The Crane Wife, by CJ Hauser is one of the deepest relationship articles I have read, one that is so eloquently and delicately written. I was forwarded the piece by a friend and, for the days following, I kept reading it over and over again and realized it was shared among a number of women….
On the face of it, the author of this article calls off her engagement 10 days before her wedding and goes on to the Gulf Coast to live among scientists to study the life of whooping cranes. However, it turns out to be so much deeper than just birdwatching or another breaking-up story.
The Crane Wife, is originally an old Japanese folks tale, where a man marries a women who is in reality is a crane who chooses to secretly pluck her feathers every night to remain disguised as a human for her husband. When he found out what she really is, she disappeared from his life forever.
“She hopes that he will not see what she really is: a bird who must be cared for, a bird capable of flight, a creature, with creature needs. Every morning, the crane-wife is exhausted, but she is a woman again. To keep becoming a woman is so much self-erasing work. She never sleeps. She plucks out all her feathers, one by one.”
Hauser, so brilliantly unravels feelings what so many women are afraid to admit even to themselves; the fear of being needy and the lengths we go to undermine what we truly desire and to beautify ourselves for relationships.
Women of this generation are repeatedly taught that we need to be independent and self-sufficient and not to rely on anyone to complete us nor fulfill our needs. It is an everyday struggle for women to act and become independent, financially and emotionally and to hide any of their insecurities and any codependencies. While that is great, however, in relationships it tends to reflect in us trying to appear content and low-maintenance and pretend to be happy with whatever our partners provid, even when we want something different or something more… and so much goes unsaid.
In addition to that, societies have made us feel ashamed for having needs or letting our walls down and communicating our needs and ashamed for feeling let down when our needs are unmet, which resulted in so many women trying so hard not to need, as if needing shows a fault or failure.
“I need you to know: I hated that I needed more than this from him. There is nothing more humiliating to me than my own desires. Nothing that makes me hate myself more than being burdensome and less than self-sufficient.”
For me, what was worst than accepting and tolerating normally unacceptable behaviour from my partner, are the so many times before that which I let pass by without expressing what was bothering me and without communicating what I actually wanted from him, because I felt it would make me seem needy and demanding and weak.
Before that moment of enough, came so many other moments of what if I am asking too much of him, what if I become a burden or too emotionally dependent on him, what if that whatever he is doing is the best he can do, what if he hates me for needing more… fishing for a compliment or an appreciation, wanting to hear why he loves me or even opening up enough to share my insecurities and vulnerabilities with him…
“These were small things, and I told myself it was stupid to feel disappointed by them. I had arrived in my 30s believing that to need things from others made you weak.”
Women go online, get therapy, have groups sessions and circles to discuss and get advice on how to deal with our feelings on our own, in order not to bother or burden our partners by our needs and vulnerabilities as to always remain both hot and understanding. My husband bluntly once told me “find a girlfriend to talk to about that”! We also try to help each other figure out how to ask for and have our needs met, without the men realizing they’re being asked for anything.
Nevertheless, physiatrists and relationship experts tell women that they should let their men feel like a hero in the relationship even if he isn’t sometimes. They tell us that we should not make men feel bad about whatever they have to offer and be as appreciative as possible. They tell us that we should not make our partners feel inadequate nor over-shadow them with our own strengths.
In other words, they tell us that we should only need them enough to make them feel good about themselves, but not to the extent as to be a demanding burden on them. But where is that sweet spot between showing that we need them and being able to express our needs and being needy?
“but no one can survive denying their own needs. To be a crane-wife is unsustainable.”
And it is so true, no one can live their whole life crushing down their needs, however insane or trivial or demanding they are. No one should hide their true selves or true desires from their relationship no matter how weak or vulnerable or frivolous they are or would seem. No one should pluck their own feathers, erase nor beautify themselves and become someone else in their relationship just to make it work. No one should be ashamed of their strengths nor deny their needs. And that is not being needy, it is merely being true to ourselves.