Are You Someone’s Priority? Do You Need to Be?

Priority: A thing that is regarded as more important than another.

We all want to be somebody’s priority. We want to be someone’s first call when they return from a trip.  We want to be the one they make plans with for the weekend.  We want the most attention.

I’ve held children and adults as they sobbed over the realization that they were not a priority in their parent’s or lover’s lives.  Untethered, unprotected and on their own, the truth was almost unbearable.

As my marriage ended my priorities shifted.  I decided to put my children and writing as top priorities and my friends as a close third.  It felt like a good balance between giving to others and giving to myself. I looked forward to the simplicity of such a small number of priorities. So I set out and dug in. I listened to my kids with my whole being and tried to smooth over any rough emotions that surfaced because of the divorce. I spiffed up my blog.  Took a writing class.  Worked on pitch letters and read, read, read.  I went for dinner and walks with friends. I was happy.

Low Maintenance Dating

Then I gently entered the dating world… another quasi-priority.  How many priorities can I handle?  Dating gave me energy so I was able to add another priority to my repertoire.  My writing time dwindled but I was having fun, so this could work, right?

Apparently I can handle 3.4 priorities.

I didn’t expect to be a top priority in my guy’s life, so no drama at first.  But then… I wanted to be a little bit of a priority – like a text a day priority.  EEEeeek!  How did this come about?  There I was writing and eating Indian food with my friends and then I was wondering why he didn’t text/call/see me today.  WTH? I don’t need this? If the spark fizzles I am perfectly fine going back to my small number of priorities. I think it all became a mess when I let myself need to be someone else’s priority.  Kids should be a priority of their parents but do I really need to be forefront in someone else’s mind all the time?  Can’t I just be happy when we are together?

Beware of the Need To Be Special

I’ve read quotes from everyone from Marianne Williamson to Buddha stating that true joy does not come from being special.  The second we want to be special or feel special is when everything goes haywire.  Our ego takes over and we will do anything to maintain that specialness.  Our fear of losing the high gloss of importance becomes stronger than the peace of being one with everyone.  This is the suffering that we all experience (unless you are on the short-list of enlightened beings with Buddha, Jesus, the Dalai Lama, etc.)

Parenting: A Responsibility and a Priority

A core purpose of space2live is to create a place where parenting and self-actualization are NOT mutually exclusive.  I want so badly for them to co-exist that I’ll devote thousands of hours of my time and put thousands of words into cyberspace to explore the possibilities. Our culture tells us that motherhood and selflessness should be priority one.  We honor maternal martyrdom and deem time to yourself selfish. Is it possible to be devoted to yourself and your family?

There is a difference between a priority and a responsibility. It is my responsibility to feed, provide shelter and buy clothing for my kids.  I take care of them when they are sick and make sure they get their homework done.  I choose to make their sporting events, meals at home together and bedtime rituals a priority.  Their feelings are a priority.  Their requests for more stuff are not.  Being present with them is a priority.  Constant hovering and hand holding is not (in my book).

Making my children feel cherished and connected to me is a priority I am working on.  I sometimes get so focused on the  sustenance end of raising children that I forget to go beyond to the really good stuff like squeezing their hands and telling them I will always be there for them. Holding them when they cry instead of hurrying them through their emotions.  Going for bike rides instead of paying bills or answering emails.

Make Yourself a Priority

When I knew my marriage was over I chose my children and writing as priorities.  And writing was a roundabout way of choosing myself as a priority. My ex-husband may say I chose these things before the marriage was over. There may be some truth in that.

…as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do – –

determined to save

the only life you could save

~ Mary Oliver, The Journey

I needed to choose myself as a priority in order to survive and grow.  It sounds hokey, but I felt I added value to the world and had a purpose when I started writing.  I got the same sense when I was doing Guardian Ad Litem work.  In both cases I was being the most amazing human I could be for something beyond my small family unit. I in no way want to diminish the value of raising a family well.  I am in awe of parents I know who have content children, satisfying marriages and a healthy glow themselves.  In truth, I’m in awe of any family that functions on a semi-competent level.  But I feel being your highest self elevates every role you play.

In the end it’s wonderful to be loved but it’s crucial to love.

 Do you need to be #1 in other’s lives? How are you prioritizing?

Further reading:

Peak Experiences in Self-Actualization: Gifts That Transcend Your Head – space2live

4 Steps to Love and Independence – space2live

The Sweetness of Self-Reliance: How One Married Mom-Lady Found Her Way Home – space2live

Seductive Security: Living Without the Protective Embrace of a Committed Relationship  – space2live

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21 Comments

  1. MG
    February 6, 2015

    I’m an introvert and I have a preference for being a top priority in the life of the person that I’m dating. If no stimulation, emotional/financial support, passionate sex or attention is provided, I get bored. However, I don’t know about being “smothered” as I have never had a guy attempt to smother me with attention. The way that works for me is for a guy to give me options and to let me decide what I want, in any/all situations; Do you want marriage? a home? what do you feel like eating? etc. until he knows my preferences without me saying anything. Otherwise, I prefer being single.

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      February 6, 2015

      You are someone who knows what they want and is fine alone if they can’t find it with someone else. Have you found many partners who make you the priority you would like to be? Do you ever get lonely? I personally volley back and forth between not needing anyone and openly reveling in a relationship. Thanks for sharing your perspective. I appreciate your input.

      Reply
  2. River Tatem
    January 3, 2015

    your blog is so eye opening it has help me a lot to understand where other people (and myself) come from, i am binge reading all the articles and they have made it possible for me to be more at ease with my new boyfriend and to respect each other’s space. i very rarely comment on these types of things but i just felt like i had to give you credit and thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you write here.
    – R

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      January 5, 2015

      I am so happy you found space2live and that it is helpful to you and your relationship. Best wishes for a warm and loving relationship with appreciation and understanding for both of your true natures.

      Reply
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  5. Dyan
    May 26, 2014

    I can relate to much of what you share. Thanks for the article. One thing I can say, is I don’t like to be someone’s priority. Somehow it feels like pressure and I get a sense of being smothered by that. I ask myself, is there something wrong with me? LOL But I try to focus on self-love like you mentioned. Which has always been a difficult one. The older I get the more solitude I seek, it seems. I socialized a few weeks ago, went to an in-house concert. It was nice for a little while. But while everyone was inside chatting with one and other, I got out of there, and went and hung out with the woman who was hosting the events, horse. That I would say was the highlight of my evening. 🙂 Super introvert, but yet when I was younger, I was much more social and needed it more it seemed. Have you experienced that at all? Thanks again. 🙂

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      May 27, 2014

      Dr. Elaine Aron of Highly Sensitive Person fame (author of all the books) says that we get more sensitive as we get older. I, like you, was much more social as a young person. I went to lots of parties and clubs. I always liked to talk with one or two people in a corner and I enjoyed the anonymity of big dance clubs though. I enjoy parties and get togethers now but mostly attend ones where I know lots of people (and the majority of them are introverts). I am careful to balance my socializing with down time. I know how edgy I become if I go go go too much.
      Interesting that you don’t like to be anyone’s priority. There is freedom in that. I don’t like to be anyone’s ONLY priority. I like my partners to have other interests/people besides me. I don’t have the energy to be someone’s everything.;)
      Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

      Reply
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  7. ilona fried
    January 7, 2014

    I definitely struggle with wanting to be special, especially in a dating context. And it could also be true that a partner’s level of attentiveness indicates the depth of their feelings and degree of interest. I often prefer solitude to casual interactions.

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      January 7, 2014

      Ilona I am always working to figure out whether a significant other’s lack of attention is due to a need for solitude or simply disinterest. It’s the big question.;) I know disinterest is always a possibility. I try to be cautious when advising readers on their relationships. Not knowing their partners, it’s difficult to be sure if they are in a loving relationship that needs some space or if their partners are simply ‘not that into’ them.
      I am with you on the casual interactions. I often choose solitude as well. I cherish all of my friends but the ones who offer the most depth and meaning in conversation/interactions are the ones I make an effort to see.
      Thank you, as always, for your honest insight.

      Reply
  8. Jen Anderson
    October 6, 2013

    I enjoyed the article. The part about “the moment you feel a need to be special…” hit me between the eyes. I’m learning much of what you describe as well. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      October 6, 2013

      I was on a first date the other night and the topic of being special to someone came up. He thought you should be special in your partner’s eyes. I told him I feel that is lovely but tenuous. Not to say that I don’t get a little giddy when someone puts me on a pedestal. I do. We agreed that it’s good to be important in someone’s life but we are each complete without the other. Fear of losing your most special title will eventually creep in and make you jealous/clingy. Just be you. Love and be loved. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Reply
  9. Becca Fetz
    January 29, 2013

    Wow…I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed this read. I think most woman and mothers for sure can relate to this. Relationships of any nature can be this way.. where you want to feel special or set apart in some way. My daughters constantly seem to compete against one another for attention..my youngest will ask me in her innocent 6yr. old way…who do you love most mommy? I reply I love you all the same..you and your sister I love equally and adore the special and unique traits that make you.. YOU. This is hard for her to grasp. Even as adults..we seek this special attention or as you say being someones priority and so often are left feeling disappointed when are pre conceived expectations (whether they are conscious or not)..are not met. I hear ya. I applaud you for sharing and being so open in this manner. Hugs to you!! I struggle with the juggling act of parent hood and everything else as well..half the time I am indecisive and don’t know what I am doing but, do the very best I can. Loving has never been my problem..sometimes I love to much..everyone except me. I usually end up being at the bottom of my priority list and that isn’t a good place to be. I am working on that. 😉 Love you Bren!!!

    Reply
    • brennagee
      January 30, 2013

      Thanks Becca for reading and sharing your honest thoughts and feelings. When I wrote this, I was dating someone who was rather judicious with his attention. It made me think about if I could be happy without special treatment/attention. I think it’s wonderful if you can be content with your own inner light and satisfied with the relationships that surround you but I also think it is human nature to want to connect deeply with someone or many people. In this way, you are actually making THEM a priority and putting as much emphasis on GIVING love and attention as receiving. And often that person you need to connect with the most is yourself. Remember to give to yourself Becca. I know you make others a priority.

      Reply
  10. Maureen @ Vaco-Vitae
    June 30, 2012

    As a recipient of your choice to make writing a priority, I thank you. LOVE this blog.

    Reply
    • brennagee
      June 30, 2012

      Oh wow, you are too kind.:) Thank you.

      Reply
  11. Dominique Santos
    June 29, 2012

    Great reflections… and funny….. what can I say? Keep on giving us what you’ve got!
    This resonated in particular…
    “A core purpose of space2live is to create a place where parenting and self-actualization are NOT mutually exclusive. I want so badly for them to co-exist that I’ll devote thousands of hours of my time and put thousands of words into cyberspace to explore the possibilities. Our culture tells us that motherhood and selflessness should be priority one. We honor maternal martyrdom and deem time to yourself selfish. Is it possible to be devoted to yourself and your family?”

    I’d say… absolutely. The two are so intertwined as to be the same thing.
    I’m still working out how to get it right mind!

    Reply
    • brennagee
      June 30, 2012

      I definitely agree parenting and self are intertwined but I’ve also seen (and experienced) times when self gets absorbed by the parent role. I believe all parents do this from time to time. We don’t have time for reflection because the kids have to eat, laundry has to be done, someone had a bad day at school and everyone needs a ride somewhere. It’s hard to be your highest self when you are buried. This goes for accountants, teachers, musicians as well as moms and dads. We all need contemplative space to be conscious of how we are living. We need space to live.
      As always, thank you, thank you for your comments and feedback Dominique. I love knowing what resonates with you.

      Reply
      • Dominique Santos
        June 30, 2012

        Oh I hear you! Just saw the pics from my son’s first birthday celebration… I look like a crazy, greasy she-devil as I’d been so busy getting stuff ready that I didn’t have time to put on clean clothes or pull a brush through my hair… thought I could pull off the dishevelled yet styling look… but no! 5 minutes of marking some separation for me and me alone would’ve I think allowed fuller participation in the moment. I guess that’s what I mean by intertwined… that by creating the ‘space to live’ for the self, the space to live with others is made clearer; more real.

        Reply
        • brennagee
          June 30, 2012

          You are so real. Love it.:) When we do make space life does seem more intense, vivid and even to slow down, at least in my experience.

          Reply
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