When I was doing my coaching program, I said in a lesson, "But I do think you have a responsibility for yourself to set standards to ensure your needs are being met, and the relationship is healthy for you." That drew a protest from Dr. Ellyn Bader.
Ellyn and her husband Dr. Peter Pearson run the Couples Institute in Menlo Park, California. They specialize in the difficult cases that many other therapists don’t have success with. Ellyn told me, “Yes, everyone should be sure the relationship is healthy for them. But the statement ‘be sure your needs are being met’ has done more damage to American relationships than any other statement floating around. Needs are food, water, shelter, air to breathe, etc. Mostly everything else is wants and desires.”
“However, most dysfunctional couples we see come to therapy with the lament, ‘I'm not getting my needs met.’ They can't or won't stop focusing on what the other is not doing, rather than what they themselves can do. I wish I could erase ‘be sure your needs are getting met’ from the American lingo!”
Actually my travels can attest that that phrase has transcended the American lingo, and entered the global one. And I’m not sure that my emotional needs are any less important than my needs for food and shelter, etc. But Ellyn raises a very important point…
Namely this tendency to spend our energy focusing on what we are not getting from someone else, instead of taking responsibility for what we can do ourselves. So give that some thought. Are you taking responsibility for your marriage, friendships and other relationships? Or are you playing the blame game about your partner?
BTW, even as a wordsmith, I don’t know if there are words to describe the response to yesterday’s post. You guys really are amazing, and it is an honor to be on this journey with you!