Jennifer Lehr, MFT looks at the problem with “sucking it up” in relationships. Positive connections and inner peace will more likely come from learning that it’s ok to ask for what you need.
We all have emotional survival strategies that do not work. A common one is ‘going it alone,’ ‘sucking it up,’ or ‘toughing it out.’ We put our heads down, close our eyes and push forward, as if we are in a blizzard miles from home, and no one is with us. We aren’t even aware of what we are doing. We’ve adapted. We are survivors. We will make it. But it is lonely and it isn’t fun. I’ve been in this mindset and situation many times in my life. I’ve seen many of my friends do this as well. While it is a great ability to have if there aren’t any resources, often that is not what is going on. Too often we aren’t saying to ourselves, to our partner, to our life – I need more.
Why is this? Why do we not ask for support when we need it? Why do we accept too little? Why do we tough it out instead?
In relationships we often do not ask for more, because we don’t know how to get our partner to see our needs. Maybe we’ve tried and it hasn’t gone well. Maybe our partner is caught in his or her own struggle and isn’t available. Maybe ‘keeping the peace,’ has become more important than ‘bridging the gap.’ Maybe we are more afraid of being alone than we are of ‘toughing it out.’
Often it is our own generous natures that plays a role in our ‘toughing it out.’ We’ve learned to take care of ourselves and we learned to take care of non-nurturing others and not put that person out. Perhaps our childhoods were such that we had to take care of ourselves emotionally. We never learned what a reciprocal and supportive relationship looks like. What we learned was to ‘not rock the boat.’ This habit pattern has been wired into our brain. We trudge forward, only to realize later that we are starving and need more.
How do we change this?
• Trust the importance of asking for what you need. Although it may create a strain in the relationship, it is also what will allow it to move forward. If the relationship breaks, then there is a deeper problem present.
• Trust that there is support and that you can access it.
• Be willing to let go of situations that are not nourishing.
• Know that love is not about sacrifice and going it alone. Love is about supporting each other on our journey to wholeness.
These kinds of changes are scary. What if we lose the person we need? What if the support we want isn’t possible in this particular relationship? What if we open up a messy conversation or bunch of feelings?
Asking for what you need takes courage. Relating is challenging. Our old wounds are sure to be activated. Yet, if the other person is 100% committed to making this relationship the best it can be (and nobody deserves anything less) these challenges can be worked out. They won’t break the relationship. They will ultimately make it more connected, more supportive and stronger.