Bread Crumbs – Part 4.

Or “Not putting all your EGGS-spectations in one bread BASKET!”

“A man wants just one thing from a thousand different women.
And a woman wants a thousand different things from just one man.”

I’ve been married for nearly 27 years.  To the same man I might add.  And when I was first married, I had this quaint and rather naïve notion that my husband could and should meet my needs.  All of them.  Isn’t that why you so carefully select just the right man – – after, of course, a series of tests – including the agility test, the earning potential test, the meet your granny test and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator.

I remember not long after I was married a friend said to me, “I don’t expect my wife to meet all my needs.  It’s not possible, and it’s not fair.”  I was surprised.  My naïve bubble was burst.  Over time and after weathering the ebbs and flows of a long term committed relationship, I began to more clearly see the wisdom in what he said.  Again, going back to expectations, if I released my strong hold of expectations that my needs should be met by this one limited, albeit pretty terrific man, then I am freed from resentments and able to recognize my own power of choice and greater options.

Let’s be clear.  We have many kinds of needs and wants.  Review Maslow’s hierarchy.  But what we look for in our closest relationships is intimacy, affiliation, security, entertainment perhaps, connection, mutual interests, etc.  At different points along the way some needs become more important, some shift to the back burner.  When my husband and I were first married and without children, much of our non-work time was spent participating in activities we both enjoyed – sporting events, movies, concerts, evenings out with friends.  Once our children arrived we shifted to more personal interests.  Since we were both ok with the shift it didn’t cause any real conflict.  We recognized that our individual needs related to entertainment and mutual interests had changed.  He still needed to go to the OSU football games.  And I could easily give that up to spend time at home with our young daughters.

People can seek to meet a whole range of needs through their partners.  Some of these needs are appropriately met in relationship.  And some are better met in other ways.  For example a woman might want a physically strong man to meet her need for security.  Perhaps she finds a person who is able to fill that need.  But another woman might look for her partner to meet her spiritual needs and the person she selects is just not able to meet that need, either because of who he is or because that need is not well met through a partner.  This need might be better met through other relationships, in nature, through a church, finding a spiritual teacher, in solitude, etc.

Several years ago there was a big hulabaloo about the idea of emotional infidelity.  I think this was a very unfortunate concept that got lots of media attention.  There would likely be less physical infidelity if women could get their emotional needs met in a variety of ways, through relationships with women friends, male friends, and even from close connections to their children and pets.  Women are held hostage by the tyranny of emotional monogamy.  And men are held hostage by the tyranny of physical monogamy.  If that’s the playing field we have been given, then what do committed couples do?

Don’t put all your EGGS-spectations in one bread basket!  Don’t expect one person to meet all your needs.  More specifically,

  1. Identify your needs and wants and recognize that they change over time.  Give your partner the freedom of changing needs.
  2. Communicate your needs and negotiate with one another how they might get met. Be creative.  Could your new need for more alone time be met by taking up painting, meditation or writing?  Could his need for male bonding and socializing be met by joining a newly established cigar shop located close to his workplace? (hypothetically, of course!)
  3. Try out different ways of getting your needs met, and re-negotiate as necessary.  Consider activities and hobbies as a way of meeting your needs versus always expecting them to be met “in relationship”.  Even non-activity can meet your needs!
  4. Explore time away.  Give yourself and your partner a breather.  Whether it be a Saturday spent golfing with buddies or a weekend girls trip, find value in time apart so you can appreciate more fully time together.

Ultimately, managing expectations is a very potent component in successful relationships.  My business partner puts it this way in paraphrasing Suzuki’s quote, “The best way to control a cow is to give it a big field.”  He goes on to say that taking the pressure of expectations off one another can lead to more authentic giving rather than obligation giving.  People stay together because they choose to stay together, not because they are obligated to fulfill each other’s expectations.

And that starts with you.

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