Before recently signing up for a marathon, I consulted a friend of mine who is extremely erudite in the biochemistry of nutrition and supplementation. I eat a very healthy diet: vegetarian leaning towards vegan, gluten free, and containing very few processed foods. My shopping cart looks more like a garden than something from the grocery store. This diet, along with frequent and intense exercise, offers some protection against many of the common western maladies: high cholesterol, hypertension, high blood sugar, etc. Yet, my way of eating also predisposes me to some deficiencies, notably iodine and iron, which will need to be remedied as I begin to ramp up my training.
As I researched and purchased supplements yesterday, my mind made connections. Why is it that most of us easily accept that our diet can benefit from supplements, yet we ask that our primary relationship fulfill all of our needs?
Stay with me here, I’m not about to pull a Gingrich with the suggestion of an open marriage.
The Hollywood ideal that we have all grown up with is that you have a single soulmate, one who is bonded to you in every way and anticipates and meets all of your needs. Is this even possible? Like with designing a diet, it is important that your primary relationship addresses your need for macronutrients: respect, love, security, and whatever else is on your “needed for emotional survival” list. However, we are more complex than that, each of us has a need for micronutrients as well, and our primary partner may not have all of these available. That doesn’t mean that we need to endure those deficiencies or throw out the partner. It means we need to supplement.
Sometimes, the need for nutritional supplementation is obvious; if you lack vitamin C, scurvy rings the alarm bells before long. However, some deficiencies are more subtle, exacting changes that can easily fly under the radar, such as a general feeling of fatigue or weakness. Emotional malnutrition is the same; some gaps are apparent, yet others may not be so forthcoming and leave you functioning, yet not optimized.
Like with nutritional deficiencies, the first goal is to identify what your needs are; unfortunately, a blood test for emotional needs has yet to be developed.
Once you have identified your deficiencies, the next step is determining how to address them. Perhaps you find a friend that can fill the gap or engage in an activity that fills the need. I make sure that I always have people in my life that are “gentle souls,” providing me with that energy balance that helps me feel complete. Some of these people have no idea of their role, as I may not even know them very well; however, even a brief encounter leaves me refreshed. Relationship supplements do not need to be people; I also use yoga to help fill my requirement for gentleness as well. Be creative and don’t be afraid to look beyond the obvious. Oh, and I already checked, GNC does not sell this one in a bottle.
Finally, be aware that your supplementation needs may change over time. If you enter a new relationship, you may find that different needs are met and new gaps are revealed. Even if the relationship is constant, you may not be, thus opening up the need for different or new supplements. Perform a frequent check-up on yourself to make sure you are not slipping into mental malnutrition.
A diet that does not contain the basic required macronutrients will not sustain healthy life. Likewise, a primary relationship that does not meet the basic needs of both partners will not survive. For those micro-needs; however, don’t be afraid to supplement, as the proper balance of nutrients can take you from surviving to thriving.