When I was asked to post an excerpt from “Falling in October,” it was a challenge to choose just one passage to represent the spectrum of the entire book. The elements are diverse and fascinating. It’s a memoir, except it’s mostly about a time to come.
After the shattering of a midlife divorce, how does a woman feel when her faith in finding love again is joyfully renewed? As she envisions a new life, what does she secretly write to the man she’s hoping to meet? Many things. She shares how the past has chiseled her into the woman she has become. She offers her deepest thoughts of wisdom, learned from the pain of failed love. Her fondest dreams of romance, once forgotten, revel in passionate phrases and gentle poetry. She pours herself into a journal with the intense knowing that someday he will read every word. So, you see, just one piece of her soul can’t be easily extracted for show. These few lines unveil only a small glimpse of her heart…
From Chapter 5: EXPECTATIONS
When the late author Catherine Marshall was praying about whether to remarry after several years of widowhood, she was consumed with the burden of needs she would be placing on this new man and wondered if he could handle it. Then she felt God speak to her heart, “Do you not realize that my way would be to send you a man not just to satisfy your own needs, but because he has gigantic needs himself?” (Light in My Darkest Night, Catherine Marshall, 1984.)
The whole thing turned around when she realized that not only was the man being sent to her, but she was being sent to him. He was raising several children alone, and at least some of his need for a wife was blatantly obvious. But imagine what internal needs that created in him. In her own way, Catherine was trying to be unselfish for not imposing herself on his already full life, but once she turned her eyes to his needs, her unselfish love was primed to meet them.
My needs are chiefly related to affection and communication, and that’s where you’ll find me camped. I would call those the basics of life—the air and water of a relationship. For me, they are emotional needs that I feel are essential to the survival of a relationship, not just expectations with a selfish or entertainment value. But because I consider them needs rather than just wants, I do tend to expect attention to be given to those areas. What entails a need is as individual as a fingerprint for each person. That’s why you will need to learn mine and I will need to learn yours. Assumption and presumption will be our worst deterrents if that’s what we depend on for insight.
The closer you get to me, the more you will see and understand my needs. But that also means that I have to be transparent if I want my needs met. For both sides, it involves the ultimate emotional risk, because you can’t have total intimacy without total vulnerability. I’ve heard it said that the price of sensitivity is sensitivity. It takes baring your own soul to get inside the soul of another. That can be as painful as scraping off the top layer of your skin. Even after the pain of the wound, just exposing it to the circulation of air around you is excruciating.
But, aside from needs (plural), there is the question of need (singular). Is it wrong or does it even just shout “Clingy!” to need another person? What does it mean for me to say, “I need you”? And should I? Does it send a dreaded chill up your spine?
If you start touching my heartstrings and I melt, once any understandable need for you starts seeping out, there’s a part of me that wants to make sure I’m not rejected and made a fool for being seen as needy. I don’t want you to think you got more than you bargained for by opening the Pandora’s Box of my emotions. Or…should I be worried that some ambitious knight might come along and actually take on my every need, slay the dragon and save me from the tower? What would I do then? Be so utterly dazed that I couldn’t think straight anymore? Probably. And forever taken by him. Alas, I faint to think of that happening!
Some songs and romantic writings whine need with the superlative theme of “If I don’t have you, I will die,” as if another person is clinically critical to a heart continuing to beat. So by need, that’s not what I mean, although intentional over-emphasis can be effectively used to make a creative point. But, whatever my needs (plural) are, it’s only natural that the man I can depend on to be there for me is the one I will comfortable sharing them with.
Does love you, want you, need you constitute a necessary trio to complete a relationship? I think so. Is need even a viable part of the equation? I believe it is. I see them as progressive elements when a romantic relationship reaches the height of what a relationship is supposed to be:
To love you in the romantic sense is to have deep, affectionate and intimate feelings that cause me to give of myself completely to you.
To want you is to experience that ache of craving everything about you. It’s not just desiring you sexually, but longing to close any distance and be connected with you emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Not just in the times of heightened senses, but with an underlying, consistent longing.
To need you is to reach such a level of love and emotional attachment that you are not easily interchangeable with just anyone. Need is a more emphatic version of want. Dictionaries even list need as a synonym for want. But there’s a difference between just desiring someone and finding that he is so important to you that he is necessary. To be in need is to have a deficiency; so if I need you, that means my life is deficient without you. I have determined that you are supremely important to me, so I have allowed you to become such a vital part of my life that you are emotionally irreplaceable. You have become indispensable and your withdrawal from my life would cause great upheaval.
When these three work together, they are all just equal but distinct aspects of the bigger picture of love working in its triple totality. I love you, you love me. I want you, you want me. I need you, you need me. We express what we feel for each other, openly and without reservation. We are both giving out. And if there is a moment when I reach out to you for some part of it, you give to me. If you reach out to me for more, I give to you. There’s nothing profound there, but if we actually lived it, we would have the greatest love imaginable.
“Falling in October” is available in all e-book formats and paperback. Amazon has it here
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