Tag Archives: desire

How neediness kills desire in relationships

How neediness kills desire in relationships

You can want and you can need, but you can’t want and need at the same time

As long as you are focused on “getting your needs met” you will remain out of touch with the forces of desire (sexual and otherwise). You never really connect with what you WANT when you are preoccupied with what you NEED.

“I need you to be more considerate.”
“I need you to clean up.”
“I need you to touch me more.”

We default to the position of need in order to emphasize urgency and importance. The inner voice says “It’s not enough to have preferences and wants, you’ll have to express your NEED for something or it will remain out of reach.”

In fact, if we constantly default to the position of need, we never discover our desire. Many times this is no accident. Many people are frightened or mistrustful of desire, of wanting. They might advocate for their needs, but communicating their desires would be too much.

Wanting is harder than needing

Communicating desires rather than needs makes some people feel selfish or guilty. Additionally, a person who has oriented entirely around needs often has no idea what they actually desire, and they are afraid to face this fact: “I don’t know what I want.”

As I’ve suggested in a recent article, people in highly enmeshed relationships with co-dependent tendencies have difficulty connecting to their own desires because they are overly concerned with what is happening “over there” in their partner.

Facing the truth of what we want, of our desires, is fraught with obstacles. And then there is actually naming our desires, telling our partner what we want.

Making clear requests based on desire or want is quite different from making requests based on needs. Need-based requests sound like demands. They are necessary at times, but like antibiotics they lose their effectiveness when overused.

Need and want sound like they could be close neighbours, but they’re entirely different neighbourhoods. The two can not be at the fore simultaneously. We are connected to one at a time only, and if we’re used to locating ourselves in the place of need we will be strangers to the land of want.

To be clear, need and neediness are not avoidable in life and relationship, and they require their own kind of attention, but it’s important to also be able to discern between need and want, and to make room for wanting.

Today, try using desire-based language (“I want”) rather than need-based language, first in your own mind, and then with your partner. See what happens. Let me know how it goes.

All My Best,
Justice Schanfarber

To learn more about neediness and desire in relationships check out my book The Re-Connection Handbook for Couples (download a free sample chapter here).

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Trying to grow, fix, change, understand or save your marriage? I provide couples therapy, marriage counselling, coaching and mentoring to individuals and couples on the issues that make or break relationships – Sessions by telephone/skype worldwide. Email justice@justiceschanfarber.com to request a client info package. www.JusticeSchanfarber.com

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The trouble with desire – Why do we fear what we want?

The trouble with desire

Photo by Sudheendra Kadri | Dreamstime Photos

Desire is instinctual. It lives deep in our animal selves. Desire wants what it wants, without rationale, often without full awareness.

Freedom. Pleasure. Rest. Nourishment. These are just a few names for our desire. Desire lives at our core. It can appear abstract and complex through the filters of reason and language, but when followed to its source it is made of basic stuff.

Desire is old. Desire, presumably, was around before words. It is pre-verbal. Perhaps that is why we sometimes have difficulty explaining precisely what we want.

In a baby or young child we see desire in its raw form. Shameless wanting. Shameless demands. Shameless pursuit of desire fulfillment. Shameless satisfaction. As civilized adults we tolerate this shamelessness for a short time and then we begin the work of socialization, which includes organizing desires into boxes labelled “good” and “bad”. As children we internalize these judgements.

Religious, political, family, community and economic ideologies provide us with sanctioned avenues for pursuing approved desires. Other desires we are expected to deny ourselves altogether. Most of us wrestle throughout our lives with the desires we’ve denied ourselves in order to fit into the “good” box and to be accepted in our family and community.

Feeling is unreasonable. Reason is unfeeling.

One of the primary tools we use against desire, our own and others’, is reason. When our wanting makes us uncomfortable we try to convince ourselves to stop wanting what we want.

We live in an age of reason and we tend to think of reason as our saviour from the dark ages of superstition. This may be, but reason can also be the murderer of important aspects of ourselves. The opposite of reason is not just superstition or un-reason. On the flipside of reason is also feeling, and feeling is where desire lives.

Nestled beneath our cerebral cortex (the relatively new and exclusively human part of our brain) is an older part that we share with other mammals. This deeper part of the brain is sometimes called the mammalian or limbic brain. As the conduit for empathy and emotion it connects us to others. It is, by definition, unreasonable. Two fundamental parts of our human selves, rational and emotional, are represented by these two parts of our brain. These two parts, both intrinsic to the human experience, do not always communicate well with each other. Feeling is unreasonable. Reason is unfeeling.

Wanting what we believe we should not have, head and heart find themselves at war. The self is turned against the self. This is such a common occurrence that we consider it a normal part of being human. More accurately, this is such a common occurrence that we tend not to consider it at all. This war against the self may be expressed as drug and alcohol abuse, addictive behaviour, depression, anxiety, even violence and self-harm.

Client couples often arrive in my office with each vigorously representing one or the other of these twin aspects of self – head and heart. The internal split has been projected out onto the relationship with one person taking a stand for reason, the other embodying feeling. In heterosexual couples it is most often the man who takes the position of reason, and the woman who champions emotion (but not always – sometimes it is reversed) –

“She’s unreasonable.”
“He doesn’t care about my feelings.”

As each projects either cold reason or emotional chaos onto the other, neither gets the opportunity to confront (and integrate) the same in their self.

Desire frightens us because it contradicts the ideas we have about our lives, each other and the world. We like to believe that reason is king, and all else its subjects. The logic of reason demands dominion over feeling and so also over desire. In the age of reason, desire is expected to conform to the shape of the intellect. The reasoning part of our brain, of our humanity, wants to understand desire in reasonable terms before acknowledging its legitimacy. This precludes letting ourselves actually experience the desire that is present, however dormant and boxed in.

Paradoxically, we reject desire that we don’t understand, but we don’t let ourselves experience desire fully enough to understand it.

Understanding comes from observation, and observation requires proximity. When we dismiss our desire as bad or unacceptable, we never get close enough to observe it, to feel it and thus to receive its message.

Putting words to desire helps bridge the complex and frustrating gap between feeling and thinking. Language supports the understanding of feeling and, obviously, its communication between human beings. But we must risk getting close to desire if we are to know it well enough to name it. Even acknowledging our desire is, in many instances, deeply taboo. For this reason we keep it hidden, from ourselves even, until we have built enough resource and courage to face the truth of our wanting.

The counselling or therapy process often includes an unearthing of our own awareness around our own desire.

The client/therapist relationship creates a container where it is safe to allow the presence of desire, sexual or otherwise, without the risk of judgement or condemnation. In this space desire can be felt fully without an expectation or requirement to necessarily act upon it. By allowing ourselves to simply get close to our desire through fantasy, visualization, and feeling we can begin to develop a deeper personal relationship with it. With practice, we may see it in its most basic form, free from distortion. Only then can we hope to measure our desire against our internal guiding principles and then choose actions that are truly discerning and wise. Only when we have a direct relationship with our desire can we represent ourselves accurately and negotiate effectively with others to get our needs and wants met.

Recommended reading –
Open to Desire: Embracing a Lust for Life – Insights from Buddhism and Psychotherapy – Mark Epstein

Like what you’re reading here?
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Read the first 10 pages free.

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Campbell River Marriage Counselling Justice Schanfarber Trying to grow, fix, change, understand or save your marriage? I provide couples therapy, marriage counselling, coaching and mentoring to individuals and couples on the issues that make or break relationships – Sessions by telephone/skype worldwide. Email justice@justiceschanfarber.com to request a client info package. www.JusticeSchanfarber.com

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