans and humans make mistakes, they get exhausted and distracted and life happens, but these needs have to be met the majority of the time for me to feel satisfied in my relationship. To feel loved. Respected. Seen.
I think that for a long time, I didn’t understand the difference between needs and wants and would balance out an unmet need with getting something I wanted or my partner doing something nice.
I would focus on all the things I got that I wanted and focused on gratitude for these things, all the while feeling more and more unsatisfied deep in my soul because my needs weren’t getting met or my unhappiness about that addressed. My boundaries would be violated and I would brush that aside too. Needs are things that really are not negotiable. If your needs aren’t met consistently, you will not be ok. Not in the long run. You will feel unloved, resentful, coming from a place of deficiency.
Boundaries can change over time and it’s hard to write down a list of boundaries if there’s no context for these boundaries, but needs are more stable I think.
I guess some things hold true for boundaries regardless of the context:
- No physical contact without consent.
- I expect my partner to be honest with me about intent, plans, and actions.
I guess beyond that it really just depends on what we are talking about.
I don’t like waiting, so if we have a date and you are more than 15 min.late, I might leave. I guess that’s a boundary?
The last thing I want to touch on is control:
No one can control another person’s actions, thoughts or feelings. Although I have definitely tried, believing that if my partner could see things from my perspective and truly understand, then my partner would change – not his personality or his interests, but how he treated me. I would feel so helpless and powerless as though he had all the power, because he decided whether or not to meet my needs. I would cry and yell and scream and fight. But I couldn’t and can’t make him do anything. I can’t make him meet my needs if he doesn’t want to. I can, however, clearly communicate what my needs are, assert myself, and control how I respond when my needs aren’t met.
The best thing we can do is to be or become aware of what are needs are and be assertive about what we need and want and if our partner can’t meet these needs either because they don’t want to or because they can’t and have no interest in getting to a point where they can, then it is kind and loving to part ways and allow both parties to meet someone that is a better match for them.
Being alone for me has always equaled having nothing. Not having any needs met, and no wants fulfilled, along with a lot of uncertainty of whether you might ever find someone who can and will meet your needs. And that seemed to be even worse than being dissatisfied in your relationship. Whatever little benefit you may be getting, it’s still a benefit you wouldn’t have were you alone. Add a bunch of investment- time, money, effort and entanglement that is hard to dissolve and it’s much easier to stay in a relationship, even if it’s unhealthy or causing you dissatisfaction.
But I’m not sure if that’s true anymore. Being single can be difficult and lonely at times, and uncertainty is terrifying. It’s uncomfortable and difficult to cope with. And it’s also a part of life. I think that staying in a relationship you know is unsatisfying without the outlook of change is closing you off from possibility. And being single also means that you get to call all the shots in your life, no one you need to consult with when you’re making plans for your future. You will get at least some of your needs met and wants fulfilled anyway. Just not by a romantic partner. It might be family or friends, co-workers or yourself that will do that. Your life will still be full and happy and satisfied.
If you, after reading this, believe that you can fulfill my needs and you think I might be able to fulfill your needs, or you can’t fulfill all my needs but want to work at it so you can in the future, we might have a chance.
You are such a kind helper, wiping everyone’s nose, cleaning things with tissues, sharing your food and milk with the people you love. You bring me diapers and wipes and you want to put on your socks and shoes. It’s very hard though. You carry our mail.
You can run and walk backwards. You are trying to jump. 🙂 You still love climbing on things and you are fearless. You climb onto your giraffe, stand on it and try to pull yourself unto the window sill.
With help, you can sort shapes into your sorter. You can crumple up tissue paper and put it into cups and you can unscrew and screw tight bottle caps. You can open closed doors and give high fives, blow kisses, clap your hands.
You point out cows and horses and whales in your books and match them with the animals in your other books. You identify giraffes and planes, cars, bees.
You tell me “ja” when I ask if you want milk, you bring me books or balls or balloons in the right colors when I ask you. You shrug and lift your arms when you can’t find something you’re looking for. 🙂
You love stickers, drawing (with food, milk, and crayons).
You are trying out sleeping in your bed. You’ve slept in it for a few hours here and there. You are more interested in nursing again.
You understand a lot, and you can say a few words (Ja, yeah, yey, mama, ball).
You are funny! You make funny sounds, poke my nose, hide under a blanket or run away to make me laugh.
You give slobbery kisses and great hugs.
You like baths and splashing in puddles.
You are an interested observer.
You are the sweetest little bear and the most amazing Koa. I couldn’t ever love anyone more than I love you.
I cherish bedtime and our time in the morning where I get to read to you or play with you before we start our day. And weekends are the best. I love our long cozy naps together. ❤️
It wasn’t logistically easy, cause it fell right into your naptime and I wasn’t sure it’d be really safe, but we also want to be good role models for you and so it was important that we all go be part of this big movement/ protest!
Look at the pictures from all the marches all around the world! And you were part of it. ❤️