Do you really know what you need from your spouse? I think we all have an idea what we need, but most of us are woefully out of touch with what our essential needs really are. Period.
Example: You know that when you walk in the door at the end of the day and your spouse greets you, you feel good. When no one greets you, you feel a sad. Having your spouse go to the effort of acknowledging your presence and being happy to see you is not really what you need. It is a clue to a much deeper need that you have that has nothing to do with your spouse!
The problem is that so many of us believe that our need is directly connected to our spouse! (If my spouse would just _(fill in the blank_, then we’d get along fine!) When we try to force our spouse to meet the surface need, the deep underlying itch goes unscratched. We are frustrated and unsatisfied and we blame our spouse! The essential need in that example is something more like ‘to feel like I matter’, ‘to feel important’, ‘to not feel alone in this world’. And that need is connected to a need that didn’t get met as a child. In that example, the person came home to an empty house every day after school and felt alone and insignificant. That is an essential need that she is going to have with or without her spouse!
When we understand what our essential needs are, we can communicate those needs to our spouse and ask to get them met. While she still may ask her spouse to greet her at the door when she gets home from work, by knowing her true essential need, she has helped her spouse to understand her need and shown him a way to help meet it. It takes the pressure off and allows her partner to give her what she needs rather than demanding it from him. She is also more understanding when he can’t (or forgets to) do it.
If we really want to get our needs met, we need to spend some time learning what our essential needs are. If we don’t go through that process, our partner is 1) taking a blind stab at what our needs are; 2) they are following directions (greet me at the back door) and they aren’t very motivated to do so because they don’t understand; or 3) they are loving us mechanically (following instructions) and we can tell that their heart isn’t in it (it doesn’t feel the way we want it to). Look at the things you are asking of your spouse and try to understand where the deep, essential need beneath it comes from. A need for cleanliness may come from a chaotic childhood, a need for affection may stem from feeling lost and alone as a child or a need for the spouse not to solve the problem when you are talking may come from not feeling heard and understood as a child.
Our needs are our responsibility. Our spouse is there to help meet our needs, but it is not solely their job! It is our job to learn what our essential needs are. It is also our job to be able to meet many of those needs ourselves. When we know what our needs are, we can meet some of those needs ourselves and we can give good guidance to our partner about how to help us meet them. Then our needs are truly getting met. If we don’t understand our own needs and leave the job of meeting our needs to our spouse, there will be a lot of discord in your house!