Respect & Meeting Needs

Can you see me?

Understanding who we are

Our marriages hurt when our needs aren’t being met, and we don’t understand the way we are reacting to one another. Tension builds as we reach towards our partners grasping for something they can’t or won’t give us.

Facing the truth that we are needy

My wife Linda and I were teaching a room full of people in a marriage class we were conducting. I had written a marriage manual, and it was time to talk about needs. (My favorite subject, since I have so many.)

I was explaining to the eager listeners that we all had needs, and that was normal and okay. One lady spoke up and said,

“I didn’t think Christians were supposed to have needs.”

As I ponder her comment now, I see that if she believed that way, her needs were probably largely undiscovered and were not being met in her marriage. She was disallowing them for herself.

If your belief system disallows needs, you will never discover them and meet them in healthy ways. You are cutting yourself off from the honest part of you that hurts. If you accept needs as part of who you are, you can talk about them and respect and meet them in each other. This is healing, not sinning.

It’s good, and essential for a marriage to unpack your needs and talk about them. Strategize together how you can meet them. So many marriages hurt because this doesn’t happen. It either isn’t safe to talk, or fear keeps you from risking the vulnerability needed to love deeply. If we let God love us deeply, and heal our broken hearts, we will risk it all!

Why did Jesus Die?

Jesus didn’t die on a cross to crucify our needs there. He died to crucify the old man, the false self that feeds the roots of sin.

Romans 6:6

“Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.”

Our needs remain, to be discovered and processed in a redemptive manner. I believe marriage is a large part of this process. Denying yourself isn’t denying your needs that are to be met in healthy ways. That’s living in denial, rather than accepting your true needy self; The empty self only God can fill. Your spouse can also fill some of the needs in healing ways.

Psalm 107:9

“For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.”

“Draw me and I will run after you.” Song of Solomon 1:4

Affirmation Needs

We need love, acceptance, and belonging. I bring those needs with me into my relationship with Jesus. They don’t suddenly go away now that I identify with “Christianity.” Rather, the opposite happens as the Spirit of God reveals to me how broken I am, and how much of my relational operating systems run on selfish “underground energy” and falseness, rather than in the light of truth and emotional honesty.

The previous blog on “Operating Systems” unpacks this.

God doesn’t forbid our needs, he forbids idolatry, which is our self-seeking desire to control life and how we think we will get our needs met. This idolatry encompasses addiction. The world’s philosophy of mastery and self-determination stands in opposition to the Kingdom mandate of Jesus to lose our lives that we may gain them in Him.

Surrender and relinquishment are the pathways of spiritual growth, not mastery, control, or self-determination. This is what needs to go to the cross, that we may live anew in Him.

Marriage Needs

We bring our needs to the one we marry, along with the fairy tale thinking that believes they are the ones given us by God to finally meet them all once and for all.

“They will complete me.”

No, they won’t. They can’t, only God can. They may ease your aloneness, provide you companionship, comfort, and camaraderie. But they can’t complete you, they aren’t supposed to.

If you’re a princess, he may be able to get you out of the tower. He might slay some dragons for you, and fight for your heart, and love you. But completion only comes in the living out of the adventure together. Discovering and meeting each other’s needs is the stuff of marriage. He needs to know who you are to be intimate with you. You need to know what you need and be able to articulate it. You need to know what he needs as well.

If you’re the prince, it’s easy to believe that once you’ve closed the deal that she’s yours to keep and will follow you wherever you go. Not necessarily. You must pursue her heart and care for her. Wash her with the water of the word. Fight for her, protect her, take some heat for her, engage her. Enter into her struggles with her, know her battles and weaknesses. Don’t get religious and preach at her. Listen to her, take her words. Give her to God and love her. You are called to this. This is the way.

Respect and Recharging

I enjoy people and social settings, but I recharge by withdrawing. Linda, my wife recharges when I’m doing things with her, and she does a lot of things all the time. If there is too much “with her,” my batteries deplete, and I need to withdraw. This is okay, I’m not abandoning her. I will be back. I couldn’t be giving you these words if I was “with her.” I need to be with you at times.

I’m sure this tension exists in many marriages because we all recharge differently. So, to avoid conflict and misunderstanding, we talk about replenishers and depleters; The things that recharge us and the things that tend to drain us, and then we respect our differences and adapt in love so we can stay balanced and charged up. Our needs get met.

I have to choose not to be resentful when she “needs a little Christmas right this very minute.” I have to balance what I need and give her what she needs healthily without feeling guilty. Together is good. Apart at times is good too. This is healthy. We need boundaries and the ability to be assertive and speak the truth in love.

Merry Christmas and Happy Year!

The Anatomy of Marriage Meltdowns

Nothing hurts like a disconnected marriage. We can find the disconnects, and heal them. We can develop a strategy that brings hope. Awareness of what’s going on brings immediate hope. I can choose to change what I can see.

Oh, that’s what we’re doing!”

So shall the knowledge of wisdom be to your soul; If you have found it, there is a prospect, and your hope will not be cut off. Proverbs 24:14

Cause and Effect

Newton’s third law states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Without doing the research, I think he must have been married.

Perhaps many of us have been victimized by Newton’s law unawares. Simply stated, how we treat others will affect how they treat us. Big time.

There is also a sowing and reaping principal that governs life. Seeds and growing what we plant and such.

The Control Meltdown

Control or manipulation begins a marriage meltdown that won’t stop until you forsake the behavior and focus on what you are bringing to bear upon the marriage. I may think it’s them when I’m the one causing it.

Control is the action, him or her withdrawing from the control is the reaction. I won’t move toward you if you are invalidating who I am by trying to control, pressure, or change me. I respond to acceptance and affirmation creating a willingness to negotiate almost anything.

Truth be Told

It’s a hopeless feeling when we’re stuck and don’t know the way out, or lack the tools to change any of our dynamics.

In our brokenness, unable to communicate with emotional honesty, we will manipulate and apply pressure instead of risking the vulnerability to get honest about what we need. We need to get in touch with those needs first.

We need honest words that are respected, then move us into the truth of where we are as a couple. With commitment, we can then strategize together and do something about it.

There’s hope in this because I can choose not to manipulate. I can learn to be a safe talker and listener. So can my partner. We can practice communication skills together, and learn to take emotional risks as we build security into our marriage. We can choose to not be victims, living with distance in our marriage.

We Build the House we Live in

Our actions cultivate the environment we live in, like the air we breathe. I miss the boat if I focus on her and start demanding change, which seems to be the normal relational default;

If I can only change the thing in her or him that’s bothering me, then I’ll feel relief, the discomfort will go away and things will be better.

This belief or thinking actually creates a distance dynamic affecting our intimacy. The controller always pushes the controlee away from them.

The meltdown will stop and my partner will move towards me when I embrace the new belief that says;

I will accept them and validate them for who they are instead of trying to change them.

I will leave the dark territory of manipulation, and start communicating and negotiating for how I can meet my needs.

Differences in needs

It’s business as usual after the honeymoon for the typical male. It seems like for him the adventure is over because he has her now.

For her, the adventure’s just beginning, but instead of pursuing her heart and drawing her into the adventure, unaware of what her heart needs, he clams up and leaves her at home. Living in the absence of a connection with his heart and feelings, she emotionally withers.

He gets most of his needs met out there, as she waits for him to come home and hopefully meet hers there. Instead of tuning into her at home, he plops down and turns on the tube or checks out some other way.

Two Lovers Losing

His inability or unwillingness to meet her needs in the way she wants him to,(her love language), creates a reluctance for her to give herself to him in the way he needs and wants. The cause and effect of this dynamic accumulates and creates conflict and negative emotion in the marriage.

As time goes on, her default is to nag him or apply pressure to change him in order to meet her needs. Her needs are legitimate, but lacking sensitivity he is unaware of them and doesn’t know how to meet them even if he sees them there.

It helps her to have compassion and warmth if she can see him in the light of not understanding her needs. Seeing him as needing her help, not knowing what to do, rather than stubborn or unwilling to meet her needs helps.

The Strategy She Needs; Understand Your Man

Her way out is to hook up with Newton’s Law and change the cause and effect. She needs to stop applying pressure and come up with some creative ways to get his attention, (one thing I know works pretty well).

He needs words of affirmation and meaningful touch. If his needs aren’t met, he will withdraw further. If you nag, complain, criticize, or cut him off, he will withdraw feeling inadequate, criticized, and devalued. He’ll check out, and just work harder out there keeping away from you to avoid pain. There are ways in, you have to find them.

If you change your strategy and reel him in, he’ll be more receptive to what you want and need. Remember your goal in accepting and loving him also includes connecting him to your heart that wants to know and be known. It takes time and persistence to change the old dynamics but very doable.

You then need to teach him about your needs being specific about what it looks like to have them met. You have to get in touch with them yourself to articulate them to him. Believe me, he doesn’t know how to do it, you have to show him. He needs a sensitivity education from you.

Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respect her husband Eph. 5:33

The Strategy He Needs; Understand Your Woman

The best thing a man can do for himself is to understand his wife’s needs are different than his. He then needs to do everything he can to learn about and meet them. (her love language.)

She needs validation, security, and reassurance. Ignore her and she gets none of that. Her emotions need your attention and understanding, she thrives on this, not your neglect. That’s the nourishing and cherishing part the man struggles with.

Men, the worst thing we can do is criticize or demean her sensitivity or emotions. This is where the tenderness we need comes from, and if we crush her there, she won’t give her heart or anything else to us. we can end up cooking our own goose and losing the promised land.

So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.

For no one ever hated his own flesh but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. Ephesians 5:28,29

Let’s Make a Deal

I’m a reasonable businessman. My language is negotiation, honestly in the open without pressure or manipulation. Anything is negotiable if it’s done with respect and good communication. Both parties win and get what they need.

Marriage meltdowns occur when two people are trying to change each other without negotiation or respectful communication. I think we all do this at first until we learn a better way. The meltdown only stops when each takes responsibility for themselves and what they are doing.

Your assignment as a couple is to read this together and talk about where control might be present and decide what to do about it. Also, talk about your two biggest needs and whether they are met or not and what you can do about it. Take time and honor feelings.

Prayer; Lord, thank you for being the God of Hope who takes away our hopelessness and despair. Thank you for the grace to relax our white knuckles of control and to trust you with our spouses, and our needs. You are the God of transformation, help us put our trust in you. Give us courage to be honest with our needs and feelings and communicate them well to our spouses. Thank you for some fresh strategies. We love you, In Jesus name. Amen. XO