I Can’t Give You What I Don’t Have

Life is funny sometimes.  We want, or need something, and we keep trying to get it, often from a place, or person that doesn’t have it to give.  That’s sounds a little confusing and it is supposed to sound confusing because it really doesn’t make sense!

Allow me to clarify my point.  I really want lobster for dinner, so if I go to Burger King and order lobster, I’m going to be disappointed.  They don’t sell lobster; it isn’t on their menu.  I can insist they let me order lobster, but they still won’t have it.  Or I go a furniture store to buy a new washing machine.  What do you mean they don’t sell appliances!  I need a new washing machine and all you can sell me is a sofa?  As you read these examples, I hope they seem silly because they are.  And yet, we do the same thing to people in our life all the time, but it doesn’t seem silly, it seems maddening!

Here’s an illustration:  you meet someone who appears to be perfect for you.  They are most everything you have wanted in a partner except for 1 ‘minor’ issue.  You love spontaneity and they want everything planned ahead because sudden changes are hard for them.  Now on the surface, this doesn’t seem like a big deal.  You know they will learn to enjoy being spontaneous and they know you will learn to love planning ahead even though those things aren’t really part of who you both are naturally.  Fast forward a few years down the road and you often find two very unhappy people.

Although in most ways these people started out mostly perfect for each other, each of them assumed that the other could change to be more like them in that one very important way, spontaneous vs pre-planned.  They both underestimated what the other could give them.  They both failed to recognize the other simply doesn’t possess that way of being, and they can’t give what they don’t have!

These people truly love each other and want to make the other happy, but if neither of them (both actually) can compromise to meet their needs as well as the other person’s needs, an otherwise great relationship becomes filled with disappointment and recriminations and we stop looking at what is good because we become consumed with what is wrong for us! And if you think about it, this is no different than the example of ordering a lobster dinner at Burger King, you can’t get it if it is not available at that place or with that person.

When are in relationships, or entering relationships, it is important to recognize what we truly need and then see if the other person is able to provide that.  They need to be responsible for doing that also and we both need to be very honest and communicate the things we need/desire that are important and maybe not negotiable.  We also need to be willing to compromise to help meet those needs part of time and understand and accept it’s the best our partner has to give.

This is such a common issue in relationship counseling, that I had to talk about it. Hopefully this can help people be more aware and maybe find ways to compromise or work around it and keep an otherwise good relationship good. It is important to understand that none of us can give what we don’t have to give, no matter how much we want to!

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