When Adam and I started dating I was 22. He was my first and only boyfriend. While 22 is still young, by that point in my life I had witnessed many dating relationships, most of which were outstanding examples of love. But every now and then I’d encounter a “needy” couple; the girlfriend who would crash guys night, the boyfriend who’d send 25 texts to his girlfriend checking in on her lunch with friends, or the girlfriend who didn’t want her man to leave her side while she was studying because it just wouldn’t be fair for him to have fun since she couldn’t go out.
I vowed to myself that when the time came, I wouldn’t be a needy girlfriend. I wanted to let my guy still have fun with friends. I wanted him to know that I didn’t need him by my side every waking moment of the day, that there were plenty of things I could handle on my own. I wanted him to know that I was my own woman, that I was tough and not weak, that if I was with him it was because I wanted to be and not because I needed his help or self-validation from being in a relationship.
Since Adam and I had a long distance relationship until only a few months before our wedding, my “Miss Independent” mindset stayed alive during that time. It has taken these early years of my marriage to realize more and more that a healthy-level of need is a good and necessary ingredient of a thriving relationship.
Take a few weeks ago for example. Our kids had been sick with stomach bugs the previous two days and now it was my turn. Adam was able to stay home from work to care for our kids who were still recovering and allow me to rest. He planned to first workout at the gym, then head in to the office at 3 pm, and then prepare for an evening meeting. He came in our bedroom a half-hour before he was to leave and said that if I wanted, he could skip working out and not leave until 4 pm.
I was so torn. I wanted him to stay so badly, to allow me more time to rest before getting up to be with the kids. But my “Miss Independent” complex was also kicking in, making me think I was tough and I could do it. I didn’t want Adam to sacrifice going to the gym. I didn’t want to be a burden or seem needy.
I lay there for a few minutes before I finally said, “I’d like you to stay home.” It was a big step for me to admit I needed him in that moment. In fact, we both talked about it later and agreed it was a good moment for our relationship.
The truth is, I do need Adam for so many things, but sometimes it’s just hard for me to admit it. When we were dating I needed his support while I lived in a lonely city. I needed his encouragement and confidence to worry less and trust in God more. I even needed him to make the four-hour trip to help me clean my apartment before moving to a new place. Now that we’re married, I continue to need his reminder to worry less. I need his confidence in me that yes, I am a good mother. I need his laidback attitude and teasing smile. I need his encouragement to get out more and to take time for myself. I need his words of affirmation to not give up on my exercise routine. I need him to pray for me and for our children. I need him to get up with our son, Gabriel, in the middle of the night because I’ve already been up with Cecilia. And of course I need him to change Cecilia’s first diaper in the morning.
As I’ve come to realize it’s okay for me to need Adam, not like those needy girlfriends I observed when I was 22, but as part of a team—the way you need your other half. I’ve also learned that it’s a two-way street. Adam needs me, too, and not just so that he has food to eat and clean clothes to wear. He needs me there to encourage him, gently challenge his ideas, and just love him. He needs me to be his helpmate, as I do him. As we grow deeper in love with each passing year, we also rely more and more on one another and trust each other with our needs and desires. We continue to become more intimately one.