When I say "role," I'm not talking about sexual role playing. FYI. Or at least this time I'm not.
Ever hear of black or white thinking? Inflexible thinking? All or nothing thinking? Yep, all the same thing. And all are based around the notion that "if everything doesn't line up, or if everything is not perfect, then it's an automatic fail." And of course, this notion can apply to the relationship we're in: we often look for the "perfect" relationship. The one that fulfills each of our needs. The one that not only looks good on paper, but actually is in reality.
We may find ourselves using a lot of "but" statements when the relationship doesn't reach absolute perfection.
He is genuine and respectful, BUT he doesn't challenge me.
She is so damn intelligent, BUT we're lacking physical connection.
He is adventurous and exciting, BUT he's lacking emotional intelligence.
We first acknowledge what is going "right." Good for us. Way to be positive. And yet, using a "but" statement automatically minimizes or detracts the previous statement. The focus, really, is on the negative. The missing piece. The thing we perceive that he/she is lacking. And so we fixate there. We fixate so heavily that sometimes the relationship itself is at a standstill, or ends altogether.
I 100% believe that we should never settle. That if a relationship is lacking a foundation built on a genuine connection, then we're probably settling. That if a relationship leaves us feeling like we've gotten shit on every night (yikes) through emotional unavailability or even abuse, then we're probably settling. That if we are constantly (but rationally) fixated on everything that feels "wrong" and less often on what is going "right," then we also may be settling.
I also 100% believe that our partners cannot fulfill every single role that we may be seeking, or needing.
- It's unrealistic to give one person entire responsibility to meet each of your needs
- It may be forcing our partner into a mold/role that they never truly wanted for themselves (or could play)
- It encourages dependency in a relationship
And often, when we think about our needs not getting met in a relationship, many of us immediately think of two "solutions:" an open relationship, or cheating.
Today, we aren't going there. If you read my previous post, you'll know my thoughts on cheating. And if you know me personally, you'll know I believe in open relationships, just not in my personal life.
Let's talk point #1
To give one person complete responsibility to meet each of your needs may be setting them up for failure. As humans, we do not have a limitless supply of emotional energy (WHAT A SHAME, I KNOW.) Which also means that our partner may be physically and emotionally unavailable to meet all of our *countless* needs.
Arguably, there are foundational components to any relationship (with the exception in most cases of hook-ups or casual flings.) And these components are: compatibility, and an emotional and physical connection. Simple as that. If we are in a monogamous and exclusive relationship, it's safe to assume that these foundational needs are to be met by our partner. And when we do not have these components met, the relationship may not be one we're meant to be in long-term.
And here comes all of the other little components of a relationship. The icing on the cake. The cherry on top of the sundae. The avocado on top of the toast. The ketchup on top of the fries. JUST KIDDING: ketchup never, NEVER goes on top of the fries. Always on the side.
We often place more emphasis on the other components of a relationship that actually aren't left to our partner's complete responsibility to meet. Ideally, our partner shows an interest, attempts to participate, asks us questions, and tries to learn more. However, this doesn't guarantee that they'll be able to (or even want to) meet each of our needs.
And this brings me to point #2
When our partner doesn't meet our needs, we may also turn to the relationship-molder role, a term that I more or less just coined. In this role, the "molder" attempts to alter, "fix," change, or shift their partner into a different mold, and often a very suffocating one if it is a mold that the partner was never meant to fit into.
And when we mold our partner, we aren't necessarily dating them anymore, but rather a re-created version of them. Most likely, a version that is only temporary.
Once upon a time, I was dating a guy for about 6 months. The relationship itself was built more so on general comfort and similar social groups. However, the validation and comfort we built seemed to ignore what was really lacking: compatibility, especially sexually.
We were two very different people. And while I believe in growth, we can't force growth in a relationship that won't allow it to fit. I craved being challenged and being questioned. I wanted intellectual conversations that didn't always end in the same agreement. He was more interested in being "perfect" in the relationship. I actually think it was less about me, and more about the personal fulfillment he got from being "perfect" all the time. And whether he was aware of it at the time or not, I could never give him what he actually needed, while he would not be able to give me the challenge I was seeking. Likewise, whether we indirectly or very directly pushed the other to fit into a different mold, it never worked. It was never GOING to work.
Remember: molding is not the same as generally improving the relationship. You know: improved communication, conflict resolution, or an improved sense of understanding. Molding happens when perceive something is lacking, and think we can solve it by changing either ourselves or our partner. Or perhaps both.
Drum roll, please: point #3
Despite it being unrealistic for our partners to fulfill every single role for us, it also encourages codependency. We've all witnessed relationships that the two individual's lives seem to revolve around the relationship itself. Maybe we've even been in one of those relationships ourselves. When we assume our partner can be EVERYTHING for us, we're ignoring the possibility of the different communities we can create for ourselves.
Codependent relationships may look something like this: relying on one other person to be both our confidant, our comfort, our validator, our best friend all simultaneously. It could look like relying on our partner for any and all of our social plans; and so we may find ourselves without any options when our partner is busy. More or less, we may even find ourselves with a lack of identity separate from being in a relationship. Your relationship is of course an important piece of your life; however, it does not constitute everything we must do, believe, or become.
And this is where we can look for these roles, these needs, these connections OUTSIDE of our current relationship.
You are not restricted to ONE person to get each one of your needs met. This is where we can build a sense of community for ourselves. Reconnect with ourselves and with other like-minded individuals.
You may argue: why didn't you try THAT in the above story? Because in order to seek out these roles/needs elsewhere, the foundation of the relationship you're currently in needs to be strong enough to allow for it.
I love talking about dating and relationships; and yet these are conversations [needs] that I don't necessarily get met by my boyfriend. Rather than dwelling on this reality or assuming the foundation of the relationship is "flawed," I can seek this sort of emotional connection elsewhere. I love exercise and yoga and the mind-body connection; yet, this isn't something I always necessarily even WANT to bring into my relationship. So, I am building that community outside of it. At the same time, I know there are things I cannot meet the needs of my boyfriend - and that's okay. And likewise, your relationship is intended to give you something that these outside communities and roles cannot, or at least cannot not fully.
I'll say it again: your relationship is a part of your life, but not something your life necessarily needs to revolve around.
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