I exist with a few (okay more than a few) dysfunctional tendencies when in relationships.
That’s not to imply I have not had healthy moments when in relationships. However, there are certainly some underlying notions that have emerged which may not be the most productive. One of these happens to be minimizing emotional wants and needs when in romantic relationships.
A truly supportive and loving partner, will not (and should not) expect you to minimize your emotional wants and needs, but rather, will uplift you and ensure your wants and needs are met to the best of their abilities.
That being said, if you are a little suspicious that you may be minimizing your own emotional wants and needs with your current partner then keeping reading for 4 signs you may be minimizing your emotional wants and needs in relationships.
Disclaimer: The content within this post is for information purposes only and is not a substitute for talking to a health professional or a counsellor. The content is also not a substitute if you are a victim of domestic abuse or violence. If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse or violence, visit endingviolencecanada.org for a list of service providers across Canada.
1. Chances are, you’ve been minimizing for a while!
British psychologist John Bowlby, a pioneer of attachment theory, instilled his belief that our formative early years when we are developing relationships with our caregivers, is when we experience significant growth in how we bond to others. This growth is what we carry with us into subsequent stages throughout our lives.
If you suspect you may be minimizing your emotional wants and needs in your adult relationships, start by reflecting on your childhood. It’s where most of our concerns in adulthood tend to stem from. Thanks mom and dad.
As a youngster, my mom was consistently keeping up with the demands as a single parent to two kids. My dad had a short temper, often leaving me feeling like I had to walk on eggshells when with him for fear of what I said or did might set him off.
I now realize that in an effort to minimize the conflict potentially bubbling up from my dad and to keep things easy for my mom, I began to make myself emotionally smaller in order to lessen my chances of “being a burden” to my parents.
Despite no longer needing to make myself emotionally smaller, somewhere in my unconscious mind I continue to do so as an adult with my romantic partners.
A question that may help you amidst your self-exploration is:
“As a child, what was your sense of emotional needs versus your parent’s reactions?”
Were you inclined to behave a certain way as a child in order to ensure your wants and needs were met by caregivers? What was the primary way in which you received love as a child – were your parents expressive in how they showed you affection, or were you made to jump through hoops in order to receive love?
Once you’ve reflected, see if you can connect similar dots between your childhood and adult relationships.
2. You Play a Metaphorical Game of Jenga in your Relationships
Many of us find ourselves playing a metaphorical game of Jenga in our relationships. Sometimes we find the perfect spot for our blocks while building the tower. Other times, we push (force?) the block into a spot where it doesn’t belong, but try to make it fit anyways without having the tower fall to the ground. Jenga AKA stress level 9000, folks.
Perhaps it’s to avoid an argument, or to avoid that nagging feeling inside of you that what is taking place is not lining up with your core beliefs and/or boundaries. Whatever the case may be, to keep things running smoothly with your boo thang, you suppress your own wants and needs in an effort to make things work. You may even conform to the wants and needs of your partner for the sake of keeping the peace.
Playing Jenga, can also look like tolerating where you’ve been placed on your partner’s priority list. You know in your heart of hearts, your bae is your numero uno priority, you’re in it to win it. However, questions float through your head as to where you stand with your partner on their list.
It’s healthy to be supportive of your partner’s wants, needs and priorities. It’s when you forgo or downplay your wants and needs in order to be supportive of someone else’s, or you force things to work, that could be a potential sign of minimizing.
3. You downplay conflict
Conflict in relationships can be healthy and productive, and can bring two people closer together amidst a disagreement. Personally, I’m not a fan of conflict and it can be quite hard for me to express points of conflict within a relationship for fear of rocking the metaphorical boat. On occasion, it goes so far as believing if I bring up a point of conflict, my partner will break up with me.
Rather than bring up points of conflict, I tend to suppress them and tolerate them.
It’s easy for an outsider looking in to say:
“Just communicate your needs, problems or points of conflict to your partner”.
However, it’s not always an easy task for someone to communicate that something is bothering them, especially if it has been engrained in them since childhood to shy away from expressing their wants and needs.
When you are not used to expressing your emotional wants and needs in healthy, productive ways, you may feel a sense of guilt when eventually you choose to do so. You may even chastise yourself for having brought them up in the first place (as I sometimes do).
Try and catch it if you find yourself saying such phrases as “this wasn’t worth bringing up”, “I’m creating problems that aren’t there”, and “I’m only making things more difficult”. Demonstrating self-compassion when attempting to express your emotional wants and needs can create a sense of safety and reassurance within oneself.
4. Your internal struggles manifest themselves externally in unhealthy ways
We all know what happens when you add candy pop rocks to Coca-Cola – it fizzes up and explodes!
A similar process can occur when we continually disallow our emotional wants and needs to be met. Eventually, we can start to see them erupt externally in unhealthy, unproductive ways.
I, like a lot of people, sometimes get upset over little things of no significance when in a relationship. In reality, these insignificant issues tend to add up to larger unconscious issues and points of conflict that haven’t been addressed. As a result, you may begin to resent your partner, or display passive-aggressive behaviors.
If you feel like you may be minimizing your emotional wants and needs in your current relationship, it’s important to communicate this to your partner. If therapy is an accessible resource to you, consider seeking guidance from a health professional, prior to having the discussion with your partner. Holding a safe space to have these discussions, whether it’s with a therapist or your partner, while feeling supported and/or loved is especially important.