How Not Expressing Your Needs Can Destroy a Relationship
It’s way too easy to sweep issues under the rug in a relationship, in hopes that they will just go away on their own — but that is rarely the case.
For couples that have convinced themselves that they are under some form of artificial time pressure to advance rapidly through the stages of their relationship, this is even more true. To understand why this happens, meet Jade and Julius.
Jade and Julius were first introduced through their families, as they were both the last of their friends and cousins to find a life partner. Due to the fact that they both stayed single for longer than those around them, lots of probing questions and criticism began getting thrown their way.
Since they both felt rushed into their relationship, they had considerable doubts about whether or not they could be a good match together for the long haul. But since everyone else in their age group had already gotten paired up, they ignored these concerns and pushed forward, mainly just to fit in. Just a very short while after knowing her, Julius asked Jade if she would move in with him — and she said yes.
As soon as some other bunnies heard the news, word began to spread very quickly. They all started planning big, expensive celebrations for the new couple. This put added pressure onto the couple, as it made them feel even more afraid to disappoint the others if things didn’t work out.
Upon moving in together, Jade immediately began to realize that something was very wrong with the place Julius had chosen. The path from their new rabbit hole to the carrot patch passed directly through an area notorious for having a large population of hungry hawks. Julius was quick and agile enough to evade these hawks, and so he never even thought of it as a concern, but Jade was afraid that she might not be able to out-hop them.
Here’s the problem: Jade never told Julius that she did not like the home they lived in. She didn’t want to seem unappreciative of the home he had worked hard to create for them, because she was scared that if she was honest about it, he might get upset and kick her out. If that happened, she would be single again, and have to go back to being criticized and feeling like a failure.
Jade felt that she was trapped between two devastating choices: Either facing the chance of being different than those around her (single again) and getting criticized for it, or facing the chance of getting eaten by a hawk.
Irrationally, she feared criticism so much that she decided to stay silent and take her chances with the hawks. When someone cares so much about what a crowd thinks of them that they ignore their own intuition, it can have dire consequences.
Jade had a friend, Darwin, who lived in a place that was much safer — away from where predators hang out. She began searching for carrots near Darwin’s place more often, and having dinner at his place, as she felt safer there. She also began to feel guilty for leaving Julius so often, and worried that if word got around about how much time she was spending with Darwin, the others would question her integrity.
At the same time, Julius started to become suspicious of Jade. He noticed that she would spend less and less time with him, or at their home. He felt uneasy in the relationship, and wanted to bring it up with her, but was scared that it could push her even further away.
If he lost her, he would have to go back to being single again, and would have to deal with the criticism of those around him. And so, he swept it under the rug, and kept acting like nothing was wrong. Inside, though, the stress was eating away at him.
In an attempt to please everyone, Jade and Julius simply ended up hurting themselves.
In the beginning of a relationship, it can be very easy to be polite to try to avoid conflicts. We can act on our best behavior, and mask our true needs and desires. When a partner does something we don’t like, we can say to ourselves, “oh, I didn’t like that, but I guess it wasn’t a huge deal, so I’ll just keep quiet and let it slide this once.”
The problem with this line of thinking is that it’s never just temporary. If your partner acts a certain way now, there’s a good chance that this is always the way they are going to act. If you initially see someone once a week for a short time, it’s easy to overlook these things — but what happens when you have to witness this behavior every day for the rest of your life? What happens when you have to make joint decisions between the two of you on topics that you sense you might have wildly different perspectives on?
While stargazing one evening, Jade finally gathered the courage to bring up her fears to Julius. As it turned out, her worst fears were overblown. Julius completely understood her need to get away from the hawks, and he said that he wished she’d said something much earlier. They decided to start constructing a new home in a safer location, and also made a pact to bring up future issues right away so that they don’t linger under the surface and drive them apart.
Learning to express your needs openly and honestly is a vital element in creating a happy relationship for the long-term. It’s extremely counter-intuitive, but in order to keep a relationship healthy, we need to be willing to face conflicts head on.
By expressing our needs as they arise, it prevents small issues from building up and compounding into major ones. Additionally, it allows us to assess whether or not the partner we’ve chosen is actually compatible with us as early as possible, rather than just delaying the tough questions out of fear of discovering something we won’t like. It will always come up in time.
Through doing the tough work of accepting that it’s okay for a relationship to end if either partner is unhappy, it allows us to be open and honest about how to fix it.