My wife and I have a running joke which starts by one of us asking the other, “Do you really love me, or do I just satisfy your baser needs?”
I’ve long had a theory that love is the result of basic need fulfillment. When you combine the powerful feelings of safety, companionship, play, sexual fulfillment, etc. into a relationship, maybe you end up with something that feels a lot like what we call love. Kind of cynical, eh?
Actually, exploring this idea can be a very valuable exercise in discovering where you’ve placed the ground of being for your relationships. In other words, why do you want a relationship? What do you expect to get out of it? Love? Friendship? Security? Financial Stability? What else?
Take a minute and honestly answer these questions: What makes you feel loved? What does your partner bring to you or what do you wish that they would bring to you? What are you trying to get from them? Consider your answers are and notice if they have something to do with a basic need being fulfilled.
“What’s wrong with basic need fulfillment?”, you might ask. Nothing. Everyone should get their basic needs met. The problem is, if you put the task of fulfilling your needs onto your partner only, and you come to expect that they are obligated to fulfill those needs, what happens when they stop meeting those needs? Or what happens if, through your own growth and change, you begin to not need the things that you used to need or not want to give things to your partner that you used to give? Does the relationship end?
I believe this is exactly one of the reasons many relationships end. The reasons that the two people had for getting into the relationship had something to do with how the other person made them feel, some need being filled, how loved they felt, how safe, or how satisfied they felt. As soon as these reasons are no longer present, the relationship ends. Every reason to be in relationship can later become a reason not to be in that relationship. This puts long-term commitment on pretty shaky ground.
How do you place your relationships on stable ground?
My father-in-law had a ritual. Every morning for many years, he left a note for his wife which said, “I’ve made my daily decision to love.” This so simply states the essence of placing a relationship on solid ground. For one thing, it’s a decision. There are no reasons, it’s a simple choice. Today, I choose to love. Today, I choose to be in relationship with this person. Today, I choose to commit to this partnership and our connection.
Another thing about it is that it’s stated in the present. It’s not a decision that was made long ago that’s expected to carry you through a lifetime of growth and change. It’s a decision that is made every single day, in the present, with a new sense of commitment.
The statement doesn’t read, “I’ve made my daily decision to make sure that you meet all of my needs.” It doesn’t say, “I’ve made my decision to get you to do what I want’, or even more importantly, it doesn’t read, “I’ve made my daily decision to only love you when I like your behavior”.
It says, “I’ve made my decision to love”. You. Today. It recognizes that loving another is the only thing that you have control over. You can’t control how they love you back, or even whether they love you back or not. You can’t control their moods, their process of growth, their daily ups and downs, or how they show up for you each day. It recognizes that you are the only one that is in charge of your state and your feelings, and your actions toward another. Even more subtly, I think it recognizes that loving another is actually a more substantial feeling than being loved.
Try this experiment: feel how you feel when you’re being loved by someone whose love you can really receive. Just take a breath right now and feel this feeling. Now, take another breath and think about someone you love very much. Which feeling had more substance, which feeling could you feel more readily?
Another aspect to placing your relationships on stable ground is the recognition that you need not ever stop loving someone or being committed to your partnership, even when you are not liking them. Regardless of how angry you are at another, or how triggered you are by them, and even when they let you down, you don’t have to stop loving them. It is possible to be enraged and sick of some behavior, or feel hurt and disgusted, and still remain committed.
This idea does not imply that you shouldn’t have the space to be angry, hurt, upset, frustrated or even non resourceful. It just means that you can learn to have your emotions, and express them healthfully, but that you don’t allow your feelings to rule you. It means that you don’t let your emotions, no matter how strong or big they seem in the moment, to give you an excuse to say or do things that you will regret later, and that you do not allow your feelings of the moment to cause you to seriously consider leaving the relationship just because the other is not filling your needs in the way that you want them to or have come to expect them to.
Consider that much of the pain that you experience with another might be because you shut down or put up your own walls. Perhaps, when you feel let down or think that your partner is not meeting your needs in some way, you close your own heart down, and you then distance yourself from the other. You wind up feeling alone, and perhaps resentful that the other person isn’t there for you, even though it is YOU that is the one that has actually left first. Heartbreak can have as much to do with trying to cut another out of your heart as it has to do with them shutting you out. You can eliminate much of the fear and anguish in a relationship if you commit to two things: basing your relationship on your commitment to it rather than on your feelings of the moment, and remembering that you love the other person even when you are angry at them and you don’t like them or when they don’t fulfill your needs in a way that you want them to.
There is nothing wrong with baser need fulfillment in a relationship! We all have similar core needs. The need to be loved, the need to be seen and heard, the need for for sexual intimacy, and the need for the simple partnership of shared chores, duties and responsibilities and more. In addition, it is beyond amazing to have a partner who will make you coffee in the morning or help lift heavy things 🙂 Ultimately, as most of us know, it your responsibility to get your own needs met in healthy ways, but it is great when your partner is able to and wants to take care of you in some core ways.
However, it is important to remember that anything can change. That on a daily, weekly, or yearly basis, what you are willing to give and what your partner is willing to give can fluctuate and adapt. What you both need and want can also fluctuate and change. The point we are making here is not that you shouldn’t enjoy fulfilling each others needs, but rather that you should not build your relationship on the expectation that the other is responsible for filling those needs.
In order to keep a long term partnership sustainable over time, is vital to have the ground of being, the core of your relationship, and the reason why you are together, to be what you are committed to in loving them, and to recommit to that regularly.
By basing your relationship on free and present-time choice and a commitment to unconditional love rather than simply on need fulfillment, it does not mean that you will always like your partner. Nor does it mean that you should always turn the other cheek, be the bigger person, or just brush things off rather than deal with the hard stuff. It is simply the idea that when the foundation of a relationship is built on something more than the fulfillment of baser needs, or how you feel in the moment, you can build a solid foundation in your relationship that can last a lifetime.
co-written by Masen Yaffee and his main source of baser need fulfillment, inspired girl