Maybe I’ve always wanted to be needed. I’m not sure. I just know I wasn’t aware of it until the last few years.
For the past two days, I’ve been stuck on this idea of being needed. Almost three years ago, I wrote about how the best relationships are centered around mutual need and “mutual rescue.”
But this thing that’s been nagging at me is different. It left me feeling down, because it emphasized how much I miss being needed. Feeling that made it hard to make it through work Friday, because I was feeling lost — as though I no longer had any direction or motivation.
On the way home Friday evening, I snapped this photo of myself in the car. I had spent the day pretending to care what others had to say — talking to them about the expensive house we were looking at — and I knew that my fake smile had been pasted on too long.
As I drove home, I realized how little I cared about any of it. None of it mattered to me. What was the point without feeling needed by a family who I loved?
My ideas about what I needed changed radically between the ages of 25 and 40. They’ve changed even more since then. At this point, the person I was in my 20s or 30s seems quite foreign to me. The things I cared about lost value to me. The things I care about deeply today are things I wouldn’t have valued then.
I was more focused on external things back then. By my current understanding of the world, I was shallow and simplistic. I’ve talked lately about some of the ways I’ve changed, so I’m not going to repeat that. But this realization was something different.
Without realizing it, I think I’ve always assumed that other people see their own potential — what they can be at their best and happiest — and they really want whatever will help them become that. With romantic relationships that were serious or at least could have been, I unconsciously assumed that each woman saw in me something that could help her become what she needed to be.
I made this unconscious assumption because that’s the way I think. I have no interest in a woman who doesn’t embody some qualities that I need in my own life. I’m not interested in a woman who can’t bring strengths to a relationship that I don’t have. Every time I’ve fallen hopelessly for a woman — which hasn’t happened often — it’s been because I was in love with someone who was my complementary match.
I’ve always fallen in love with women who had strengths I didn’t have. But I’ve always seen myself as being able to bring something to her that transformed her, too — something that completely changed her life for the better.
But something has occurred to me over the last two days. What if I love someone who doesn’t believe she needs me? What if I see this complementary relationship of transformation with someone who doesn’t think I offer something that she absolutely must have in her life?
What if she doesn’t see what she really could be — and has no idea the role I could play in helping her to become that?
That was the most depressing thought I’ve had for years, because my simple realization was that someone like that — someone who might think I was interesting or clever or kind, but who didn’t see something more than that — was never going to choose me.
I realized that she would never conclude that I offered anything valuable enough to make it worth accepting me into her life.
When I was young, I wanted to offer wealth and success. I’ve talked over and over about why those things lost their appeal to me. My focus is on things that I consider infinitely more important. But what if I love someone who doesn’t ultimately share those values? What that would mean is that she might consider me interesting. She might consider that I would be a good partner. But she wouldn’t understand the degree to which I would change her life for the better.
And if that were true, nothing else would matter. She wouldn’t ever choose me, so loving her would be pointless.
There’s no sense in taking on a partner just because someone might be interesting or attractive or any of those sorts of things. Those are the sorts of shallow reasons that would cause young kids to date or to develop immature relationships. But there’s no sense in taking a real partner unless it’s a relationship that you absolutely have to have in your life.
This realization has left me depressed, to be honest. It’s left me feeling as though someone who I loved didn’t see my importance to changing her life in the same way that I saw her as important to changing mine. And there’s no use in loving such a person.
For now, I feel as though I’m going around in life with a pasted-on smile in order to hide what I really think and what I really feel. At work, I’m pretending to care about things which I couldn’t care less about. And it’s all wearing thin. I can’t keep up the charade.
For a long time now, I’ve felt that I was treading water in life. Just waiting. It wasn’t a conscious decision, but it seemed as though something good would finally happen — and I would be loved by someone — if I just kept waiting.
But that all seems to have blown up in my mind — because I’ve realized that a woman will never choose me if she doesn’t understand why she needs me. She might like me loving her, but until she decides she needs me, too — that she must have me — nothing will change.
Since that change doesn’t seem likely, something else has to change in my life. I have to convince myself to give up on what I’ve believed I needed. And that’s really difficult.