The 4Cs of a Meaningful and Lasting Romance: Chapter 2.3: Defining Needs and Desires

Bliss

We could all use a little more bliss in our lives. We sure don’t need any more taxes or longer hours on the job. Happiness, harmony, and enjoyment of life should be our goal. If bliss is not an interpersonal need of yours, make it one. Starting now. If you look closely, you can find bliss in the simple things in life. Some people find it in a hot bath or a cold beer. Others find it in a child’s laugh or tending a flower garden. One of my sons always found it at the end of a torrential rain. I would complain about forgetting the umbrella when I dropped him off at Kindergarten, and he would blissfully announce, “Don’t worry Dad, a rainbow always comes out when the rain stops!”

You can find bliss in your romantic relationship as well, but don’t be dependent on your relationship to provide it. Your need for bliss should start with you. The famous singer, John Denver, had bliss in abundance in his life. He saw it, felt it, and experienced it in the nature surrounding him. We can hear it in his music. Through the ups and downs in his early career, he followed his heart and maintained his passion for writing songs. Whether you’re chasing your dream or the girl next door, make bliss a high priority need in your life.

Sex

Women tend to think men are only interested in sex. While that may be true…

Seriously, some men are only interested in sex. Others, not so much. But a desire for sexual relations is not a bad thing. Great sex in a committed, monogamous relationship can strengthen the relationship. According to Dr. John Gray, a certified family therapist and author of Mars and Venus in the Bedroom, women have a tendency to underestimate the importance of sex for men. As Dr. Gray explains it, sex allows a man to feel his need for love, whereas women are receptive to love as a way to help drive their desire for sex. The interpersonal need for sex exists, to some extent, in all of us. It’s part of our DNA. Some men and women require more frequent sexual activity than others, depending on where their need for sex fits into their hierarchy of needs and desires.

Unfortunately, there are many times when life’s distractions, either real or imagined, preclude us from enjoying a normal healthy sex life, as work, health issues, personal commitments, and so forth diminish our appetite for sex. To counteract this, we must learn to connect with one another at our most intimate level. In the following chapter, I expand on the path to more fulfilling sex and discuss the significance of trust, intimacy, vulnerability, and how romance feeds our sexual desires.

Faith

How far can we get in life without faith? For most of us, not very far. Faith implies a spiritual connotation—a connection with God, if you will. In Joel Osteen’s book, Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential, he writes, “It’s vital that you accept yourself and learn to be happy with who God made you to be. If you want to truly enjoy your life, you must be at peace with yourself.” His book goes on to describe how positive attitudes help determine how we’re going to live our lives. I would take this a step further and surmise these same positive attitudes will help us to achieve a meaningful and lasting romance. But we don’t have to subscribe to the evangelical Christian philosophy to accept the importance of faith in our lives. Whether we believe in God or not, faith represents an interpersonal need defined not only by our belief in a higher power, but by belief in ourselves. With all the craziness we endure in our day to day lives, with all the mass media garbage we’re exposed to, with all the senseless politics at work and in our own government, with all the random acts of violence and devastating acts of mother nature, it can be easy at times to surrender our hope in humanity. Faith can overpower these negative influences in our lives and help us achieve stronger intimacy, better health, less stress, and more bliss. Without faith, we lose hope. Without hope, we lose everything.

The Peril of Unmet Needs

If our desires go unmet, our romantic relationships may stall a bit; however, if our needs go unmet, the relationship will suffer. As individuals, we recognize when our own needs and desires are not met, but how do we know if our partner’s needs and desires are being met? If you receive the death stare from your beloved every time you enter the room, chances are, some need, desire, or both is not being met. Communication is king. Talk about your feelings. Share your opinions. Vent your frustrations. But most importantly, use what works in your relationship to communicate effectively to understand each other’s needs. Sometimes relationship issues are symptoms of larger problems, where the root cause links to unfulfilled needs. If our needs go unmet, our core values suffer. And if our core values suffer, our romantic relationship will falter.

If our need for intimacy goes unfulfilled, we start to question our partner’s commitment to the relationship. If our need for independence goes unfulfilled, we resent the loss of freedom, autonomy, or solitude. If our need for empathy goes unmet, we resent our partner’s lack of compassion or misinterpret what we perceive to be their lack of compassion. This hampers the level of trust in our romantic relationship.

The bottom line: the more needs left unmet, the more problems our romantic relationships must endure. But sometimes our needs are not completely unmet so much as not quite fulfilled. If too many needs go unmet for a significant period of time, then chances are the person we’re with may not be capable of fulfilling our needs. For to do so may require him or her to change who they are fundamentally. In this case, we should take a hard look at our relationship and accept that this person might not be the right one for us. If, on the other hand, our needs are partially met but not completely fulfilled, then there’s room to work. Communication plays a large role. So does compromise and commitment. It takes work and patience, but if both individuals maintain a need to be involved in a meaningful and lasting romance, and if the right chemistry exists, they stand a chance of finding common ground and working through their relationship issues.

Summary of Needs and Desires

In my single, adult years, I’ve had the privilege of dating many wonderful women, but for the longest time I couldn’t figure out why I chose to end my relationships in short order. At times, I blamed my misfortune on a fear of commitment, or convinced myself I simply met the wrong person. But more often than not, I attributed the problem to my needs not being met. Not necessarily my primary relationship needs, but broader needs instilled in my life but not acknowledged or completely understood until I took a step back and thought about them. For me, spending time with my children, devoting time to my career to provide for my family, and maintaining a strict exercise regiment were all high priority needs. Over time, I discovered how these needs directly influenced my secondary needs, which included time to enjoy my favorite recreational activities.

Upon further reflection, I realized I did—and still do—have a strong desire to be involved in a romantic relationship with the right person, but my primary needs—and most of my secondary ones as well—have to come first. In the past, my higher priority needs often overshadowed my desire for romantic involvement. And only when my needs were met, could I give myself fully to a romantic relationship. To put this another way, I came to understand how a romantic relationship for me had to evolve beyond a desire and become a fundamental need. A balancing act at times, especially for a very independent person.

I’ve shared my personal story as a way to conclude this chapter on needs and desires. Now I encourage you to conduct your own self analysis and think hard about your highest priority needs and desires. Some will be obvious, and some will not. If you’re twenty-two years old, never been married, and don’t have children, your primary needs will be much different than those of a single parent in their forties. If you’re currently involved in a romantic relationship, one you’re happy with or not, ask yourself if both you and your partner’s needs are being met.

The concept of defining and fully understanding our needs and desires resonates throughout this book. Even something as random and difficult to quantify as chemistry, correlates to our personal needs and desires. Discovering our deeper needs requires time and patience for personal reflection. Even in the most intimate and loving of relationships, we must remain aware of and respect our own needs and desires to identify the most significant ones and to challenge our own assertions. Sometimes certain needs turn out to be less important than we thought. And sometimes we turn away from things we don’t understand. But with an open mind and an open heart, the pieces eventually fall into place. Now that you’re equipped with a better understanding of core values and the significance of defining your relationship needs and desires, the first of 4Cs to a meaningful and lasting romance awaits.

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