There are two ways of asking for what you want; you can be broad, or you can be precise. It’s possible to be too broad or too precise.
Let’s say you’ve been together for years and you have become vaguely dissatisfied. Nothing really bad has happened between you; but nothing exciting has happened, either. One year goes by after another and it’s the same thing. The fire’s gone out, the passion is quenched. You’re feeling taken for granted. You could complain; but what could you say? He may not know what you’re talking about. He may not know what to do about it. Your dissatisfaction is pretty vague.
So, you sharpen your point and be specific. You use the rupture ratio in an earlier post and identify what could make you feel warmer towards your partner and what makes you go cold. You come up with some specific things and complain about them directly. “You never bring me flowers, anymore… You never talk about how you feel… You never thank me for all the things I do for you…” And so on.
That’s getting pretty specific. It gives him something to work on, some concrete examples; and it gives you a solid standard so that you can measure progress or stagnation. If you have never operationalized your dissatisfaction in this way, you should do so, if only so you can clarify what it is you want. But, don’t confuse bringing flowers, talking about his feelings, and expressing gratitude with what you want. They are the symbols of what you want, not the actual thing.
Chances are, if he dutifully starts bringing you flowers, talks about his feelings, and thanks you for everything; you’ll be very happy that he listened to you. You’ll enjoy the flowers, learn a lot about his feelings, and know that he notices all the little favors you do for him. But there will be something missing. For one thing; you had to ask for those flowers, those feelings, and that gratitude. It’s not the same thing as when they come unexpected. But, furthermore: all the things you ask for don’t quite cover the dissatisfaction you feel. They are examples of your dissatisfaction, not the totality of it.
To better understand the phenomena of dissatisfaction or wanting, let’s say you’re hungry. Before you can actually eat, you must take this hunger and be more precise. What are you hungry for? When you have an image of just the thing that would satisfy your hunger, you know what to do. You go to your kitchen and make it. You must first transform a vague hunger into a concrete hunger for something in particular. This is why taking your broad complaint of dissatisfaction and turning it into a specific complaint of no flowers, no talking, and no gratitude is helpful.
But, let’s say you’re hungry and you start to imagine how beef bourguignon would be great right now. That’s pretty specific. The specificity directs you to find your recipe and assemble the necessary ingredients. If you don’t have any burgundy in your wine rack and you can be flexible, you settle for beef stew. But, to the extent that you crave beef bourguignon, nothing else will do.
When you cling to a specific solution to your problem, have a craving, in other words, you start to lose touch with reality. As you form a picture of yourself eating beef bourguignon, the rich browns, the pungent smells, the complex tastes become almost real to you. Your mouth waters. As you imagine yourself eating it, you’re an omnipotent, satiated hedonist. You leap over obstacles and evade frustration rather than settling for anything else. You replace uncertainty with certainty. You’re triumphant. This triumph is a form of magic. The original hunger is still there, there is only an illusion of success over it. You enact a childish view of what it means to be satisfied. You seem to prevail over your need for food.
The problem is, the more you crave beef bourguignon, the less you’ll be satisfied with anything else. You may not even enjoy the bourguignon, if you get it, because the actual dish can never compete with your fantasy of it, except for the fact that you can actually eat it.
Craving begins as a flight from wanting, but it makes the wanting all the more problematic. Craving steals your hunger and pre-empts it with a ready-made, uncompromisable solution. When the solution to hunger is a craving for something specific, it becomes more of a problem than hunger, itself.
The same thing happens if you cling to the idea that, if only he will bring you flowers, you’ll feel excited again. The flowers become greater than any actual flowers can match.
The point is, if you’re hungry, go ahead and imagine what will be good to eat. Look in your cupboards and see what you can prepare. If you don’t create a picture of what will satisfy your hunger, you could starve to death; but don’t get too attached to that picture, or you will waste away if you can’t get exactly what you want. In the same way, make concrete what you want from your relationship, but don’t get too attached to the forms of those wants. You can’t always get what you want. But, if you try sometimes; well, you might find, you get what you need.
This post was previously published on MEDIUM.COM.
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