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Autonomy & Intimacy as "Tender" Needs

Autonomy and intimacy are two needs that can often appear to be in conflict.  One person may seem to be asking for more closeness while the other is asking for more space.  It's not really true that one person values more or less intimacy or more or less autonomy than another.  What's true is that each person relates to these needs differently.

If you are consistently asking for more space and autonomy, it's probably not that you value it more, but rather that you have a more tenuous connection with your ability to make choices freely.  You have likely had formative experiences in which you experienced a lot of pressure to behave in particular ways.  You are likely more susceptible to making choices out of obligation, duty, fear of hurting someone's feelings, or fear of rejection.  Given this, you are more likely to hear requests as demands.  You might hear yourself say things like "People demand so much of me", or "My partner is always so demanding". What works well for you is when someone makes a request of you and is very clear that they are okay if you say no.

On the other hand, if you say you value intimacy more, it's likely that your connection to your own sense of being loved and feeling close is more tenuous.  You might express this to your partner and loved ones in these ways, "It doesn't seem like you really want me to be there."  " I want us to be closer."  "Do you really love me??"  What works well for you are frequent invitations to be included and reassurance that you are loved and wanted.

The edict "Do unto to others as you would like them to do unto you" can create a lot of havoc when you and your partner hold these different positions.  It can be difficult to remember that to one person giving lots of space may seem respectful, but to another it can be perceived as cold indifference.  Just as giving lots of invitations and reassurance is heartwarming to one person, and a pressure cooker to another.

This kind of tenuous relationship to a need is likely to be at the heart of any repetitive conflict.  When you can gain clarity and acceptance regarding that tenderness, you will naturally want to contribute to healing by offering extra attention and consideration regarding that particular need.

Practice
Take a moment and reflect on your own relationship.  Do you need more support in your sense of autonomy or your sense of intimacy?  Have you let your partner know what support looks like for you?

 

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Supporting Your Partner's Autonomy
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Asking for Respect


1 Response

  1. Feb 25, 2018
    Pam in Minnesota

    LaShelle, wow, this was so good! I have always wondered about whether some needs are more important to some people but what you say here really rings true for me. Thank you!

    By the way, I list your site on my NVC resources list that I give out to anyone who might be interested, and I just found your "Jackal Dictionary". That is amazing. I'm going to add it to my list.

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