Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Satisfying Needs. Do we expect too much from “The One”?

Every person is the sum of his or her needs. Every action has the purpose of fulfilling partially or entirely one or more of our needs. We need food, so we eat. We need rest, so we sleep. Simple, right? We need to feed our sexual instinct so, we either masturbate, hunt down a one-night-stand or search for a relationship. A relationship, of course, would feed more than just that one need. We expect it to also fulfill the need of stability, security, protection, affection, fitting a social standard, entertainment, support and the list can probably go on. Are we going overboard by expecting so much from one person?

I was out the other night with my former high-school desk-mate, one of my top quality male friends, in an attempt to dissect human kind using words for scalpels and beer as a mascot. It was a great, fun night in which, among other issues, we ended up discussing needs. We both agreed that for an individual, each person in his/her life will fulfill a certain need. Protection and care from the mother figure, security and stability from the father figure. The need for intellectual stimulation should be cared for by our educational system but, in reality, we usually quench it by having one or two people with whom we can discuss more scientific matters. Everybody has a person who fits straight in their need to unwind, a person with whom they can talk to about the more pointless things in life and feel good about it. There’s a special person or group of people who will take care of the need for “girl/guy talk”, one or two who we know are able to entertain us no matter the circumstance and those are the people we call when we want to see or participate in a good show, or just simply drive boredom away. There’s also the Mentor-figure who will cover the need of higher aspirations, the need to look up to somebody, and when these people we set on high pedestals lean our way and give us a kind word or hand, they fulfill our need to be admired by those whom we admire. The sexual need has been briefly mentioned in the first paragraph. Since there are so many people who, together, manage to satisfy a whole lot of an individual’s needs, why is it that when in a relationship, we expect our partner to satisfy them ALL?

Each and every one of us, as an individual, gets to play many roles at once: one role for every stage we get to be in, and we star in numerous stages at once, because every stage is simply another person’s perception and projection of the world around him or her. We play a different role for every person who knows us not because we necessarily chose to wear a mask for each of them, but because, through their own individuality and subjectivity, every person will see us differently. We, ourselves, can be a mother/father figure for our children, a Mentor for our students, an entertainer for our friends at parties, an enchantress or a stud for our sexual partner, a muse for young, infatuated artists. We are all these things and many, many more towards a lot of people and, thus, a lot of perceptions. When we expect everything from our relationship partner, we can probably assume that, in most cases, he or she will expect the same in return. So, can we be all of those positive roles for only one person?

I saw many relationships fall apart because one of the partners was expecting too much. But what is “too much”, really? We all have standards and usually two people with similar standards will mix, people with different levels of standards will repel, no matter how gorgeous looking they are, how smart or dumb. I often hear people say that “it’s all about compromising”… personally, I believe that if you find the right one, you won’t have to bother with “compromise”, because the process of building a relationship won’t have to be constructed on the feeling of “giving up” part of who you are so that the other person will do something to your liking, but rather you’d feel you both gain something with every brick you’re setting.

It’s easier to build up a fantasy of the perfect partner who is able to fulfill our every need, always make us smile or laugh, be amazing in bed, spontaneous, never have us get bored, be entertaining, smart, with a good, well-paid job, talented, strong, determined yet kind and sensitive, ETC. It’s probably a lot harder to try to be more down-to-earth and wonder how sane it is to attribute all those good traits to a singular human being. I can’t comment too much on that since I’m still stuck with my image of that perfect guy and the feeling that he’s real, but it’s a good discussion subject. Wouldn’t it be easier for us to get past the barrier of our childish fantasies and just realistically figure out what we want from a partner? If our needs can be satisfied by numerous people, then why can’t we have our ‘better halves’ in charge of fulfilling just a few relationship-related needs (and by that I don’t mean the whole list) while allowing lots of the other needs to be covered by our friends, colleagues or other people out there? Why do we need the need to have all our needs satisfied by one single person?

In 1943, Abraham Maslow, one of the biggest psychologists, has published the pyramid of needs in his paper “A Theory of Human Motivation”. Clicking the image will make it larger, so you can read the text properly.

The pyramid is formed of five levels. Going from bottom to top, you cannot move on to the next level of needs until you have fulfilled the one before. We must understand that it is up to one person alone to seek out the fulfillment of all of those needs, and that one person is each and every one of us, for ourselves. We must seek out into the world surrounding us, into the people out there and into the world within ourselves. How fair or realistic is it to expect one person alone to cover our whole pyramid (at least the first three or four levels for sure)? That’s for each of us to decide.

So, whether you’re already in a relationship, looking for one or maybe not even interested in getting involved anytime soon, tell us… What do you want in a potential partner? How would you describe your ideal mate?


  1. Im in a similar situation. I am under the belief that my perfect woman is out there. Yet I know such a thing cannot exsist.

    Strange, eh?

  2. Belief usually defies rational thought. Even for those in doubt, somewhere deep down inside or maybe out there for everyone to perceive, there will always be the question of "What if s/he really is out there?"

  3. "True friends are those who, when they no longer need you, still want you."

    I think we can study needs in either the feline or canine perspective. Canines are usually social animals and depend on one another for the survival and prosperity of the pack. They must work together, mixing their myriad skills and talents for an overall success.

    Felines are usually solitary animals and depend on their own skills and talents to see them through. They will occasionally seek out other felines to satisfy the few needs they have that can't be satisfied alone, and once resolved, they part ways again.

    Looking at the pyramid diagram, the more needs you can independently satisfy, the more feline your perspective is. The more feline you are, the more effort you put into yourself and the more canine you are the more effort you put into the group. Either way can work for survival and health.

    I find the ascetic nature of the feline type perspective appealing. The first step is to minimise and rationalise needs. Secondary or tertiary needs can be met through physical or mental training over time. The fewer the things you're reliant on, the more freedom you gain.

    A dear friend once said to me: "Learn to find, not to seek." A bit of juggling what you value most (relationships, experiences, objects,) and you can substitute in what you HAVE for what you WANT. There is much fulfillment to be had from finding more worth in what there is than what there isn't. Dreaming about something better is all well and good, but, as someone else taught me: "Naught is lost until forsaken."

    There's nothing I *want* in a potential partner, because I'm quite happy that I can either personally achieve my needs or discard them as unnecessary indulgences. What I would *like* is to give to and share with others rather than expect returns.

    Do we deserve the perfect partner we hold out for? It's a humbling thing to take a good look at ourselves and compare our demands to what we can personally offer in exchange. You want something better? Don't wait for it to present itself to you as you'll rarely find it. Go out and improve yourself until you deserve it.

    You'll be surprised by what results.

  4. It's so rare that people actually get to want what they need or what they deserve. It's easier for most of them to look outside at others, it's easier to point fingers or tug un stuff we think we might need and so much harder to try to evaluate our own selves or find what we are searching for within outselves, where things aren't as obviously shiny and in-your-face as those of the outside world surrounding us.

    Every now and then I try to imagine a world in which people are balanced with themselves and the world they live in. It's a nice and peaceful image in which everybody's responsable of their selves, actions, thoughts, desires, in which everybody is simply Aware.

    As for the canine and feline comparison, I think one can try to take the best out of these two because in life we get to go through pack experiences such as team work or singing in a band or such and one also goes through individually progressing, in many other situations.

    Thanks for the great comment :)