Dear Abhi–Dhamma: Where Do My Needs Fit?

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The Next Buddha is Sangha

Dear Abhi–dhamma:

Where do my needs fit into a relationship?

How to understand if I’m feeling – reacting to a story in my mind vs the energy/tone from someone else?

If the other person in a relationship asserts her intentions are good and kind, is it still possible some other tonality is coming through?

How do I know when I’m asking for something unreasonable or not? Am I meant to not ask for anything?

Signed,

Relational Dukkha

 

Dear Relational Dukkha:

Relationships are complex.  Individual perceptions are complex.  The question of how much one’s personal needs drive behavior is complex.  With all that complexity there are no simple answers.

 

Where do my needs fit into a relationship? 

In the realm of the absolute, where there is no self, no other, no needs, no wants, there is no problem.

But, we live in the relative realm where there is a you and a me; needs, wants, likes and dislikes.

For a Bodhisattva (one who postpones his or her own imminent enlightenment for the sake of the enlightenment of all others) personal needs are subordinated to the needs of others.  There is no sense of being a martyr, no sense of “look at what I’m doing for you”, no guilt tripping.  Until you are ready for that, then your needs matter.

In relationships egos meet one another.  Each party’s needs matter.  The degree to which those needs are fulfilled drives the sense of satisfaction in and health of the relationship.   Therefor, it is important to understand your needs and clearly separate your needs from your wants and to prioritize your wants.

Take for example the “need” to experience sexual relationships with multiple partners while in a monogamous relationship.  That may be more of a want than a need and, in most relationships, while your needs matter, fulfilling this one could cause some problems.  On the other hand, there is the need to be treated with respect and kindness.  That one, if not fulfilled, brings the quality of the relationship as a whole into question.

Am I meant to not ask for anything? 

Even a bodhisattva or saint asks for something – universal peace, the happiness of all beings, etc.  Ask for what you need and want but be careful about what you ask for and how you ask for it.   Also, be ready to respond skillfully when you don’t get what you ask for and when you get it but it is not what you thought it would be.

How do I know when I’m asking for something unreasonable or not?

You need to do some objective reality checking.  This may involve engaging others, including the other party(ies) in your relationship.  You ask yourself if it is possible to get what you are asking for.  What will you have to give up to get it?  Does your partner think it is unreasonable?  Why?

Feelings and tone of Voice.

Cultivating mindfulness enables you to become increasingly aware of the source of your own feelings.  In general any emotions that arise in you are created by you.  There might be an external event that acts as a trigger, but it is your response to it that creates your emotions.  What in you is reacting to what is being said or done?

If the other person in a relationship asserts her intentions are good and kind, is it still possible some other tonality is coming through?

Yes.     Not everyone is entirely in touch with their feelings and how those feelings are exhibited in tone and body language.  There is a subconscious and it influences speech and behavior.    Trust in what the other party says their intentions are while trusting your own perceptions.  When the two do not agree, explore further to objectively discover what is really going on.  It is just as possible that you are hearing something that isn’t there as it is that you are hearing the tone of voice the other is transmitting and denying.

With metta,

George Pitagorsky

2017-01-09T00:36:34+00:00