Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I need you to need me

When Owen has class at 8:00 in the morning I wake up at 6:50 so that I can make him a good breakfast before he has to leave. When Owen, who often seems so unaware of his own desires, orders hamburgers every time we eat out, I realize that I should buy ground meat for him to make hamburgers at home, even though I won't eat them. My world revolves around Owen and most of my time is dedicated to taking care of him.

As a full time student with a half time assistantship, Owen has too much to do. I take it upon myself to alleviate him of as much as I can by doing most of the domestic work and trying not to place any extra burden on him generally. I suspect that this is the biggest mistake that I make on a regular basis.  In an attempt to protect him from my needs, so that he can focus on his own, I neglect to give Owen something that all of us need: we all need to be needed.

One effect of this, I find, is that I appear to be the emotionally stronger partner in our relationship. I help Owen through his stress, and I provide him with emotional support in the relationship as I deal with my own emotions quietly. Yet, Owen can take criticism without flinching while I shrink in the face of my own flaws. Actually, I find that I require so much reassurance that even people with flat affects make me nervous. Owen naturally offers me a consistent flow of praise, I surround myself with friends who are very vocal about their affection, and I come from a loving family atmosphere. Usually, I don't even realize how much I need reassurance because I find it so easily.

Even amidst the praise I receive from my loved ones, I myself feel awkward about expressing verbal affection or praise. However, as part of the philosophy of open communication that I have already described in previous posts, I don't hesitate to tell Owen when he's being annoying. I think you can see where imbalance has the potential to grow in our relationship.

Reevaluating our situation, I do not believe myself to be emotionally stronger than Owen.  What's actually happening is that Owen is better at appreciating than I am. Nearly every night, Owen tells me, "Thank you," and sometimes I ask why. He doesn't have a straight answer, just a vague idea of appreciation for me and my presence in his life. And I, feeling strangely uncomfortable with verbal affection, don't always respond as I should.

Recently, I found myself attempting to protect Owen from my needs again. Owen was behind on his homework, as usual, and I found myself knotted up with anxiety for the future. Without thinking about it, I left the room. I called my parents, and I talked to them, and they did make me feel more comfortable, yet not completely.

When I told Owen about my anxiety, and he had the opportunity to comfort me, we each experienced a heightened sense of security. I've shared this quotation before, but I will share it again because it may be the best advice that I have ever received, "Seek not to be appreciated, but to appreciate." Perhaps appreciation is more than an attitude; maybe it actually requires giving others the opportunity to help you in the first place.

1 comment:

  1. If you aren't familiar with it already, look up Cheap Trick's song, "I want you to want me." One thing that I really like about it is that it starts with a tentative tone that develops into a stronger statement. In this way, it reflects the shyness that people feel around the idea of asking someone to want and need them.
    Also, it's a good reminder for me to make sure that I am appreciating Owen well enough!