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Cling On | The Naked Divorce
Cling On – or let go? Pt3

Cling On – or let go? Pt3

Okay, we’ve now talked about how your relationship dynamic affects your basic needs to feel safe and secure Part One and your psychological need to feel loved and valued Part Two. But what about the top of the pyramid: self-fulfilment?

 

Self-fulfilment

In the grand scheme of things, at least for people from most walks of life, the chance to feel ‘fulfilled’ is a pretty new idea. In the past, a lot of couples would largely have settled for security, fidelity and companionship.

But in the last 50 years or so, all that has gone out of the window. It’s just not enough anymore. We all want and expect to feel fulfilled: in our jobs, in our relationships, in our lives as a whole. We want to reach our full potential and to feel as if we’re achieving something genuinely meaningful.

 

Self-actualisation

Here’s the thing, though. Self-actualisation is hard.

It takes a lot of work to be the best you can be. A hell of a lot of work. Work that only you can do, by yourself.

It takes a lot of work to be the best you can be. A hell of a lot of work. Work that only you can do by yourself. And while it’s totally reasonable that you’d want your partner to be supportive, encouraging and willing to help you along the way, expecting too much from them can destroy a relationship.

Eli Finkel, the American psychologist, puts it pretty well when he says that modern couples increasingly expect each other to guide them their journey and “grow as individuals.”

“People are looking to their spouses to help them discover who they are, and to achieve the best version of themselves,” he says. “You are really hoping that your partner can help you on a voyage of discovery and personal growth, but your partner cannot do that unless he or she really knows who you are, and really understands your core essence. That requires much greater investment of time and psychological resources.”

Being someone’s on-call Jiminy Cricket is a full-time job, and no one has the boundless time, energy and insight to guide their partner through every step of the way.

In other words, being someone’s on-call Jiminy Cricket is a full-time job, and no one has the boundless time, energy and insight to guide their partner through every step of the way. Besides, that level of emotional investment would mean neglecting your own goals, dreams and journey towards being the best you can be.

 

Ruthlessly pursue your own path

Does that mean that you should ruthlessly pursue your own path and leave your partner to their own devices? Of course not.

Really loving someone often means being willing to drop everything when they genuinely need your help, or sacrificing some of your own pleasures/temporarily overlooking your own needs if it means they’ll achieve something that’s really important to them.

But that doesn’t mean that they have the right to demand that they take priority all the time. Nor should you feel that your purpose is to elevate their needs above your own – that your role is to make sure they succeed at the expense of your own ambitions.

Your partner can help you stay on the right path, but they can’t carve it out or walk it for you.

Only you are in a position to do the things that will fulfil your potential. Before you ask anyone else to give you an extra push, you need to have the self-motivation, self-belief and the right attitude to push yourself – and you need an idea of what it is you want and how you’re going to achieve it. Your partner can help you stay on the right path, but they can’t carve it out or walk it for you.

 

Ask and expect

Trying to put all of that onto your other half is suffocating, and it’s unfair. By all means, ask and expect them to be in your corner, and don’t accept someone deliberately blocking the way of things that really matter to you. But don’t expect them to be your life coach – or your doormat.

Really listening to each other, giving encouragement, pep talks and constructive criticism, bouncing ideas around and suggesting solutions to problems, reassuring each other when you’re having a crisis of confidence, making sure you’re sharing the burden of day-to-day finances, household chores, childcare… all of these things help to create an environment that will facilitate fulfilling your potential.

Equally, giving each other space to pursue the things they want to succeed in, and trying not to become jealous or resentful when they (genuinely) need to put in the extra hours to make it a success, is vital.

 

How does your partner respond

One of the biggest indicators of whether a relationship will succeed, after all, is how they respond to each other’s positive news.

As UCLA researchers found in 2006: “When close relationship partners, specifically romantic partners, regularly respond to positive event disclosures in a supportive manner, disclosers report feeling closer, more intimate, and generally more satisfied with their relationships than those whose partners typically respond in a nonsupportive manner”

Being enthusiastic and excited about their achievement, promotion, great feedback from the boss etc. is absolutely essential – failure to be emotive in your response will undercut their good mood and make them feel hurt and rejected.

Even if do you have reservations, don’t make it all about you by leading with these. Save them until the initial buzz has worn off and you can talk them through together.

 

Congratulate first, talk second

If your spouse tells you they’ve just been given more responsibility at work, for example, don’t respond with “But you already work such long hours! When am I going to see you?” Congratulate them first – and mean it. After that, you can start to delve into the details of what the role involves and how you’re going to make sure you still spend quality time together. Otherwise, they will simply think you are shooting them down because you don’t really care about them reaching their potential – and they’re probably right.

Clinging on too hard too tightly to your other half makes it impossible for them to meet their needs on their own, or to be the best they can be, but being dismissive or indifferent to their efforts will kill your relationship, too.

Clinging on too hard too tightly to your other half makes it impossible for them to meet their needs on their own, or to be the best they can be, but being dismissive or indifferent to their efforts will kill your relationship, too.

 

The key

The key is to make sure that you are not demanding that the other ‘fixes’ you, making them choose between prioritising you and their goals, or turning your relationship into a competition – and that you are showing them that you believe in what they are doing and their ability to achieve it. It’s about both of you giving each other the support that will allow you to grow, and sharing in each other’s successes to bring you closer together.

 

Click Here for More Great Info  Part One | Part Two  

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Cling On – or let go? Pt2

Cling On – or let go? Pt2

In the first part of this series, I talked about how all humans have a basic need to feel safe and secure, and how to make sure that you offer that to your partner in ways that are healthy and not controlling or counterproductive.

But this is only the tip of the iceberg. Or, in Maslovian terms, the base of the pyramid.

To recap, this is Maslov’s Hierarchy of Needs:

heirarchyofneeds-e1412171967833

 

Okay, now let’s move on…

 

Psychological needs.

The moment we’re confident that we’re not going to starve and we’re safe from immediate harm, we start fixating on belonging and love. We need to feel part of something, that we’re understood and cared about, that we have mutual trust, affection and intimacy in our lives. And for that, we seek out companionship, friendship and romance.

But often, this is where the cracks start to form.

Especially when:

  1. One of you believes this need should must be met solely by your partner
  2. One of you underestimates how much the other is looking to you to fulfil this need

Let’s start with the first one: fighting too hard to make yourself the only person who meets this need.

At its core, this is jealousy and self-doubt. It’s the fear that if someone else can give your partner any part of the love or belonging that they need, you will become redundant. 

Maybe your other half is excited about a big night out with their friends. Maybe they’re up all night chatting to a sibling after you’ve gone to bed. Maybe they never miss training, no matter what, even though you’d much rather spend Saturday morning together. Whatever it is, it’s something that makes them happy – but that doesn’t include you. And it feels like a threat.

Okay: getting this bit right is a delicate balancing act. It’s the hardest part of any relationship.

Everyone has that friend who disappears the minute they strike up a new romance, never to be seen again until it all goes tits up and they need a shoulder to cry on. Everyone’s had that awful sinking feeling when the first flush of love starts to die down and they realise they’ve let their friendships slide for months, even years.

 

That feeling of loss

Everyone’s had that feeling of loss when they realise an important bond has slipped through their fingers.

The thing is, being with our partner meets our need to belong in different ways to those of our friends/family/teammates/others we care about.

These bonds aren’t mutually exclusive. They complement one another.

And while couples generally look to each other for love and affection, trying to isolate your partner from the friendships they had before they knew you is hugely destructive. Eventually, they will resent you for it.

Trying to isolate your partner from the friendships they had before they knew you is hugely destructive. Eventually, they will resent you for it.

Hopefully you’ll get on well enough with your partner’s friends and family that you’re a big part of each other’s lives and extended groups. Belonging to each other also means belonging to each other’s worlds. But at the same time, you need to appreciate that their closest friendships and family relationships exist without you – and respect that, when they want to spend time with these people alone, this is a legitimate need and does not threaten your bond.

 

Don’t try and replace

The important thing is not to try and replace or limit your partner’s access to other sources of intimacy. It’s making sure that you both strive to assure the person that you love them, so that you are comfortable enough in your relationship to loosen your grip.

That’s where the second part of the equation comes in: underestimating how much the other person needs you to feel loved, and that they belong.

If your partner tells you they feel lonely and neglected when you’re out all the time without them, hear them out. You might not agree, but don’t get defensive or impatient. or try to invalidate their emotions.

Are you taking them for granted? Are they kind of low on your list of priorities? Do you treat them as a fall-back option when other plans fall through? Do you readily cancel on them, or switch work shifts to accommodate other people when you never seem to be able to do the same for them?

Because if, deep down, the answer is “yes”, you need to get real with yourself about why.

Perhaps you had become a bit wrapped up in yourself, in which case, strike compromises that mean you spend more quality time together. But if you no longer enjoy their company and are not willing to work through your problems, it may be time to re-evaluate your relationship. Either way, don’t act as if they are being unreasonable, because they have a right to expect love and companionship from their partner.

Even if the answer to these questions is “no”, berating your partner won’t make them feel more loved and less needy. You’ll wind up having the same fights, straining your relationship and exacerbating the problem.

Reassure them that you love them and love spending time with them. Make plans together and be enthusiastic about it. Look for ways to show them they’re on your mind when you’re apart, even if it’s just a text to see how they are. If they rely on you too much because they’ve let other relationships take a backseat, nudge them to spend time with the friends and family they’ve been neglecting.

And lastly, introduce them to your friends.

This isn’t just about making them feel included. It’s also about addressing psychological needs at the next level of the pyramid: Esteem.

Our esteem needs – the need to feel important, capable and valuable, to have a sense of accomplishment – are obviously met by many sources other than our partners; this comes from our careers, academic achievements, hobbies, passions and meeting important goals. But the dynamic we have with our partner can strengthen or undermine all that.

No matter how confident you are, no matter how talented or capable or good at your job, if your partner keeps you at arm’s length from their friends, family or colleagues, this hurts. You begin to think they’re ashamed of you in some way.

 

We all want to feel that our partner is proud of us

We all want to feel that our partner is proud of us, proud to be with us, proud to be seen with us.

It feels good to hear that they speak highly of us when we’re not there. It feels good when they want to show us off to other people in their lives.

The smallest gestures can communicate this. Making sure you let them know you’re impressed or proud of them for hitting that milestone they’ve been agonising about. Telling them they look hot when they’ve made an effort. Thanking them – sincerely – for something they’ve done for you. Complimenting them or bringing up something they’re proud of in front of other people.

 

You need to give each other space to breathe

You can’t do any of this when you’re consumed by jealousy and possessiveness. You need to give each other space to breathe and do your own thing so that you both have things you’re proud of, so that you can take pleasure in each other’s successes. It’s all about letting go, without pushing away.

 

Click Here for More Great Info 

That takes us up to Part 3, where I’ll talk about making the tough climb to the top of the pyramid together – and how to give each other the chance to feel happy in your own skin. Click here to read it once released.

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Cling On – or let go? Pt1

Cling On – or let go? Pt1

They take no notice of me. They don’t support me or show any interest in my job, or my passions, or my interests. They don’t listen. They seem bored when we’re together. I don’t feel they’re proud to be with me. They don’t call or text to see how I’m doing. They’re always too busy to talk. I feel I’m last on their list of priorities. It’s like we’re not even a couple.

I feel suffocated. They won’t let me breathe

I feel suffocated. They won’t let me breathe. They’re jealous. They want to know where I am all the time. They hate me doing anything that doesn’t involve them. They call constantly while I’m out with friends. They want to know exactly when I’m going to be home. If I have to work late, they sulk about it. They want to do everything together, all the time.

On the face of it, these two sets of problems sound like polar opposites, right?

You might have even heard the same person say these things about two different relationships. Or about the same relationship at different times.

At the deepest level, all of us need to feel both free and autonomous, and safe, needed and claimed.

Perhaps you thought they were being fickle – that they don’t know what they want. Perhaps you heard yourself saying something like:
“What are you complaining about? I wish my girlfriend was that laidback!”
Or:
“Count yourself lucky. At least he cares enough to get jealous!”

But the thing is, at the deepest level, all of us need to feel both free and autonomous, and safe, needed and claimed.

These things are hard to reconcile. But if you don’t strike the right balance, or understand how these needs fit together you will drive the other person away.

A great way of understanding this is through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

heirarchyofneeds-e1412171967833

Maslow pictured our physical and psychological needs building on each other like a pyramid. You need each type of need to be met before you can worry about the ones at the next level:

 

Let’s start with the basics.

At the bottom of the pyramid you have the survival stuff. You can’t focus on anything else when you’re scare about going hungry, just as you can’t function properly if you’re sleep deprived. If you’re reading this, you’re probably fortunate enough to have access to resources to tackle these fundamental needs. But to get by, even at the most basic level, we also need to feel safe and secure.

 

Safety and security are complicated

Safety and security are more complicated than they seem at first glance.

You might not be living in a warzone, but if you’re afraid of or intimidated by your partner, you will obviously not feel safe. You might not be in a physically abusive relationship, but if your partner cuts off your financial access, or makes it clear that they will kick you out / threaten your home life if they don’t get your own way, you can’t possibly feel secure.

What’s more, people often try to persuade their partners, outsiders and even ourselves that what we are doing is for their benefit, even when our motivations are actually selfish. When it comes to safety and security, these are easily translated for emotional blackmail.

 

Fine line

This means that there can be a very fine line between one person’s idea of being made to feel “safe and secure” and one person’s idea of feeling precisely the opposite.

These distinctions can be subtle. Sometimes only you and your partner really understand each other’s motivations. Sometimes only you know if you’re really doing something to make the other person feel safe, or to make sure they know you’re in control.

Take my friends Tia and Rob (not their real names).

From the outside, they’re adorable. Tia had a rough time growing up, she’s teeny-tiny, and she’s spent much of her life feeling vulnerable. She desperately needed to be in a relationship that would make her feel safe.

When you see her with Rob, he always has a protective arm around her. He boasts on Facebook about running across town in a thunderstorm to pick her up when she was in a crisis. Her friends joke that they wish their boyfriends sent so many messages saying “I love you” throughout the day. Rob is always looking after Tia, doing little things make her feel safe.

Or so I thought.

What matters is that both of you have your basic needs met. Not that one of you gets to take the high ground. Not that you feel obliged to thank someone for getting to play the hero. That you actually feel safe and secure.

Until I found her crying in the bathroom of a bar and she admitted she was exhausted and wanted to get a cab home, but Rob controls the money and wouldn’t let her leave alone because it was ‘unsafe’ – and he wanted to stay out all night. Until she told me that, when they fight, Rob reminds her he’s the only thing keeping her from the streets. That she feels trapped and depressed, but she can’t really complain, because he’s just like this because he loves her, right? That she should be grateful that he wants her to feel safe and secure, even if it’s having the opposite effect.

Uh-uh. Nope.

 

What matters

What matters is that both of you have your basic needs met.

Not that one of you gets to take the high ground. Not that you feel obliged to thank someone for getting to play the hero. That you actually feel safe and secure.

 

The key

The key is honest communication. It’s listening to each other.

Different people need different things in order to feel safe. If you want your relationship to work, you must be willing to provide those things, not the things that suit you.

Different people need different things in order to feel safe. If you want your relationship to work, you must be willing to provide those things, not the things that suit you.

If your partner’s actions seem possessive rather than protective, explain this to them. If you feel harassed because they keep messaging you while you’re out, set boundaries. If you feel their aggression is targeted at you instead of whatever might hurt you, or that their “concern” makes you worried, stressed or dreading the next fight, you need to make this clear.

And If your partner says this to you, don’t flip out and tell them they’re ungrateful. That you only care about their safety. That you don’t know what you’re supposed to do. After all, if you claim you’re doing something for their benefit and it turns out not to, why keep foisting it on them? Listen to what they actually need from you – and what they don’t.

 

Out of reach

Equally, if you feel your partner is always out of reach when you need them, or you genuinely feel unsafe and unsecure because of their behaviour, tell them. It’s fair to expect someone whose reckless, dangerous or destructive behaviour undermines your peace of mind to tone it down.

Just make sure you’re being honest about which needs are actually being unfulfilled. Don’t claim, for example, that being alone in the house makes you feel unsafe if really you just feel bored or neglected. These are valid feelings too, but it’s a different type of problem, as we’ll discuss in Part 2.

Our basic needs for safety and security are fundamental to everything else in our lives. No matter what else is great between you, if your partner’s behaviour consistently makes you feel less safe and secure, or if they refuse to do simple things that that would help you fulfil this need, your relationship will turn toxic fast.

 

Click Here for More Great Info 

Part 2 is coming soon, once released you’ll be able to access it here.

 

We’ll look at the psychological needs behind clinging on and letting go.

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