How To Take Care of My Own Emotional Needs
Taking Care of Your Emotional Needs
Question of the Day:
How can I take care of my own emotional needs?
I have tried too many times in too many ways to get my husband to be more empathetic and supportive. I want him to listen to me tenderly, and connect with me emotionally, without being dismissed. The vulnerability of putting myself out there, telling him what I need, and then not getting it, is too much for me to bear. I have been super understanding and accommodating towards him, it’s not fair that I don’t get what I need from him. I think we’d coexist peacefully if I could feel less dependent on him.
Is there a way to take care of my own emotional needs?
Parent Educator Answer:
Can you take care of your own emotional needs? 100% yes and I highly recommend doing it.
Can you live in isolation and not ever need other people? 100% no. We are social creatures and we need other people around us for our mental well being.
Even though you are talking about your husband, this is a very common occurrence with moms of teens. Moms come in thinking “I need my teen to be happy in order for me to be happy.” “I need my teenager to be nice to me so I can be nice to him.” “I need my teen to get good grades/have good friends so I can feel like a good parent.”
When we put OUR ability to be happy in the hands of anyone else, it feels terrible.
I got into a discussion with Rachel Simmons (author of Odd Girl Out) at a Girl’s Leadership training. She suggested adolescent girls express their needs to their friends as a way to resolve conflict and strengthen their relationship. “I need you to respond to my texts within 24 hours.” or “I need you to remember my birthday.”
I thought this sounded awful and false. I don’t NEED you to do anything for me to love and appreciate you. I like you, you are my friend. You be you, I’ll be me, and I’ll love you because I want to!
Rachel liked the vulnerability that is required for someone to admit, “I need something from you.” Couples counselors use this terminology to help open up lines of communication. They want couples to reflect on what their needs are, and how their partner can fulfill these needs.
This is certainly a step up from blame and using statements like “You never listen to me” which doesn’t lead to a productive outcome. The act of reflecting on what you need is helpful. I know for a fact that I need affection. But I don’t need my husband to be the one to give it to me. I can hug strangers, get massages, cuddle my dog, cat and girlfriends. Expecting your partner to be the only one to fulfill your needs puts a lot of pressure on them, and puts you in a vulnerable, precarious position.
When my first child was born, I suddenly felt very vulnerable and needy. I was super anxious about something bad happening to my husband because I was so dependent on him for physical, emotional, and financial support. The thought of him dying or leaving made me lose my mind. Once I did the work to overcome that stress, I never wanted to go back.
I did the same thing with my baby. I would sing to him “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.” But I hated saying the line “Please don’t take my sunshine away.” because it made me feel too vulnerable. I changed it to “No one will take my sunshine away” because I didn’t want to feel that fear.
My need back then, was security. I needed to feel secure. But asking my husband and child not to die so I could feel secure was not the answer. I had to do the inner work to learn how to feel secure, no matter what happened to them.
We all have a need to feel seen, heard, and felt. If your partner’s active listening is the only way you get that need met, it puts a lot of pressure on a relationship that also needs to get dishes done, help with homework, feed children, carpool and walk the dog. Being able to take care of your own emotional needs is a BRILLIANT strategy.
Paying for what we want keeps the relationship clean. Whether it’s a therapist or a life coach, the rules are simple. This is all about you. This is your time to get your needs met. Writing your thoughts in a journal can get you really connected with your inner world. Having girlfriends or support groups that go deep are great, facebook groups or other online forums designed for deep and meaningful conversations can give you what you are looking for. Books and podcasts that speak to your soul can help you meet your own emotional needs.
When we take care of our emotional needs, everything else we get on top of that is icing on the cake. We feel empowered and free because we trust ourselves to pay attention to our hearts desire, and find many ways to fulfill that desire.
Life Coaching Answer: What gets in our way from taking care of our own emotional needs?
The social programming that teaches kids (especially girls) not to WANT things.
Girls and women are not encouraged to pay attention to their desires, or believe they are worthy of pursuing them.
When we were little, we all knew what we wanted, but society taught us to swallow it and do what everyone else is doing:
“You shouldn’t want dessert for breakfast”
“You might want to run around outside with your friends but you should be a good girl and sit indoors on hard chairs like everyone else.”
Society sends us messages like…
“You should be generous, but not a pushover.”
“You should be confident but not cocky.”
“You should care about your appearance, but don’t try too hard.
We get so many messages about what we are SUPPOSED to want, it makes it hard to hear, acknowledge and pursue our desires. “We should want to do well in school.” “We should be interested in boys and romance.” “We should care what other people think about us.”
You absolutely can WANT your husband to listen with tenderness. Wanting that, from a place of worthiness and confidence, feels very different, than needing it. You might even find out that he wants it, too.
Give yourself permission to want what you want because you want it. Believe you are worthy of receiving it. Believe that the rest of the world wants it for you as well. Ask for it with calm, leadership energy.
Let’s differentiate need from want.
What is a NEED that you have? Don’t be specific, stay general. Peace, Quiet, Security, Love, Connection, Beauty. We all have needs but they are never “I need another person to act in a certain way”. Focus on the feeling that action would give you. Then, list 5 different ways you can give that to yourself: Walk in nature, Pay off your debts, Appreciate your dog for his loving attention.
What do you WANT right now? Practice asking for what you want from a place of worthiness. This is where to be really specific and make sure to start your sentence with I WANT!
- Ask your partner for something you want: I want you to rub my shoulders for 5 minutes. I want your help doing the dishes after dinner. I want you to listen to me for 60 seconds then repeat back what you heard me say.
- Ask your kids for something you want: I want you to clean out the car after school today, I want you to speak kindly to your sister.
- Ask yourself for something you want: I want to drink water instead of wine tonight. I want to get up early tomorrow and write in my journal before the kids get up.
- Ask the Universe for what you want: I want my kid to enjoy his baseball season. I want nice weather for our camping trip next month.
We all want such good things: peace, joy, sunshine, a break, a lovely meal, quiet, fun, nature, to get lost in a good book.
Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we took care of our emotional needs and just went around expressing our desire for what we wanted?
Supermom Kryptonite: Under stress, we regress.
People feel so much better after going through the 12 week Supermom is Getting Tired Coaching Program, they assume the issues they conquered will never resurface.
Au contraire, mon amie.
This assumption is today’s Supermom Kryptonite because it’s just not true. When challenges arise and we are hit with multiple disappointments, it is normal for old patterns to re-emerge. Expecting this to happen and meeting yourself with compassion is the key to progress.
This happened to me with my move last week. It’s the week before putting the house on the market. My daughter is home for spring break. I’m managing roof inspectors, sewer inspectors, pest inspectors, house inspectors, plumbers, electricians and handymen, all while trying to keep my newly staged house clean and clutter free. My brain was overwhelmed.
I remember this feeling well when the kids were little. I would walk around the house like a zombie, putting one glass in the dishwasher, folding one towel, sending one email. It felt like I couldn’t accomplish anything. My mind was a fuzzy haze. I had no clarity. This happened to me again last week.
It’s called an Information Bottleneck. Too much coming in at one time causes our nervous system to go into fight, flight, or freeze. Some of my clients go into a cleaning frenzie when they feel pressured (I always envied the folks who stress clean).
When I feel pressure, or if someone is trying to hurry me along, my nervous system freezes. I move slower. I can’t process. This, (combined some with a little handy blame and resentment towards my husband) made me regress into old familiar patterns.
But because I write, talk and coach clients on this all the time, I knew exactly how to handle it. I started with grace and compassion. The old me would have beat myself up for not being more productive, asking horrible questions like “What’s wrong with me?”. This time there was no judgment (a little disappointment at the timing of it, but it I thought about you all and it motivated me to stay self observing).
I walked through the worst case scenario if it doesn’t get done and found there was no emergency.
I got out of the house and into environments without a visible to-do list (a walk around the neighborhood, my car).
I made time to focus on only one thing (coaching calls and TV shows help me block out the mind clutter).
I got everything out of my head and onto paper.
I broke things down into super small baby steps so that I could feel accomplished.
I delegated, deleted and delayed my tasks.
By doing these things, I was able to get my Central Nervous System back on board after only two days of zombie mom.
So remember that under stress, we regress, but if you meet it with compassion and remind yourself that you know what to do, you’ll be back on track in no time.
Supermom PowerBoost: Autobiography in 5 Short Chapters
By Portia Nelson from the book There’s a Hole in The Sidewalk