What is different is that modern life has depleted us of our traditional resources, and has created a situation where we turn to one person for the protection and emotional connections that a multitude of social networks used to provide. Adult intimacies have become overburdened with expectations. —Esther Perel, Future of Couples: Is the Institution of Marriage Sound?
I had an interesting conversation with an acquaintance the other day. We were talking about relationships and what we expect from them. She said she and her husband raise kids and take care of a house together. She gets her emotional support and mental stimulation from other sources, like her girlfriends. I said I didn’t know if that would work for me. I’ve had relationships fall apart under those conditions. She said she didn’t think that would work for me (Brenda) either. She knows I’ve done a lot of soul-searching and personal development work.
I wonder if it would be easier to not be so introspective and self-aware. I’m not trying to sound pretentious. It’s a bona fide wonder of mine. What if I only had simple thoughts and expectations?
I think it would be a lot easier to settle into couplehood.
As it stands now, I am looking for a man who offers emotional support, engaging conversation, steadfast stability and physically ‘turns my crank’ (one of my favorite sayings). Statistically speaking, these men are a small percentage of the population. Even if I found one, they’d have to like me too, and that’s a total crapshoot.;)
What if I could have half of those needs met with a partner and the other half met by friends or people in our community? Perhaps my acquaintance friend and her husband have it figured out.
Would that arrangement satisfy me? For the first time since my marriage, I’m considering it.
Community the other piece to the puzzle
The above quote and article in its entirety resonated with me. My friend, Eleanor, reminded me of the high expectations modern romance espouses. Our relationships are supposed to be fully complete microcosms of connection and security. I wrote of the beauty of not being everything to your partner in, It Takes a Village, Even for Introverts : Diffusing the Pressure of Being Everything to Your Mate. What if the village could satisfy your unmet needs as well? Not only could the community, offer companionship, emotional support, financial help, etc. to your mate but to you too?
Belonging to two beautiful realms
In the last few months, I’ve joined three new communities (church, women’s group, working in the school system). My well of belongingness is a little fuller. I already had an incredible circle of supportive angel friends. I particularly love being surrounded by wise and kind women. My emotional and intuitive language is soundly understood and welcomed by them. Hurray!
I’ve also been dating and getting my security needs met and well, my crank turned (just a little). Blush**.
Overall, I feel pretty good. I even blur the lines a little by letting the different realms overlap, i.e. bringing a date to a social event with my friends. I then have all bases covered in one place.
Is this balance sustainable? Maybe.
Would I be happier with an emotionally focused and intuitive mate? Maybe. Would that man be able to provide stability and security? Would he accept my children? I don’t know. Personal experience says no.
Are you satisfied or settling?
Is it up to me to fill emotional and intuitive needs outside of the relationship? This article by Personality Hacker says no. The article says (and I agree) my biggest unmet need is regular, high quality, abstract, conceptual conversation and not to settle for less. Although, it does say that your partner does not have to be intuitive, just open to listening to you talk about ideas and extrapolations — a lovely and realistic option, in my opinion.
Of course, I know all of this goes two-ways. I supply my partner with caring, listening and crank turning too.
Perhaps romantic relationships allow us to practice understanding and platonic relationships allow us to feel understood.
Perhaps the ideal setup is a secure, sexy man who believes in family and likes listening to my ideas paired with nurturing communities that meet both of our unmet needs?
In your relationship, what percentage of your needs does your mate meet? Do outside communities make up for any deficits? If so, how’s that working for you?