Message to my younger self…”Take the time to get to know your needs”
When we first meet someone special we are filled with all of the hopes and dreams the future can hold. We feel invincible with this person by our side and expect that this feeling with never end. With this euphoric feeling, comes risk and vulnerability that we sometimes forget to take time to acknowledge. Sometimes we forget to have the tricky conversations because we finally got a glimpse of happiness and we don’t want to place that feeling in jeopardy. However, we are not being fair to our partner, ourselves, or our relationship. By avoiding difficult conversations in the beginning, we are only opening ourselves up to a high probability of accidental hurt in the future.
Here are a couple thoughts I wish I had spent more time thinking about and discussing in the early stages of my relationship. Now as a couples therapist in Spokane, WA, I feel they may have helped navigate the challenging road ahead of us as a couple and evolving individuals.
- Who am I now and who do I want to become as an individual? I was relatively young when I met my husband. When we started dating I was a senior in college and thought I really knew who I was. However, when I look back now, I don’t think I gave this as much time and consideration that it deserved. I knew some basic attributes about myself but a lot of this was based on what I thought I “should” be, not who I really was. If I could talk to me, 20 something college student filled with love and dreams, I would ask her some of the following questions: What type of person are you? What is important to you? What are your needs (not basic needs like food, water, shelter, etc. but the really deep emotional needs)? If someone close to you was going to describe you, what would they would say? When you look into the future, who is the person in the mirror? What is that person like? What hurts them deeply and what do they do when they are hurt? What excites them and pushes them to continue to grow? Instead of asking myself questions about who I was at the core, including my wants and emotional needs, I was more concerned with who I wanted to be for my family, friends, and my future husband. That was a lot of pressure on them and me.
- What do I need from a relationship? Reflecting back now, when we started getting more serious in our relationship I spent more time dreaming about our wedding, our careers, our future “dream” home, and our beautiful family. Although I certainly have no regrets for these dreams, I feel like these are some of the exciting moments of starting a relationship. Honestly, without them, I am not sure we would have pushed so hard to be where we are today. However, I think it would have been helpful to peek down from the clouds at some point to really think about what I needed from my relationship and what my partner really needed from me. I had all of these concrete goals but not much thought about my emotional ones. For example, how do I know my partner is there for me? How do I know I am safe in this relationship? How can I ask for help or support when I need it? How can I be present enough to hear my partner’s needs and calls for support? Younger me knew I wanted to feel like I did in that moment FOREVER but did not think much past that. I wonder if we could have avoided some of the hurts from miscommunication and feeling isolated at times if we would have taken the time to think and discuss our relationship needs earlier on.
As humans we continue to grow and evolve, as do our relationships. I certainly know I am not the same person I was at 21 years old when I met my husband, either is our relationship. It is more complex and messy but also deeper and more fulfilling. I am certain that there are parts of me and our relationship that I could not have predicted evolving the way they did. However, now that I am at 33 years old and approaching our ten year anniversary I can see clearer (we all know, hind sight is 20/20). I see that trying to be the “perfect” person for everyone else, especially my husband, was not fair to anyone. Eventually, the real you comes out and should be valued and nurtured. It is hard, at times, but my husband and I continue to work on cultivating a space for our unique attributes and needs. It is definitely not easy and we slip up a lot. I think if we would have spent a bit more time really looking at our emotional needs, we could have probably steered a little smoother through our journey. However, one thing that I have learned and will continue learn (probably for the rest of my life) is that if we both keep not only each other’s needs at the fore front but also work to fulfill our individual needs, everything falls into place a lot easier.
If you and your partner find yourselves caught up in a spiral that is not working and want to explore your needs as a couple, please contact me, a relationship therapist in Spokane, WA, to discuss how I can help.