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Photography credit Alice Wheeler (@ialw_photography)


21 December 2023

Fulfilling Our Needs and Filling Our Cup


Have you ever found yourself still fixated on that special someone many months after a breakup? Whether it's an ex from a serious relationship, or someone you just casually dated for months without the full commitment, this can be an incredibly frustrating experience. You can't seem to stop thinking about them, and you begin to believe that they must have indeed been the missing piece from your life. But here's the truth: they weren't. This realisation is a lesson I've had the privilege of learning from my fabulously gruff Australian therapist, so I can't take credit for it.

Our major needs aren't what you might typically associate with what you're looking for in a partner. It's not merely about sharing the same taste in books, films and music, growing up in the same London borough, or both being keen yoga enthusiasts. Instead, these major needs  trace back to how we've formed past relationships, both platonic and romantic, and what we value in those connections today. They're akin to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, encompassing aspects such as security, the fulfilment of creative and competitive potential, comfort, spontaneity, and passion. Though we all have the innate ability to meet our core necessities, we paradoxically question whether we can actually satisfy these desires ourselves.

Take for example, our desire for adventure. As humans, we yearn for adventure, but there's a real possibility, that like me, you’ve never trusted your own ability to fulfil this desire by yourself. Chances are, someone from your past, perhaps an ex-partner or situationship, flawlessly satisfied this major need. They whisked you away to new places, urging you to try new things, whilst introducing you to a new circle of friends you may well now class as your own. However, when that person exits your life, you may suddenly feel a void in having that major need met. There is a profound deficit which we feel deeply may be why so many of us fall into the cycle of serial monogamy. It can be easier to jump from partner to partner than confront the idea of being stuck in this void. This is why we often fixate on someone who used to be a central part of our lives. We associate them with fulfilling these major needs that we now find ourselves deprived of, and we don’t believe we can do it without them. 

The good news? None of us are truly stuck in this place. We can fulfil many of these needs ourselves in a deeply satisfying way. Don't get me wrong, attachment and connection are still crucial; as humans, we're hardwired for intimacy and connection, and life loses some of its lustre without it. However, excessive reliance on someone else to meet our major needs can lead us  down the path towards codependency. So, when you next find yourself missing someone from your past, ask yourself: is it really them you miss, or is it the major needs they once satisfied? Sometimes, that person can be truly special to us, enhancing the beauty of our existing lives with their unique qualities. After all, human connection is the thread that weaves the tapestry of our lives, making what was already beautiful even more so. Nevertheless, there are times when we miss not the person, but the way they made us feel. In such moments, what should we do?

Identify the aspects of your life that once made you happy and continue to do so. If it's that sense of challenge and adventure you're missing, try something new. Tune into the elements of your life that provide long-term fulfilment and lean into them. The reassuring part of experiencing a void when someone is no longer in our lives, is that our circumstances are ever evolving. Whenever you're left with a sense of lacking the vital fulfilment once provided by someone, it may seem as if your emotional cup is drained. Nevertheless, I find it pretty comforting to remind myself that this emptiness is transient. There will be moments when our cup is emptier than others, but soon after it's been depleted, it begins to replenish. The crucial takeaway is that we don't perpetually require someone else to refill it for us. We possess the ability to replenish it ourselves, not entirely, but sufficiently to ensure it's not left completely vacant. As independent people, we have immanent characteristics and strengths that enable us to fulfil our own vital requirements. Yet, this is not to say that a supportive, enriching relationship can greatly enhance overall happiness. This can fill gaps we did not even realise were lacking.When we find someone who compliments our life in such a way, it is important we appreciate that relationship for what it is. 

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