"You're Not Meeting My Needs"By Dr. Margaret Paul
August 16, 2008
Do you take responsibility for your partner's needs while ignoring your own? This could be creating big problems in your relationship!
"Sandra wants to end our marriage," Ted told me in our Zoom session. "She says that I am not meeting her needs."
I often hear this in my counseling practice.
How did we get the idea that marriage is about the other person meeting our needs, or about our meeting the other person's needs? How did we get so far away from personal responsibility for meeting our own needs that we expect others to do it for us? What are these "needs" that Ted was not meeting for Sandra?
Needs Are Not the Same as Needy
"She said that I don't make her feel good enough about herself, and that I don't make her feel secure. She tells me that it's my fault that she doesn't feel special. She is not happy and blames me for her unhappiness. She's angry that we don't have sex very often, and that I'm not often affectionate and that sometimes I shut down, especially when she's angry I agree that I'm often not turned on to her and sometimes I don't feel affection toward her, but I find it hard to feel that way toward her when she's angry at me and blaming me. But she believes that the problems are all my fault, and maybe they are. I try to make her happy but it's not working."
"Ted, the problem is that neither of you are taking responsibility for your own feelings. Sandra is making you responsible for her unhappiness, and you think you are responsible for her feelings rather than for your own. If you were to focus on meeting your needs to feel happy, peaceful, and secure, and Sandra were to take responsibility for learning how to make herself feel good about herself, then both of you could begin to meet each other's need for emotional intimacy and connection. Affection and sexuality would come out of your emotional intimacy, rather than something you have to do to prove to Sandra that you love her."
"But what if Sandra doesn't want to take this responsibility for herself? What if she just wants to find someone else to meet her needs?"
"How often has Sandra threatened to leave the marriage?"
"Oh, at least every 6 months."
Threatening is a Manipulation
"So the chances are it is a manipulation to get you to do what she wants. Instead of giving yourself up to caretake her, why not start to do your own Inner Bonding work and learn how to take responsibility for your own feelings of adequacy and worth? Since giving yourself up or withdrawing isn't working, what do you have to lose by learning how to take responsibility for yourself? You never know - you might feel much more loving toward her even if she doesn't change - if you learn to take loving care of yourself! I know that you believe that your lack of affectionate and sexual feelings for her are because of her anger and blame, but it might also be about giving yourself up and withdrawing. You cannot feel turned on to her when you have given your power away to her and shut down. As you move into your personal power through your Inner Bonding practice, you will likely feel totally differently toward her, regardless of whether or not she changes."
Ted was willing to do the work he needed to do to learn to stop taking responsibility for Sandra's happiness and take responsibility for his own. As he stopped caretaking Sandra and started to take care of himself, he began to feel much better toward her. He was surprised and delighted to feel warmth toward her that he hadn't felt since first meeting her. It was challenging for him to let go of his caretaking addiction as his form of trying to have control over getting approval from Sandra, and it didn't happen all at once. But over time, Ted could see great improvement in their relationship. He found it paradoxical that when he stopped trying to meet Sandra's "needs," things got much better!Image by
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