The women that I work with are really good at loving other people. They care a lot. They want what’s best for their partner and having a happy, healthy relationship is important to them, but often, they don’t know how to do that.
That’s what was happening with Anna. She’d been with her boyfriend for a while and things had been AMAZING at the beginning. Lately though, she’d begin to wonder if he really wanted to be with her.
They kept having the same argument over and over. There wasn’t yelling, but there also wasn’t connection. The more Anna wanted to see her boyfriend, the less it seemed that he wanted to see her. She didn’t know what she was doing wrong.
“I try to give him the space he wants, “ she said. “I love him. I accept what he needs and wants. I try not to complain when he doesn’t hang out, but I just have this insecure feeling that I can’t seem to shake.”
For a lot of women, we’ve grown up with the unconscious idea that we are supposed to look after other people. We want to look after other people. We want them to be happy.
The problem is we are so focused on what we can do to make the other person happy that we lose touch with what we need to be happy.
We’re so used to putting other people’s needs before our own that we don’t even know what our own needs are.
Anna was really good at trying to love her boyfriend unconditionally.
“I understand that he needs time with his friends and I’m okay with that. I get that after a long day of work he needs to de-stress, but honestly it still really bothers me when he doesn’t want to spend time with me.”
The mistake that Anna was making was that she wasn’t loving herself in the same way. She wasn’t recognizing what she needed and wanted.
That’s why they kept having the same argument over and over and over. Anna kept expecting herself to be different. She was so focused on her partner that she forgot about herself.
What do you need to accept about yourself? Do you know what you really want? When you are busy loving someone else, don’t forget about loving yourself too.
That’s what makes a healthy relationship – two people who both love each other, but who also love themselves.
Remember how everyone used to be on someone else’s Costco membership? It was like the Netflix of the 2000s. My mom was on my Aunt’s for years. My friend used her dad’s. Well apparently the rules have changed. My boyfriend tried to add me to his Costco membership, a major milestone in any relationship, and because we don’t live at the same address it was denied, which means that I don’t have a Costco membership. Most of the time it works out pretty well for us. I get to go to Costco for free and my partner gets to feel needed for something other than being handy around the house.
But sometimes, every once in awhile, he’s busy and can’t take me to Costco.
This past Friday, we’d been planning to go Costco after work to get some groceries for an event I was helping with that night. That afternoon I called him to check in and he asnwered, “I’m just on my way to pick up my son from school. He isn’t feeling well.”
My first though: But what about going to Costco to get the groceries I need for my event? I can’t go by myself.
And of course I felt a bit selfish, but also… I NEEDED to get those groceries.
I saw this thought. I saw how I actually did need him to take me to Costco or at least it seemed like I did. But I also saw that at that moment, when he was leaving work early to pick up his sick kid, the very last thing my true self wanted to say to him was, “Well what about me?”
So I didn’t say that.
Instead I thought, I can meet my own need. I can take myself to a different grocery store or I can ask a different friend to take me. Sure, I might not get the exact same thing I would get at Costco or it might be at a different time, but I don’t really NEED him. I know what I actually need – groceries – and I know how I can meet that need without him.
And because I didn’t NEED him, I was able to show up how I really wanted to.
“I hope your son feels better. Are you worried about him?” I asked.
I was able to be there for him and for me, BECAUSE I was able to be there for me first. I wasn’t trying to convince myself that I didn’t need him. I really didn’t, because I knew how to meet that need myself.
Knowing how to meet our own needs, allows us to keep our power. It allows us to be the badass women we are, instead of feeling like we need a white knight to save us. I didn’t have to complain, or feel bad, or get angry about it or feel like his needs were more important than mine. Instead, I knew how to meet the need in a different way, which gave me the power to choose how I wanted to show up.
What need to you have that you feel isn’t being met? Is there a way that you can start meeting that need yourself?
If you're wanting to be held, can you hold yourself wrapped up in a warm comforter?
If you feel like you need someone to talk to, when was the last time you talked with yourself and really listened?
Wanting to feel more appreciated? Look in the mirror, really look, and thank yourself for something you've done lately.
(Seriously, go look in the mirror now. It feels AMAZING!)
When we stop waiting for other people to meet our needs, and start creatively finding ways to meet them ourselves, it allows us to show up in the world as the badass people we really are, instead of the damsel in distress that’s always waiting for someone else to save her.
When we no longer need to be saved, then we start getting to choose which knights we hang out with instead of hanging out with the first knight that shows up. It allows us to communicate what we really need in our relationship from a place of power, instead of a place of lack.
I know that badass babe is somewhere inside you. Let’s help her show up more.
Have you ever been in the room when two people are arguing about the exact same thing? They are both agreeing, but they don’t know that they are agreeing, because they keep saying the same thing, but in different ways?
That’s most people, most of the time, without even realizing it.
I was working a bingo on Sunday night, fundraising for my son. My job, along with 4 other women and a supervisor, was to walk around and sell various bingo cards to the bingo players.
Every once in a while we’d do a count of certain cards to see how many we had left.
“How many of the black cards do you have?” the supervisor asked Ann. Ann held up the pile. “Oh that’s about 60,” the supervisor estimated, barely needing to glance at the pile before moving on to the next person.
If you’ve never worked a bingo, it can get boring, REALLY boring. You spend 80% of the time hearing bingo numbers monotonously called out every 20 seconds. Naturally, you come up with ways to keep yourself less bored. Ann, mostly out of that boredom, counted her black bingo cards after the supervisor walked away.
“58! 58 exactly! Wow she was so close without even counting! Amazing!” she exclaimed.
Later, I overhead the supervisor talking to the manager. “Did you know she came back and told me there were exactly 58?” I want to describe the tone to you. It wasn’t a neutral tone. It wasn’t a happy tone. It was annoyed and a little hurt. Underneath she was saying, “Who is she to count them? I do this everyday and I’m good at my job.”
Ann must have gone back to the supervisors desk and told her. Ann thought she was praising the supervisor for being so close, but the supervisor didn’t hear that. The supervisor heard that she was wrong – that there were only 58 and not 60 like she had guessed. The supervisor heard Ann telling her that she should be more accurate.
This is how miscommunication happens. We think that people hear what we mean, but they really hear what we say, and then interpret what we mean based on their own filters and perceptions.
There is what Ann said.“There are exactly 58.”
There is what Ann meant.“Wow, I can’t believe you were able to estimate that so closely! You are really good at what you do.”
There is what the supervisor heard.“You weren’t right. There are 58, not 60.”
By the end of the night, Ann and the supervisor weren’t exactly best friends. They were polite, but that’s it. Little miscommunications like this erode our relationships. We start thinking that people don’t like us, or we get annoyed with someone over something that was well intended. The supervisor was thinking that Ann was judging her, so of course she didn’t feel friendly toward Ann. Ann didn’t know why. She just felt not liked.
So what can you do? How can you avoid this in your relationships?
When you feel judged, or annoyed, or hurt by what someone said, break it down into:
What was said.
What was meant.
What the other person thought it meant.
And if someone’s annoyed with you, check in about what they thought it meant and let them know how you meant it.
It’s the little things that make a big difference.
P.S. In our close relationships, we can build intimacy by using this framework and talking about it with the other person. “I felt hurt when you said ________. What did you mean when you said it?” It helps us get to know the other person better, and it helps us to get to know ourselves better.