Text: Dineo Tsamela
Photography: Supplied

I recently had a conversation with friends around needs in a romantic relationship and it made me interrogate why I felt the way I felt about expressing my needs to a romantic partner.

I’ll admit that I struggle with opening up about my needs. I have been single for over three years and in that time I have barely had any intimate interactions.

I’m also very set in my schedule: I do what I want, when I want and – apart from my concerned mother and work – I don’t report to anyone.

In as much as I’m self sufficient, I do want a relationship. I want someone who constantly wants to unearth a better version of themselves in their work, politics and in their journey of self awareness. This can come across as me being demanding, or wanting too much but I’m surrounded by people like this -- regression is NOT an option.

I also desire intimacy and deep connection in equal measure. I want a relationship where I am loved and respected as both an emotional and sexual being. I expect reciprocity, consistency, stability and peace. I want a safe space. I want to be sure that my partner also has the same and both of us can open up about how we need to be loved.

Wanting all of this is all good and well, but there’s always the possibility that the person on the other side might reject or hurt you, or both. Keeping things to yourself makes it seem easier to manage the risk of rejection.

But holding back on expressing your feelings might also end up with you inadvertently resenting the person you’re trying to establish something with because you're sitting on important issues.

On top of all this, you still have to struggle with your sense of deserving, because it also contributes to how fiercely you keep yourself guarded. Sometimes we won’t speak out because we do not feel worthy of the love we want or feel we deserve so we let shady behaviour slide.

When you first start dating, it’s easy to get the basic things out of the way (sometimes). For instance, I’m a divorcee, I have a child. These are things I am okay sharing, because I think they’re important to disclose upfront.

Being a single mom, questions around the relationship I have with my son’s father are bound to come up. I’m okay addressing these, too.

But that still doesn’t make communicating all my needs any easier.

I know it’s unrealistic to expect one person to fulfill all my needs (which is why compromise plays a big role) but that’s a topic for another day.

I know that it’s important to be upfront and honest about my needs, preferences and interests – even if it means things don’t work out. It would save us all time, energy and money (dating and condoms are damn expensive).

But, this isn’t easy.

Hopefully when the time comes to put this realisation into action, I’ll be able to express myself freely.