Today we are going into a tough topic that does require you to look DEEPLY within yourself, and possibly identify some areas of self-improvement.
However, I hope that you find it rewarding and eye-opening… And hopefully it can provide a basis for change in your marriage.
Because remember, you ALWAYS have power to bring about change in your situation simply by making changes to your OWN behavior.
As said by H. Jackson Brown, Jr;
“Never underestimate your power to change yourself. Never overestimate your power to change others”.
And this is just as true in your marriage, as in any other area of your life!
So let’s begin from the start…When you got married, you and your spouse vowed to love one another and share your lives together.
And no doubt you each had an idea of what that would entail.
Today I am asking you to think once again about what loving one another and sharing your lives together means to you. Because this may just shed some light on your marital situation.
Firstly, let me pull apart some commonly held misbeliefs about what marriage is about:
• Your spouse is responsible for meeting all of your needs.
• Your spouse is responsible for making you feel happy.
• Your spouse is responsible for making you feel worthy.
• Your spouse should always put you before themselves.
Why are these beliefs completely unrealistic?
Because it is literally IMPOSSIBLE for one person to fulfill every need of another. And nor should they have to – this is too big of a burden.
In a healthy marriage, spouses have a healthy sense of being individuals as well as part of a team. They acknowledge that their survival is not dependent on each other. Rather than being dependent, they are INTER-dependent.
Even in marriage, each person still needs to take responsibility for their own wellbeing and happiness. Your spouse should definitely ADD to this (and should fulfil SOME of your needs for love and closeness), but they are NOT your caregiver.
No-one is perfect, and no-one can read minds. Your spouse’s thoughts and actions can’t ALWAYS be centered around you and your needs. You are important to them, but they have many other important things in their life – not to mention themselves!
If we are solely relying on our spouses to make us feel loved and happy, we are never going to feel complete love and happiness. Because this has to come from within OURSELVES first. We need to feel that as individuals, we have our own identity, significance and value.
Trying to bully your spouse into meeting your needs or ‘healing’ you is manipulation, not love - and will only make for a dysfunctional relationship. Love needs to be RECIPROCAL and given FREELY between spouses.
Why do some people have these unrealistic expectations?
These unrealistic marital expectations come from ‘need love’: where someone is consumed by their own needs in a relationship due to insecurity.
‘Need-love’ can be a strong indicator of immaturity – where that person is still trying to get their spouse to meet needs that were not met in the past.
They are subconsciously looking to their spouse to ‘heal’ any past hurts they have suffered, such as in their previous relationships or during their childhood.
As a result, a person operating from ‘need-love’ in marriage will base their own love-giving around what they are getting BACK from their spouse. They will constantly be demanding to see signs of their spouse’s love and care.
What happens when someone has unrealistic expectations of their spouse?
When a person is dependent on their spouse to make them feel ‘whole’, they will never feel completely satisfied or happy in their relationship.
They become angry and critical of their partner, often using active or passive-aggressive means to ‘punish’ their spouse for failing to live up to their expectations.
And they make more and more unreasonable demands of their spouse, of which their spouse has no hope of achieving.
As a result, their spouse feels inadequate, unappreciated, unloved and defensive. Because the ‘needy’ spouse is so busy feeling hurt about their needs not being met, that they are completely ignoring their spouse’s needs.
Eventually, the spouse can’t take the pressure or criticism anymore and their love dies. The dependent behavior of their spouse literally drained their emotional resources dry.
So they call it quits, leaving the needy spouse is left in a considerable amount of pain, sometimes oblivious to the fact that it was their own destructive behavior that drove their spouse away…
…Which is the exact OPPOSITE of what they were wanting to achieve.
It’s a vicious cycle that needs to be STOPPED in order for a marriage to be saved.
How you can break the cycle and grow as a spouse:
• Take a long hard look at how you are treating your spouse. Are you showing love and making them feel appreciated? If not, start showing appreciation for all the great things your spouse does, and STOP criticizing.
And before you draw any conclusions about your spouse’s behavior, always look at your OWN behavior and what you have the power to change FIRST.
• If you have identified ways in which you have not been treating your spouse with love, respect and appreciation, APOLOGIZE to your spouse for this… as hard as it may be. Your spouse may be deeply touched to see that you have finally acknowledged this destructive behavior and are wanting to make a change. For steps on how to apologize, see How to Say “I’m Sorry” and Really Mean It.
• In future, communicate your desires and needs clearly to your spouse, so they actually understand what you are wanting…rather than making them guess all the time. However, make sure that these requests are REASONABLE and are able to be fulfilled. Put your needs out there, but do not EXPECT your spouse to meet every need. ASK rather than demand.
• Start trying to meet more of your SPOUSE’S needs. A great book to check out is Gary Chapman’s “The 5 Love Languages”. This book explains how often couples never realize that they may have different ‘love needs’ to each other. It will help you to identify the ways that your spouse most wants to be loved, and the ways that you most want to be loved… So you can start loving each other in the ways you need.
• Think about the qualities, attributes and interests that make you YOU. See how you can build on these, to develop a greater sense of your own identity…Rather than relying on your husband or wife to ‘complete’ you. For instance, if you crave emotional connection, why not work on developing some closer friendships outside of your marriage? Connection with others will only add value to your relationship with your spouse.
• Stop comparing your relationship to other peoples’ or to what you see on TV. Every relationship is different, and comparisons only lead to jealousy and dissatisfaction. Never, ever say to your spouse; “Why can’t you be more like Harry or Julia?”
• Lastly, remember you can always seek professional help and talk to a counsellor if you feel you need to. It may even be good to do this before you consider going to marriage counselling with your spouse, as it may be that working on your own personal issues will have a really positive effect on your marriage.
I hope this post has been really helpful to you. Here is another quote I’d like to leave you with, by an unknown but very wise person:
“You can never be happy as someone’s other half unless you can be happy as a whole on your own”.