I started writing about needs vs expectations the other day, and while it is a worthwhile point to get to, I stumbled upon the difference between need and control as well. A classic example is this: there are definitely nights where I need my partner as I fall asleep. I need him close, need to feel his presence. But honestly, once I fall asleep, I’m set. The only reason to ask him to stay while I sleep would be to control him.
And to ask that of him, night after night, would be to disregard his needs. He’s a polyamorous night owl for heaven’s sake. Every night he reads to our children, whether he is home or not. (Yay for facetime!) Constant, unending presence is not the only way (or even healthiest way) to show commitment, devotion, or love.
And for the life of me, I do not get why some people have a problem with that. “Sit here and watch me sleep, partner.” If I need him upon waking in the night I will let him know. But I wake almost every night. Children destroyed my bladder and frankly, my dog also has a tiny bladder. If he is home when I wake, I am thrilled. If he is not, I am just as contented knowing he is still surrounded with love and having his needs met.
Just because he is not next to me does not mean he is far. He is always with me and I with him. And they are with him too.
I cannot meet all of his needs. I am an *earlier* riser and my body has serious issues if trying to stay up too late. I get extremely nauseated. It makes staying up with him stupidly difficult. But he doesn’t guilt me about that. He respects it, and lets me meet my own needs before addressing his. He also knows I have to get up in the morning with the kids, and me being exhausted is a disservice to our family.
There are absolutely mornings where he and I will get up early to share a coffee together (hopefully) before the kids wake up and those days are magical and cherished. But there are just as many where he has to be up early for work and the kids and I sleep in. Or where he was out late with another partner and he sleeps in after the kids and I get up.
Not controlling your partner is, to me, the only way to love them fully. It is the only way to tell them, “I love who you truly are, not who I want you to be. Not an idea I have of you. Not who you might be one day. But who you are.”
I think it is also important to understand the difference between a need and an insecurity and to not ask our partners to fulfill our insecurities. They can’t in the first place, only we can do that. But to ask them to do that is harmful to the relationship. To ask them to talk to you, to communicate, to listen, to hold your hand while you heal – those are all things we can and should ask our partners to do. But to place our insecurities and past hurts on them and insist that they are the keepers of those feelings – it’s sitcom level unrealistic.
“I wouldn’t feel this way if they would just -” Stop right there. That road doesn’t work. Instead, perhaps, start with “Why do I feel this way when they – ?” YOU need to know the answer so that YOU can address it.
I got caught up in this in one of our earlier relationships. She and Eilan were doing great, but I constantly felt left out. And I was having trouble communicating that. I wanted him to stop going over to her place so much, despite the fact that he went after I was asleep. It made him defensive when I asked him to stop because he didn’t understand – I was asleep. He was trying to meet my needs. And I was infringing on him meeting his for no reason.
What I should have asked is ‘why do I feel this way?’ Then I could have articulated that it felt as if they were both pouring far more effort into their relationship with each other than their relationships with me. And that would have been a healthy starting place, rather than being demanding and defensive without any communication as to why.
I’m not trying to say that feelings or insecurities are invalid. I’m saying there are healthy ways, and unhealthy ways, to work through them with your partner(s).
And for fuck’s sake, please remember that no matter how in love you are, or how long you’ve been together, you partner(s) cannot read your mind. Just say it.