Our Relationship Has Hit a Wall; How Do I Get My Needs Met?

I am a 41-year-old lesbian who came out later in life. While I was married, I met a woman and fell in love. After 16 years of marriage to a man, I divorced and decided to explore my relationship with this woman. After four years together, we have hit a wall. We still live in separate places, she is not happy with her career, and her parents live nine hours away and constantly need assistance with living their lives. Her father had a heart attack and was in a coma with brain damage four years ago, and her mom has had two hip surgeries and reconstructive foot surgery all in the past year! They live all alone in a remote area, and my girlfriend feels like she is responsible for caring for them. Obviously, this has affected our relationship. I love her very much, but it just doesn't seem like we can take that next step in our relationship due to everything that is going on. How do I support my girlfriend, preserve our relationship, and still not lose sight of what I want and need? —Sad and Dissatisfied
Dear Sad and Dissatisfied,

It sounds like you are in a very frustrating, even painful, place in your relationship right now. While all relationships go through ebbs and flows with one partner’s needs taking up more space than the other’s at certain points, it sounds like your girlfriend’s role as caretaker to aging parents has been a significant factor throughout most, or even all, of your relationship.

I find myself feeling curious about if/how you and your girlfriend are communicating about the relationship—where it is currently, where it is going, what you each want from it, and how to not lose sight of the relationship despite other very real and stressful factors. Does your girlfriend know how you are feeling or are you keeping it to yourself and trying to be supportive of her needs? A happy, healthy relationship requires not only being supportive of your partner’s needs but also being able to state your own needs.

A happy, healthy relationship requires not only being supportive of your partner’s needs but also being able to state your own needs.

If you have had conversations with your partner about your needs and wants in the relationship and still don’t feel like they are being addressed, it might be time to think about seeking some couples therapy. Sometimes couples find themselves having the same conversations over and over again and never moving any closer to resolution. When this is the case, it can be tremendously helpful to have the support of a therapist to help move the conversation forward.

If you have not expressed your feelings about the relationship and your unmet needs, it sounds like it is time to do so. Sharing yourself in this way might really deepen the intimacy in your relationship. It might lead to other conversations that will draw you closer together. If raising your needs does lead to some degree of conflict, the process of working through it could ultimately foster a deeper connection.

I hope you will give yourself permission to state your needs in the relationship. Whether it is for the first time or whether it means saying, “Look, we haven’t been able to resolve this on our own, so let’s have a therapist partner with us to figure this out,” you deserve to be heard and valued in the relationship, too.

Best wishes,

Sarah

Sarah Noel
Sarah Noel, MS, LMHC is a licensed psychotherapist living and working in Brooklyn, New York. She specializes in working with people who are struggling through depression, anxiety, trauma, and major life transitions. She approaches her work from a person-centered perspective, always acknowledging the people she works with as experts on themselves. She is honored and humbled on a daily basis to be able to partner with people at such critical points in their unique journeys.
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  • Randee

    Randee

    June 5th, 2015 at 2:01 PM

    there will be times in every relationship where you have to put your own needs to the side and focus on your partner. It can be hard because we all need to be taken care for and feel loved, but you have to be able to reciprocate this too. This is a time when she really needs you and may be giving everything that she has to put one foot in front of the other every day.

  • andrew

    andrew

    June 6th, 2015 at 9:05 AM

    Everyone will have ups and downs in their lives. I don’t think that this is at all uncommon or something that is unique to just you.

  • Hollis

    Hollis

    June 8th, 2015 at 3:21 PM

    So maybe this is the time to cut your losses and go. It sounds like this is what you are looking for the justification to do, and I don’t think that there is any reader who will tell you that you have to stay in something that is making you unhappy. Now whether or not that is being selfish, that is up to you to determine. But it is never going to make you happy to be in a relationship where you feel that you always have to do all of the giving and the other partner is doing all of the taking. There has to be some way to balance it out, and that may not be able to happen all of the time but there has to be an effort to achieve that.

  • John D

    John D

    June 11th, 2015 at 2:38 PM

    So why continue to live in the cycle that there has to be someone else to help you meet your needs?

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