Dr. Aryn Ziehnert
God created humans with yearning as part of our makeup. In a society that places premium value on independence, we dislike appearing vulnerable. While our nation’s history influences contemporary culture in this regard, there is great value in having a need.
When we are self-aware enough to identify it, we can embrace our vulnerability as a gift. That allows us to live interdependently with others to give and receive the gift of mutual needs being met.
Negotiating needs in marriage.
We don’t need to have shame attached to having needs. God is the One who meets them all. Sometimes this is directly through our dependence on Him. Other times it is indirectly, through those He places in proximity to us. Still, there are times when He invites us into a more intimate relationship.
He is the One who gives us the need and desire to connect with our eternal purpose and with the life partner who will support and champion us in doing so. No one can successfully occupy the throne reserved for God in our hearts, but in faithfulness, He will employ a variety of resources and relationships to enrich our lives. These ensure that we have what is necessary to accomplish His purpose in every assignment.The needs attached to our roles and responsibilities have a specific intention. When it concerns us, as married people, there are certain needs concerning our affirmation, admiration, and affection that can’t be fulfilled by others. A host of other needs will be met elsewhere, but we often place a burden on our spouse, looking to him or her to answer demands they weren’t created to answer.
Misplacing our expectations on husbands and wives can result in mounting silent and spoken pressure. It can be crushing, exacting damage on all involved.
Marriage offers many benefits, including the potential to experience a sense of abiding friendship and connection. Yet, when we have an idea that our spouse should match the person we have always dreamed of or created in our imagination, we delude ourselves.
We somehow believe that our covenant should be characterized by perfection. It is designed to complement, not complete us. When we have gaps in what we understand about who and what our spouse is created to be, we can make an idol of our mate’s role expecting them to be superhuman and godlike in meeting our needs and expectations.
Those assumptions don’t just injure our mates, but they hurt us and the marital connection that we want to thrive.
Often, we project needs onto our spouse and place expectations that would be better served by our ability to cultivate friendships and satisfying relationships, develop meaningful pursuits, or even engage in resolving any unhealed trauma and pain.
When we look at the patterns of our thoughts and mindset, we may not even realize where we manufacture demands for mates to adhere to and perform. Misunderstandings flourish in miscommunication.
Discord often emerges from standards that we haven’t confronted in ourselves or conveyed to our spouses. To feed and fuel our marriages, we may need to adopt and embrace the kind of communication, compromise, and consensus needed to thrive.There are times when we may have formed a narrative of which our spouses are unaware. We project expectations onto them to satisfy needs, some based on an ideal that we created before meeting them. Yet, when there is a gap between our expectations and our experience, there is often a missing communication link. It isn’t fair to our partners to expect them to answer what we never verbalize.
Where we may have shame related to unresolved trauma, it can inhibit our discussions of making known and thereby addressing our needs.
Our spouses come with their own relational filters. They can’t and won’t read our minds. Trying to play to their expectations or demanding that they cater to ours only sets us up for mutual failure.
We need honest conversations and effective communication skills, so we don’t hurt ourselves or trample the sacred marriage covenant that we vowed to protect. We must seek the resources to support effective communication and carve out the time to serve one another with consideration and empathy.
Compromise and concession.
Giving ourselves the time and opportunity to revisit certain topics allows our partners to grow in their understanding of the needs we communicate. When we approach a challenging topic of discussion, we can use the time and space beforehand to reflect and pray.
Prayer prepares hearts, informing us with the words and sensitizing us to the Holy Spirit’s timing. He may reveal when our partner is not yet ready to receive what we have to share. Our communication isn’t about unloading what we have to say, but rather about developing a mutuality that supports both partners, and as a result, builds up the marriage.
If we have approached a difficult topic and taken some space to reflect and reframe, we may not always walk away from the initial conversation with immediate understanding. God often speaks when our hearts get still. He may be working through us and our spouse to offer the insight and instruction to revisit a stubborn issue.In practical ways, the Holy Spirit is an expert at helping us to consider how to apply His wisdom to our marriages in daily life. Our response to the Lord’s leading is further demonstrated in how we approach, engage, and respond to our partners concerning our relational needs.
There may likely be some areas where our partner would like to see change evolve in us. We must be willing to regard their needs and concerns with equal esteem and importance.
Learning to compromise and develop shared agreements about the matters that affect our marriages is a multi-way conversation. It begins with communing with our hearts and praying honestly with God. It continues as we share those revelations and insights, as we seek the Lord together and engage in communication.
Regrettably, we don’t always leave room for God, let alone seek Him first to ask about His vision for our marriages. We may have even started with enthusiasm, but the pressures of life swallowed the space we used to create for our relationship.
Let’s be honest with God and ourselves. Sometimes, we aren’t looking to see our spouses through God’s eyes, but rather remake them in our image. While it is good to have standards and an understanding of what we contribute and what we need from our partner, it is also important to be humble, willing to re-calibrate, and above all, regard them through the eyes of their Father and Creator.
We may not know how, as life’s seasons evolve, and needs change. We need to be mindful of our internal shifts and respectful of what is developing in our spouses. It is unrealistic to think that we will always identify with and understand our spouse’s needs and desires. While they won’t likely be the same, we can embrace the grace to concede and compromise where necessary.
If we want to experience a deepening connection that rewards both parties, it is essential to observe, inquire, and respond with thoughtful words and sincere, sustained action.
No couple has ever had a perfect marriage. We won’t be the first, but we can seek the Holy Spirit to help us. He will give us the Father’s Heart and wisdom to navigate our hearts as well as those of our spouses. We can search for places where we find agreement. Building consensus is about harmonizing those places where we have a shared vision to build from there with the Holy Spirit’s wisdom and help.
While you and your spouse are partnering with the Lord to build an unbreakable bond, it may feel that two becoming one constantly eludes you. Take courage, remembering that this is a process that looks different from one couple to the next. We work with the Lord and one another to accomplish His vision for our marriage. We incorporate understanding and invest targeted effort, to administer action where it matters.
Feel free to contact our office today to schedule an appointment with me or one of the other marriage counselors. We would be honored to help you and your spouse develop the tools essential to negotiating needs in marriage and responses that create a vibrant and fulfilling relationship.
“Talking”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Gone to Seed”, Courtesy of Aaron Burden, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Wooden Footbridge”, Courtesy of Alex Foret, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Heart”, Courtesy of Jamez Picard, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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