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.
“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.
“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
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.
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!