July 28, 2020 by Dymphna

T-Bomb: The magical third option

Truth Bomb Tuesday: This is how to care for others without losing yourself.

I’ve been having this conversation a lot lately, so there’s a point I want to make about caring for other people’s needs.

And this is probably timely because I know the whole Covid story is pushing people. It’s taking a lot of people close to their edge, particularly our poor cousins in Victoria.

My heart goes out to everyone. These are difficult times. No doubt about that.

But I want to say something about caring for others while still caring for yourself.

So think about what happens when someone presents you with a need.

So it might be something like, “I need to talk to someone about my break up.”

Or, “I need someone to cook me dinner because I’m sick.”

Or, “I need you to spend less time out with the girls and more time home with the kids.

Now I think the mistake most people make is that think there’s only two choices here:

They can ‘meet’ the need.

Or they can ‘deny’ the need.

So they can either go along with the request in one way or another – they can have a long chat about the ex, or they can make them dinner or whatever.

Or they can deny the need. They can push back and say, “Get over it. He’s not worth it.” Or, “Don’t ask me to make dinner. Don’t you know how busy I am?” Or, “I need my time with the girls. Don’t be such a manbaby.”

These ‘denials’ can seem a little forceful because if people feel like there’s only two options, then they’re backed into a corner – they either give in, meet the need and do something they don’t want to do, or they push back.

But there aren’t two options. There’s a third option.

You can meet the need, deny the need, or you can care for the need.

Caring for the need is something of a middle way here.

When you care for the need, you acknowledge it, you feel compassion for it, but you don’t have to actually do anything to meet it.

Sometimes it might actually be enough to acknowledge what they need means to them.

“I can hear that you need to talk to someone about this. I can see you’re really churned up about it. It must be hard.”

Or, “I know what it’s like to be sick. You really do just want someone to care for you. I get that.”

You can care for someone without doing what they’re asking you to do. You care can care for someone by caring for their needs. By caring about their needs.

But it’s another step again to decide to actually meet them yourself.

So this would be my advice. If there is someone in your life who is asking a bit of you right now – if they’re leaning into you and you just don’t feel like you can meet their needs yourself without sacrificing a bit of your own health and well-being – remember there’s a third option.

Care for their needs. Acknowledge them. Validate them. Even strategize with the other person about how to meet them.

But know that it’s not your responsibility to actually meet them unless you decide it is.

Just remember there’s some useful territory – a bit of space – between meeting and denying.

And your own needs are as important as any.