A Tragic American Love Story

Learning to live a vibrant love story is challenging and arduous. It calls for the ability to be aware of one's own unique preferences and values, while welcoming the individual tastes of the beloved, and finding a way to connect amongst the unique differences of two distinct people. Since we are destined to find some of our value in relationships, we might give up feeling loved, but we will not stop wanting to feel important to others. Therefore, being needed is a natural substitute for feeling loved. Being needed can reflect offering occasional advice to being an ongoing resource for guidance, encouragement, instruction and a wide range of custodial assistance. Since females are socially groomed to be needed, they run more of a risk of stepping away from their desire to feel loved. Quite often, heterosexual relationships reflect the dance of a female being needed by a male, resulting in restricted emotional development for both. Let's look at some of the perils of being needed.

*Condemned To Being a Delivery System. When being needed has successfully taken the place of being loved, the person being needed is reduced to a Delivery System. The person is a functionary, diminished to a set of functions or tasks to perform. The soulful nature of their loves and longings fade into the distance, replaced by the imperative to understand the needs of others and to deliver appropriately.

* Blurred Boundaries. Once the priority is to meet the needs of another person, where we end and the other begins becomes foggy. We travel in the psychic-orbit of the other person; losing sight of the distinguishing features we call a self. One's identity literally becomes, "I am you". As being needed deepens, we live preoccupied with an inventory of the other's needs. We can no longer live in the truth of who we are.

* Over-Responsible. Attempting to be responsible for another person's choices and happiness makes us over-responsible. Essentially, over-responsible means attempting to control what is out of our control or compulsively doing for others, what they are capable of doing for themselves. A powerful dynamic ensues, as we increasingly feel helpless, striving to control the uncontrollable. The more helpless we feel, the more we compensate by amplifying our efforts to gain control. These exaggerated attempts at control often result in the people we love stepping away, attempting to avoid our influence.

* Arrested Ability to Receive. Being able to give and receive are the essential energies of a viable relationship. A tenacious desire to be needed locks a person into a giving posture. The delusion is, "The more I give, the more I deserve to be loved." However, the amount given is rarely adequately redeemed, resulting in resentment. Along with the dissatisfaction regarding the love and attention reciprocated, there is an evolving confusion about what is desired and what could actually be requested and received. There can be a rigid attachment to the belief that giving must work and a comfort with the feeling of control that giving tends to generate.

* Colluding With Under-development. The more we send the message, "You need me," the greater the likelihood that the person doing the needing moves from feeling comforted by the other's attention and support to actually believing they do not possess the skills in question. I am often asked, "How come so many men are emotionally immature?" I respond by saying, "Men could never sustain emotional immaturity be themselves." When heterosexual women dismiss the likelihood of being loved by a man, the stage is set for colluding with the emotional immaturity of a man and hence, women feel valued because they are needed. I have seen cases where the female carries all of the emotional substance of the relationship, with the male deeply confused about his emotional life. Male under-development can extend into the female being responsible for their social life, for parenting and even detailing what the male should eat and how to dress. The consequence for the female is a relationship that confines her to the depths of emotional isolation.

Bringing Healing To A Love Story

• Mindfulness. The first step is to bring some mindfulness to the emotional fallout that can accompany being a delivery system. Some of these feelings might include anger, resentment, sadness and disillusionment. The next focus is to begin taking responsibility for having forgone love, settling for being needed. It is typically important to access the kind of support that will allow for clarifying the origin of being a delivery system. This kind of understanding helps to limit the likelihood of reproducing ourselves as delivery systems.

• Back To the Origin. If it's a female who has become a delivery system, her paternal relationship deserves exploration. If, as a daughter, she did not feel seen, understood or accepted by her father, then reproducing her early experience is likely. When a woman chooses to find love and receive love, she runs the risk of paternal betrayal. The betrayal, simply put, means a man is offering what her father did not. This is the reason that learning to be loved is hard work, calling for viable support.

• Learning To Be Loved. As a culture, we're inclined to over emphasize learning to love and diminish or ignore the challenge of learning to receive love. Here are some of the steps involved in learning to receive love:

1) Deconstruct being a delivery system by not doing for your partner what he can do for himself or learn to do.

2) Grieve the losses you experienced in being needed. The transition from being needed to being loved is commonly a confusing one, with ambiguity about how to feel genuinely valued.

3) Strengthen your capacity to receive. Commit to remaining curious about your own desire and expressing. This may take some time, be patient. Make requests of your partner that invite him to be supportive of your emotional live. This has the potential of strengthening his emotional maturity.

4) Expect to be heard, understood and accepted by your partner, even when he has a different perspective.

5 )Do not make any strong decisions about your relationship. Ask your partner to join you, recrafting together, your love story.

Mass media may have led us to believe that we might fortuitously find ourselves in a perfect love story. An old meaning of the word tragic is an unhappy event. As the alleged perfection of our love stories crumbles, we experience some unhappy events. That is to say, every love story has some tragic elements. The key is to not step out of our love stories, but to allow our disillusionment to deepen our curiosity about love. A myriad of discoveries await us: How to give love, How to receive love, How to be authentic, How to be a source of emotional support, How to be compassionate and forgiving, How to work with diverse needs and beliefs, How to address conflict and How to make decisions together. The key is to remain mindful about what our relationships are asking of us.