In his book The Eden Project: In Search of the Magical Other, Jungian psychologist, James Hollis, relates his observation that people enter into relationships wanting their partner to fill a personal need that is impossible to fill. This need differs in nature from person to person, but it relates to a belief that we need to occupy some special space in our partner’s world (our Garden of Eden). A common example among my generation and the generations that followed us: the need to be the center of your partner’s world all or most of the time.
There was a time when we sat on this throne. Our partner was our primary care giver (PCG) and we enjoyed their constant and immediate attention to our needs. We are dethroned around age two when we start to hear more often “Mommy is busy right now” or “Daddy is on the phone.” The dreaded word “no” becomes more common in the PCG’s response to us.
We demand verbally and through our behavior to be returned to our throne, to the center or our PCG’s world. If our PCG responds with measured but firm care for our needs, we learn that our PCG has needs too. We don’t need to be the center of their world all the time. We can take care of ourselves. If our PCG reacts to these demands by giving in, or by pushing us away, we may never get through this stage of development. We may lug this need into every relationship we encounter.
If our future partner’s could speak as a group, it would sound like this:
- “He is never satisfied.”
- “I have to pay attention to her every moment.”
- “It’s always about him.”
- “It’s like my needs don’t exist.”
The partner puts up with this because they have a different Eden Project. Their quest is to gain their partner’s constant approval or to keep their partner from ever being upset or hurt, another impossible goal.
Wouldn’t anyone want to be the center of their partner’s world? To answer this, imagine your partner’s world as a theatrical play. All their relationships are represented by characters in the play: friends, family, children, coworkers. Now imagine yourself as the leading character of their play. Your partner is relegated to a supporting role in their own life.
The unrealistic needs that we drag into our relationships are the source of much distress and failed relationships. The partners break up and go off in search of a new partner who can fill their need.
After all, wouldn’t anyone want what we want?
Less than Helpful Advice
When you hear yourself saying or thinking things such as “if he loved me, he would … ” or “she just doesn’t care enough… ,” you may be expressing an unrealistic need, an Eden Project. If you want a successful relationship, you may have to give that up. It will be hard. You have wanted this since you were two.