The forming of relationships is an interesting and perplexing thing. We are asked, and fully expect to create a union with another human being, and respond to the dynamics in their life and in ours, and somehow make it work. We know we are subject to mood swings, to change, to corrections, and to setbacks. We spend much of our lives learning about ourselves. We look in the mirror each day, often not quite sure we understand what we see. And yet we fully expect someone else to know us. We demand they understand our needs and satisfy them.
In our mind's subconscious, we fear being understood is an impossible task. So, we talk of “magic” in romances.We gush to our friends about how God or “fate” brought us our partner. Of course it's magic. If there were no magic, how could it possibly work? How can we be expected to fit into another's life, when we're not quite certain how to fit into our own?
So does this mean that lasting relationships are impossible until we know ourselves? Are we destined to seek solitude while we find ourselves? Well, yes, and no. To believe we can expect someone to fulfill our needs (not wants) before we know what they are ourselves is unrealistic. We must take the time to be honest with ourselves and define what our 5 or 10 needs are.
Let me stop there for a moment. Notice the numbers of needs I cited. I won't try to list them, as yours are certainly different than mine. However, I will assert each of us only has a small number of needs. We must be able to discern between what we need, and what we want. Then we must become adept at communicating them in an honest, positive manner. It sounds hard, right?
Fortunately, it is easier than it sounds.
More importantly, you do not need to have the full list to engage in good relationships. Rather, what you must be able to do is communicate what you know about your needs. In addition, each of us must choose partners, whether romantic, business, or others, who are also willing and able to communicate. A healthy partnership takes into account several factors:
No one person can (or should) satisfy all of your needsWhether it is expressed or not, there is always a quid pro quo – you will be expected to satisfy some of their needs as wellSometimes people fail – even the well-intentioned will occasionally let your needs lapseIt is okay to change your mind about what you need, or wantNot all needs are healthy – be prepared to get push-back on those that are notUnless you are stuck in life, adamantly refusing to adapt, who you are will change. A strong need you had five years ago seem be trivial now. The converse is also true. Things change, and we change with them. But you can't always disappear and climb Mount Solitude until you “find yourself” again.
Instead, you must be able to form dynamic relationships. As you grow, your partner must adapt, and each of your roles in the relationship must adapt. This means the relationship is the constant, not the people in the relationship. Now that doesn't mean do a do-see-do and change partners every six months. It means people are not fixed, and a healthy relationship allows for change.
For a relationship to work, one's partner mustn't see change as a threat. If Sally decides she wants to stop being a full-time career dynamo and be a part time mom instead, Sally and hubby Steve must think in terms of how to make the marriage happy and successful, rather than fret over how it could destroy what they have. Of course, this helps if they have planned in advance. Going from a $90K a year job on Tuesday to $40K on Wednesday is likely to screw up the weekend a bit. However, if they've formed a relationship with the understanding that growth will happen, and embrace it, in all likelihood, the subject of kids has come up, and they at least have an idea of what it takes to work.
Now recognize that even if they have discussed change, that doesn't necessarily mean things will automatically work out. For one thing, both parties have to agree on how much change they are comfortable with. There are basic compatibility issues at work here. If Sally Loves Turmoil and Steve believes radical change means taking a new route to work once a month, there are going to be problems.
A part of your looking in the mirror, and identifying your needs, is understanding how much personal change and environmental change you are willing to accept.