In your (Sept. 9 Las Vegas Review-Journal) article titled "To best traverse life’s road, we need to travel together," you hit on an area very close to my past. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought you had lived in a parallel universe beside my own. Commonly labeled a pathologically, psychotic, needy, nut job by my former husband, my life didn’t take the drastic turnaround it did until I met that "partner who fulfills our intrinsic attachment needs and feels comfortable acting as a secure base and safe haven."
You see, I’ve always had this need from the time I (can) remember. I guess I could blame it on my unwanted birth, absent father, death of my only emotional support (my grandfather) at a young age, emotionally unavailable mother, etc. – and I think I will. All those things were just a stepping-down stone to my inferior feelings of not deserving someone who would stand by me. After all, what did I have to compare to a healthy relationship?
After reading your column I came to realize what I have always felt I deserved (and always have deserved): love, compassion, acceptance and commitment. At the time of my marriage to this shell of a man, I believed that the many needs I had were "my problem" and that I needed to "take what you get and be happy" (in his words). He needed me to stop demanding more from him as a husband and be happy with the minuscule support and affection he so rarely gave. His "needy" behavior ruined our marriage. You have brought to my memories all those self-help books, psychologists, all those discussions with friends, etc., on how to stop being so needy. As you quoted, "You aren’t ready for a relationship until you can be happy by yourself," is what I heard more than once. These were ways to suppress my natural human need for emotional support.
I suspect a person’s need for emotion from someone else could be a very threatening thing to the giver. It requires giving something they may not have, or simply revealing something in them they don’t want others to see, like neediness. In order to feel more secure within themselves, they place their feelings on someone else, then condemn that person for feeling it. That falsely assures them that they are the ones in control, not knowing that the very control that they think they have has been laid on a shaky foundation of fear. I feel sorry for my ex-husband. He will never know the depth of contentment that comes from the security of met needs. – K.M., Las Vegas
Good woman, you astound me. Not to mention make me smile.
You get it. Amir Levine, author of "Attached" (the book I was quoting), calls it the "Dependency Paradox." In my own words, he means, essentially, that most people have it backward when it comes to pursuit of love, freedom, authentic independence and real personal autonomy. We tell ourselves – and we believe deeply – that when we achieve freedom, autonomy and independence as an individual, then we will be free, able and willing to participate in great love. But we’re wrong. From my view, this is just another outcome of our culture’s penchant for idolatrous individualism.
Levine says that if we desire freedom, autonomy and independence, the "fast track" for getting there, paradoxically, is to find at least one person on the planet upon whom we are willing to radically depend! Give yourself in radical commitment to your life partner. From that place of safety and security, you will soar to heights of freedom and independence heretofore unknown and not possible.
We can’t be free … unless and until we are free to depend. Free to be depended upon. Free to need. To rely. Free to be faithful and present to the needs of our mate.
Any other presentation of "freedom" is, as you say, a "false assurance." When we are impatient, irritated or critical of our mate’s attachment needs, we sound as if we are talking about our mate. In fact, we are actually revealing our own neediness and insecurity.
I wrote it once this way in a song:
Can I hear my own refrain/ Love is real, sometimes insane/ Sets you free to wear a chain/ All the joy and all the pain.
K.M., that last line of yours nails my feet to the floor: "My husband will never know the depth of contentment that comes from the security of met needs."
Yep. Such a man would deserve to be pitied. He missed it. He missed you. His needy behavior ruined your marriage.
I’m glad you didn’t miss you. Thrive, good woman.
Steven Kalas is a behavioral health consultant and counselor at Las Vegas Psychiatry and the author of "Human Matters: Wise and Witty Counsel on Relationships, Parenting, Grief and Doing the Right Thing" (Stephens Press). His columns also appear on Sundays in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Contact him at 227-4165 or firstname.lastname@example.org.