“What I want is to be needed. What I need is to be indispensable to somebody. Who I need is somebody that will eat up all my free time, my ego, my attention. Somebody addicted to me. A mutual addiction.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk
“You didn’t need me… I needed to be needed.”
A former love interest told me this a year ago, explaining why, from his perspective, our relationship never worked. We were long over, and our connection broken, so while, at the time, I knew his perception was inaccurate, I didn’t bother to argue the point. I just filed it away and moved on.
But it’s come up again recently – this idea that somehow, because I am a capable human being, a caregiver, I do not need… the implication being that, therefore, I am somehow both less deserving and less desirable in relationship.
Not only is this both painfully invalidating and hurtful, but the basic premise is simply not true.
I won’t argue that I need someone to screw in my light bulbs or pay my rent – or deplete their life savings buying my psych meds as the above ex-boy friend did with one of his desirably needy girlfriends (who then dumped him) – but being capable of surviving in the world is not the same as not needing other people.
Part of my calling as a healer is to caretake other caretakers. I know when the person whom everyone leans on leans on me, allows me to hold them, to ease their pain, to offer them comfort, to support them through transitions, that I have been both honored and graced. Honored because their willingness to let me help signals their trust in my abilities and my capacity to hold them, and graced because that level of faith is both humbling and sacred.
Even caregivers – perhaps especially caregivers- need a community of people – however large or small it may be – where we can let go and lean, where our growth and becoming is nurtured and cared for. Where our humanity – our vulnerability and fallibility – is acknowledged and cherished. Independence can only take a person so far; thriving as human beings takes interdependence.
(Just look at the research on failure-to-thrive babies, children who have been deprived of touch and affection, if you don’t believe me.)
When I begin a relationship with a potential partner, I am saying to him, “I see in you the possibilities of someone I can rest in, someone I can play with, grow, explore, and simply be with.” I want to unfold with him, to partner with him, to discover if the strength and capability I sense is indeed his truth, so that I can honor and grace him with my leaning, with my vulnerability, with my surrender.
In the end, I think it’s not a question of my not having needs, but of the cost to the giver in fulfilling them. Someone who is broken and needy gives their rescuer the illusion of strength and capability without ever having to do the self-work to really be emotionally strong and capable.
Like many healers before they accept their calling, my past is littered with boys-with-broken wings… individuals so messy and in need that I not only got to feel altruistic and strong, but to avoid owning my own brokenness. “Loving” them was so easy because I could lose myself in them. There was never any chance that they were going to ask me to look at my own issues; they were never going to ask me to lower the walls I’d built to protect myself and be truly open and available.
Being with someone who has done and is doing their own work demands that we step into our truth and integrity… that we move beyond the stuck and hurt places that have become our hidey-holes and armor against the world and into the undefended space of true vulnerability and shining authenticity…
And for some, that price is too much to pay.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” ~ C.S. Lewis