Matt holds his partner, Trinity, who is crying because her closest friend is moving to a new city. “I’m glad you came to me,” Matt confides. “It feels good to be needed.” Trinity pulls away from him, screws up her face and replies, “Yech, I don’t want to need you!”
In many couple relationships, it’s okay to lean on your partner a bit, but for some couples, needing your partner crosses a line of independence. “Need” becomes a dirty word.
There are many reasons why you may shy away from becoming too reliant on your partner. You may have been taught as a child that needing someone indicates personal weakness, a lack of ability to take care of yourself. In the United States especially, self-reliance is fostered and even admired.
Another reason is that you may not want to need your partner too much because they may need you too much in return. Seeing a loved one fall apart, express feelings of overwhelm, or move into a state of despair may be uncomfortable for you. Perhaps you aren’t sure how to care for your partner when they are in a needing state.
But what if I told you that needing your partner and their needing you can be healthy, and even strengthen your connection? Needing and being needed is part of the yin and yang in relationships.
Yin and yang are the familiar concepts in Chinese medicine that refer generally to feminine and masculine energies. Yin energy represents softness, feeling and surrender. Yang energy represents hardness, thinking, and being assertive.
In relationships, yin actions tend to involve listening, receiving, and being supported by your partner. Yang actions involve speaking, initiating, and standing up for yourself and your partner. There is both yin and yang energy within us and you can use either energy depending on the task at hand.
When you and your partner balance these energies, you complement one another, and your relationship is harmonious. Lack of balance can have adverse consequences. For example, imagine that you are the partner who holds the mantle of being the responsible one, whether that involves paying bills on time, disciplining kids, or introducing sex, all of which use yang-based energy. How long can you sustain bearing these tasks while your loved one looks on passively?
You can likely see how fatigue and resentment can accrue for the partner who is primarily active and how disempowerment and hopelessness can take hold in the partner who mostly lacks engagement.
If yang energy dominates within your couplehood, aggression and argument are likely outcomes. If yin energy dominates, complacency steps in.
You and your partner can merge these energies by becoming interdependent. Interdependence involves being aware of your physical and emotional needs as well as the needs of your partner. You and your partner have space to maintain a sense of self while also giving room to seek each other out in times of need. In being interdependent, it becomes acceptable for you to need your partner and for them to need you.
By being aware of the yin and yang aspects of your relationship, you can strive for an ebb and flow which enables these energies to complement each other. As partners, you can offer the benefits of asserting and yielding, thinking, and feeling, and giving and receiving.
In doing so, you may decide to adopt the following interdependent principles:
I accept that there will be times I need my partner.
I make room for my partner to need me.
I can lean on my partner.
My partner knows they can lean on me.
When you’re willing to go to a place of vulnerability and your partner is likewise, you build trust in your relationship. You learn to count on your partner and, in turn, demonstrate that they can count on you, which balances yin and yang in relationships. When you are facing a stressful situation, your partner may engage their yang energy to actively support you. Being vulnerable means using your yin energy to receive their support.
It takes courage to open yourself so completely, with such consistency, to another human being. But by taking this risk, you can also find reward. The reward for needing and being needed is that you create a strong, secure bond with the most important person in your life. Together, you craft a sanctuary.
To create a space where you can give and receive freely, consider taking the following actions:
Be transparent with your partner. Keeping secrets and hiding from your partner may create an illusion that all is well. When you share your ups and downs with your partner, they can be an active presence in your life and help you navigate distressing situations.
Be approachable. Make time for your loved one and seek them out daily. Offer a welcoming facial expression and a caring tone of voice which says they matter. Minimize tech distractions by giving your partner your full attention.
Promote safety. Keep shared confidences between you. Avoid throwing your partner under the bus. Even if you are angry at your partner, speak to them respectfully. Attacks on your partner’s personality, interests, or values in the heat of an argument hurts them and you. They will be less likely to disclose their innermost thoughts and feelings with you, and you will have lost the trust of a treasured companion.
Express yourself. Drop the expectations that you must control your emotions and deal with problems alone. Remind yourself that there is strength in being vulnerable—that you are worthy of being nurtured and cared for in trying times and so is your partner.
For energy to flourish in your relationship, be receptive to needing your partner and be there when they need you. In doing so, like yin and yang, you can complement and bring balance to one another.
**By Beth O’Brien