Oh relationships… love ’em, hate ’em, however you want to approach them, they are going to be a regular part of your life unless you are a hermit or a solitary monastic.
It is the utter existential quality of human beings that we are social creatures and nothing we do can really undo that fact. Most, if not all, of our mental health struggles root in some failure of relationship; too much, not enough, twisted off course, you name it.
And we’ll spend the rest of our lives trying to “repair” those misdirected courses. And you guessed it, we attempt that through other relationships.
There is no judgement here.
This is a regular and normal process.
Eventually we either are able to repair through a really good relationship or we go to therapy and work it out and then have good relationships because we approach them differently. (hint: it’s usually the latter)
So, let’s talk some relationship particulars! Core and Secondary Needs. Ah, we all have ’em but often don’t recognize that we do, nor that we have them identified in a way that can be helpful.
These are the things in a relationship that are literally non-negotiable. I really mean that. You cannot compromise, negotiate or hedge these needs. They are core to what you need in a relationship for it to work.
If a Core Need is not being met and never will,
you can eventually kiss that relationship goodbye.
Let’s take an example of mine. One of my Core Needs is for a sense of wicked, sly, spiritually intelligent humor in a relationship (that can be in a partner or a friend, etc, but in this regard, especially in a partner).
I’m talking a mad love for Jackass and laughing at the dumbest stuff but with an ability to also intellectually and spiritually see deeper beyond what “looks dumb”.
(Seriously, Jackass is far deeper than you probably could ever imagine… unless you too, can see It!!)
Recognizing this Core Need and having it met, allows me access to deeper intimacy (I don’t mean erotic) with my partner, which is relatively (hear my slight sarcasm here!) important for a good, healthy relationship.
If my partner did not have this kind of humor, as a Core Need, eventually this relationship would fail. Nothing I could do would keep it together. Sure, I could fool myself and probably for a long time. But I’d be mysteriously miserable (if I didn’t understand and couldn’t identify Core Needs) for the duration.
My life partner and I are two of three members of the Church of Jackass, so I’m pretty solid there. In fact, we are pretty solid around our Core Needs.
So, let’s talk Secondary Needs!
Well, you probably guessed it, that these Needs are… secondary to the Core Needs. These are the Needs that of course you’d like to have met but they can be compromised, they are negotiable, they can shift to accommodate different people and the inevitable things that come up in a relationship. Sometimes they are small, sometimes they can be large.
Another couple of examples of mine. Cleanliness. Usually the bane of many a relationship; one partner is messy, the other isn’t, and these two lifestyles clash with spectacular conflicts.
I’m the messy one, my husband is a Virgo. We used to have these mad crazy clashes around socks on the floor, making the bed, washing the dishes as soon as they go in the sink. If any one of these personal particulars had been Core for either us, we wouldn’t be 15 years into a solid relationship.
I make the bed now — still don’t see the reason for it, but whatever, he likes it, so I shifted. I still leave my socks on the floor, but I do it in my own “office” room and in an easily collectible pile — my compromise and his shift as he just either collects the pile or asks if I have clothes for the washer and I bring them down.
For the dishes, well, he just gave up and now does them himself but when we finally got access to a dishwasher, I tend to fill and empty it as a pitch in for my bad dish behaviors (I had usually let dishes add up and then did them all at once).
These Needs for cleanliness on our own terms were definitely Secondary as we were both willing to make changes in our own behaviors and expectations.
Whether we are Generalists (aka Multipotentialites / Multipods / Scanners) or Specialists (I’m the Generalist and my husband is a Specialist), philosophers or mathematicians, from different cultures, different value sets, we can potentially be good matches for each other.
But the trick is a lot of hard work to self-explore and identify our Core and Secondary Needs as well as other hard reparative work on those original relational failures so we aren’t taking the trauma out on our relationships.
If there’s just one thing you get from this whole thing, let it be my stressing just how important uncovering what your Core Needs are and that they are, and I this mean with all the seriousness of a “I AM NOT JOKING HERE.”, completely and totally non-negotiable.
Even just learning one or two is very well worth it to you and your future relationships (learning my first Core Need, the humor one, shifted a great deal for me). So, go forth and identify!