Want Versus Need

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Wants. We all have them. Some of us REALLY have them. What to do when your wants are so many and you can’t fulfill them and are just terribly frustrated by that?

After my husband died about 12 years ago I spent the first five years looking at my marriage and taking it apart, dissecting it, trying to unravel all the broken pieces of it and where they came from. It was a very long and painful process but it taught me a lot. The main thing it taught me was that I had to change. I came to realize that I had spent the years of my marriage trying to change HIM when I was the one who needed to change. I had to learn how to love myself in a way I never had. I had to stop looking for someone else to fix me. But that epiphany did not happen overnight. That painful part of the process took time to get to.

I started working on building my self-esteem because I realize that I my self-esteem was very low. This was a low process and it took a lot of time. It was very slow going and made even more difficult by the fact that I had virtually no friends to support me or encourage me. I had chased everyone away over the years and so I had become very isolated. But I started it and finally, after a few years I decided that I was ready to look for a new relationship. My self-esteem was in a very healthy place but I was still very  lonely and I desperately wanted another person in my life. So, like everyone else I knew, I signed up for an online dating site and I started looking. I had a list of the attributes I wanted in a new partner. He had to be, in my words, spectacular. He had to be funny. He had to have a job, though I didn’t care what kind of job he had, just that he was gainfully employed so that I wouldn’t be in a position of having to support him. He had to be a good conversationalist  and, ideally, had to be able  to have a balanced and uncluttered life. I looked at my late husband and tallied up all the things I had fallen in love with him for and took out all the things he became during the course of our marriage and that is how I came up with my list.

So I started looking. I did not realize how desperate I was to find someone, however. I needed to find a man to have in my life and that overwhelming feeling is what set me up for failure.  It drove me in a way I did not understand.

Now this need had been a long term issue for me. It stems from my abandonment as a baby -- I needed a reliable "mother" figure who would not abandon me. That was part of the reason I chose my late  husband: I knew he would never abandon me -- until he finally did because living with my BPD became unbearable for him after 27 years. I pushed him away and pushed him away until he finally couldn’t take it anymore and he left.

I spent a lot of time talking with my psychiatrist about how frustrated I was that my “man search” was not bearing fruit. I spent a lot of time talking with a good friend who lived all the way in New Mexico about my frustration. Her response? “You are not ready! When you are ready, he will appear!” Boy, oh boy, was THAT not the answer I wanted to hear! But I decided to try to practice patience and continue to work on my own self-growth. I started gardening again and reading again and joined a meetup group so that I could get out and at least meet some other people. I went in not expecting to make any lifelong friendships and I haven’t but it got me out of the house once  a week in the company of other people so I could laugh and talk and be social. It was a big change from my isolated, small life. In other words, I started to work on the things that I had to offer another person. A friend asked me, “What do you have to offer, bring to the table in a relationship?” I didn’t have an answer to that question. I realized that even though I wanted someone who was a good conversationalist that I really had nothing very interesting to talk about myself. Oh boy! BIG revelation!

Over time my NEED for a new relationship changed and gradually became something that I wanted instead.

I started being able to be more relaxed about the search and eventually I found him. When I found him I felt like the person I had been waiting for my entire life had appeared. Is it all magic and glitter? No, far from it. I never thought I would be able to be in a stable, long-term relationship and yet, I am now. We have been together for three years. Perhaps part of what makes it work is that we don’t live in the same city so we only see each other on the weekends. That makes me look forward to and anticipate our time together. I have learned so much such as how to be more patient and less angry, how to be less anxious and more giving instead of always wanting things to be my way. I wonder sometimes if it is because I am more mature, finally grown up. I don’t know. It has been a terribly long journey toward this kind of emotional stability. I am grateful to be  here. Finally.