I often find myself talking to groups of men and groups of women. It’s fascinating to hear what people say when the other gender isn’t represented.
‘He isn’t meeting my needs’ is a common refrain from the women. Men tell me: ‘There’s something in the wedding cake that turns off certain activities’. It is also common for the arrival of children to put an end to intimacy, listening and engagement between the parents.
For a while I have been pondering how we can design the modern-day relationship. In the 1800s, the needs were generally linked to survival and building families. Why is it that people go into relationships with an expectation that the other person would meet our ‘needs’? Who said that we had to meet each other’s needs? Have we signed a contract before getting together to indicate that needs must be met? What are acceptable needs?
So many times, I hear women describe the type of man they want to be in a relationship with. Someone who listens and engages and is empathetic and caring. My response: ‘But that’s a woman’.
Of course, there are men who are empathetic and women that like to watch sport – but it’s not the norm. We can’t expect a man to emulate our girlfriends – if they did that, they wouldn’t be men. Would these women who want a man to meet their needs, be open to meeting the man’s needs? Where does the boundary lie? How do we know which needs are appropriate?
I implore you to ask these questions of yourself and your relationship before you become frustrated and resentful, which can often lead to people dabbling in interactions with others.
As hard as it might be, we need to talk to our partners about our frustrations. We need to discuss and explore both our unmet needs and their unmet needs. We need to discuss appropriate expectations and demands around the ‘meeting of needs’. This might involve negotiating; compromising and maybe letting go of needs. Sometimes we require a mediator to help both of us understand which of our expectations are too high. The more you can embrace the possibility of having this discussion as an information sharing conversation with a desire to understand the other person and to discuss what meeting of needs looks like, the more likely we are to find a place in the middle where we can both be comfortable and happy.
Suzanne Loubris is a relationships counsellor and organisational psychologist. You’ll find her at Leah Dique & Associates in Nambour, or visit behaviourthatworks.com.