What We Need
“I just can’t get enough of you,” I said to him. “I mean, I think you could hold me forever and it still wouldn’t be enough.”
Although this sounds romantic, it wasn’t. I didn’t mean it in a “fairy tale” sort of way. I really meant what I was saying. It wouldn't be enough – it wouldn’t fill me.
I’ve come to this realization slowly, that he wouldn’t be able to rid me of this empty feeling that I had expected him to fill. We would spend time together and it would be good, sometimes amazing, and then we’d be apart and I’d feel like something was missing again. The kind of empty restlessness would return. Well, I must just need more of him right? I must just need more time with him? If I had enough, or if we were connected enough, then I’d feel satisfied and not empty.
I’d tried so many times before with so many people before: date nights, planning, trying to find a formula for the relationship that would make me always feel good. Maybe if they said or did the right things, or if said or did the right things, then I’d be happy. Then I’d feel loved, filled, complete.
Or maybe he wasn’t the right person. Maybe if I found the right person they’d be able to fill me and this emptiness would leave. Maybe the right person would make me happy. Someone else. Something else.
We’ve been taught this idea that another person completes us - that another person makes us happy. I’ve heard from people in relationships talk about their partner saying, “She makes me so happy.” or “He just doesn’t make me happy.” We’ve been taught that our partner - that someone other than ourselves - is responsible for how we feel, and is responsible for our happiness.
But why was this happening? Why wasn’t I feeling filled up?
We can get confused when we think of people and relationships in this way, but it becomes clearer with an inanimate object like food. So let’s replace a partner with a cookie or entire box of cookies, a bag of chips or a pizza. Whatever your thing is.
Most of us are aware of emotional eating. We’ve caught ourselves eating far too many cookies, or maybe reaching the bottom of the box of cookies, and then realizing that we weren’t wanting cookies at all. Sometimes when we are sad, stressed or angry we try to use food to make ourselves feel better. We eat and eat because it distracts us for a moment. It helps us avoid whatever else is really going on in our lives. Then we reach the end of the food and we are right back where we started. We still have our emotions left to deal with.
We can do that with people. We can use people to make us feel better just like we use food when we emotionally eat. Instead of dealing with our own emotions, we expect other people to deal with them for us - to make us feel better. We try to use them to fill ourselves up.
But the problem is that it doesn't work, like emotional eating, it just covers up what we don't want to deal with. There was a reason I wasn't feeling filled up. There was a reason I felt like it would never be enough.
He wasn't filling me, because he couldn't. He wasn't what I needed.
Before I knew this, I expected that my partner would always make me happy. When he inevitably couldn't, I would get frustrated. I’d be left feeling empty and disconnected and the relationship would be strained. Just like when we use food to deal with our emotions and end up in unhealthy bodies, when we use our partner to deal with our emotions we end up in unhealthy relationships.
Instead of using something outside of ourselves to feel better, like food or our partner, we can learn how to deal with our emotions ourselves. We can learn how our thinking, and not something outside of us, is creating how we are feeling.
Now instead, when I feel like my partner isn’t filling me, I don’t blame it on him. I don’t expect him to make me feel better. I look into myself and I ask myself what I really need. What am I not dealing with inside me? What emotion or problem am I expecting my partner to solve?
It all comes back to realizing that we create our own happiness. It isn’t something outside of ourselves that makes us happy or doesn’t make us happy. It’s our own thoughts that are creating our happiness or our unhappiness. It's our own thoughts that are filling us up or leaving us depleted.