Have you ever been asked this question by a partner, past or current when you were feeling upset about something? And did you know what you needed in the moment?
I am noticing lately “what do you need from me?” is carrying more and more significance in my work with couples. It appears to be the principal healer and brain “re-wirer” from the past to a present and future that is more wholesome, fulfilled and connected.
Learning to re-language relationships is fast becoming the essence of my work with couples and what I believe is the practical key to transforming relationships from conventional to conscious.
This question in its very nature says “I hear you, you are important to me and you have a place in this world.”
The story of us all, our personality constructs and the essence of who we have become starts from day zero with our primary influence being our parents/caregivers, who often think they know what’s best for us, but often don’t take the time to attune properly and consistently and ask US what we need.
As children we believe that mum and dad, despite their packaging are our best and most perfect examples of what grownups should be, so we accept whatever they think we need.
As mentioned in my previous blogs on couple communication, our conflict style develops from what makes us feel safe around our parents. We will either retreat or cling and become needy in varying degrees in response to perceived threats to our physical or emotional safety.
In intimate relationships we seem to pitch up together with perfectly opposite conflict styles in order to, as Esther Hicks would say, experience the contrast of life. But instead of appreciate the “otherness”, we often criticise. In general women frequently complain that they do all the work to keep the relationship together and “he won’t talk” and “he doesn’t care.” When really it’s just a response by the brain stem or “old brain” to keep us safe from a perceived threat and so one wants to talk to feel safe and the other person feels better mulling it over in the privacy of their own world.
Ok so we know that and if we become curious enough together we learn that conflict is a gift and directional indicator to what we need to look at within.
Relating consciously rather than conventionally means being able to manage your own feelings, words and actions when you get upset and being able to authentically express yourself to your honey, without making your pain their “fault”. However, we need a bridge or connector to help us really GET feeling connected.
But here’s where I want to focus you attention. I have said many times that we are together in intimacy to fire the healing process from the past (and we ALL are looking for healing, even though you many not express it that way!) but the key to “feeling felt” is in the receiving of what you need. In other words you get your needs met which in simple terms boils down to feeling, better, safer, more approved of and more loved. Simple but powerful.
Joel and I call our more difficult moments our “stinky” moments! We hit stinky moments often at different times and I remember when he first said to me “honey what do you need from me?” when I was at a loss to feel better about something that was going on at the time. It felt like a revelation and what I thought was funny now, when I look back, was that I didn’t actually know! But being asked felt like he was offering me a life line out of the pain I was in. He felt me and wanted to help.
We use this question often in our relationship and what we notice is that it’s not each other’s job to know what the other person needs. It’s a way of showing up saying “hey I see you are feeling blue or in pain, how can I help?” It’s awesome and so bonding.
I recently worked with a couple where the wife asked her hubby the question, whereupon he with a look of great surprise he said “well, I actually have no idea!” and they both laughed out loud for the first time in the whole 6 sessions they had been coming. An important connecting moment.
I wonder then that for many of us, there is a long one way street where, being given what others think we need as kids, doesn’t cut it inside and we are left for donkeys years unable to fully express or feel we are not worthy of having our inner needs fully satisfied.
Just as a matter of point, I am not talking about asking for food or a glass of water or even material things because they don’t fulfil the soft underbelly of our deepest wishes and hopes for true connection.
I believe anything we intellectualise only becomes real when we experience it for ourselves, so, when you next find yourself in a tricky conflab with your honey or anyone for that matter and you see them suffering over a particular situation, ask them (and with inviting and soft body language too!) “What is it you need from me right now?” Obviously body language is key too. Saying it with a grimace and a harsh tone won’t help the other person feel felt!
I would say here that if you are the one being asked, then be mindful not to take it as a way to further irritate your partner by saying “I’d like you swim the deepest ocean and climb the highest mountain and only THEN will I feel happier!” NOooooooo! In asking, your partner is vulnerable and open to being present with you. You may feel a hug, or just being listened to, is enough. You will know, every time and you can be reached here. It’s an opportunity to let love in so take it.
If you are asking the question to your beloved, try to remove your temptation to suggest something they may need, otherwise you just adopt parent style and lord knows that’s old and ingrained.
Being fully with your partner on their “island” (i.e. with them with 100% of your focus) when the winds of inner trouble are blowing requires you to hold a still and calm space. Listen to the answer and where possible step into fulfilling the need that is being asked of you. It’s often simple and requires you to show up with a bundle of love and words. Discuss what it feels like to ask and be asked and to show up giving what is required.
Exploration with relating is a wonderful way to discover the rich depths of your relationships. In the unfolding story of us, Joel and I wanted to share this with you because we know it works and we hope it will be of great benefit to you in hugely rewarding ways.
Healthy relating is a way to strengthen your mind in the knowing that you are amazing and beautifully unique in this world. In order to survive and thrive in connection you each have perfectly designed needs to keep you feeling connected. It’s OK to ask!
Love and Blessings