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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

You can't meet all your spouse's needs. And you shouldn't try.

I've been doing a poll for a few weeks on the primary needs of husbands and wives. (Wives can still take this poll and husbands can still take this one for a few more days.) Reviewing the answers to the poll got me thinking about the many kinds of needs we humans have.

I write a lot about the importance of meeting each other's needs in marriage. Yes indeed, husbands and wives should be attentive to each other's needs in order for a relationship to be healthy and enduring.

But there is a big difference between seeing to it that all their needs are being met and personally trying to be the one to meet them all!

Trying to meet all your spouse's needs yourself is a formula for guaranteed failure. Don't set yourself up to fail! Not only is it not healthy for you to try to do it all, it's not healthy for your spouse either. An emotionally healthy person has needs that will be met from a number of difference sources.

Needs Met By You

There are a set of needs that can and should only come from you. Sex is a primary one. In fact it's one of the only needs your spouse has where it would be a outright sin for that need to be met by anyone else but you. Hopefully that gives you a clue as to its importance.

There are also needs where you should be the principle need-meeter. For example, being a partner in parenting. They are your kids too, and even if your spouse takes the lead in this area, I believe both of you should be highly involved in your kids' lives. Each of you brings something to the parenting equation.

Then there are those needs like the ones being expressed in my poll. Try to figure out what it is your husband or wife most needs to get from you, and do your best to provide it on a consistent basis. Tops on the list are things like intimacy, respect, trust, sex, feeling cared for and security/safety. Find out what it is and do it.

Needs Met by Friends

Everyone needs relationships outside of the one they enjoy with their spouse. Depending on their personality, it may be just a few acquaintances, or it may be many close friends.

Friends help broaden your perspectives, provide companionship, fun and advice, and they can be a source of accountability. Church friends, work friends, neighborhood friends, long distance past friends all help meet the relational needs of your spouse.

Being attentive to your spouse's friendship needs means encouraging healthy relationships and discouraging damaging ones. Again, there is no "right" number of friendship, but be watchful. Don't allow friends suck the life from your spouse, and see to it that, on balance, they are getting as much as they are giving in their relationships.

Needs Met by Outside Interests

Everyone needs something to pour themselves into. Something, that is, besides their marriage and family, as important as those are.

Does your spouse make time for their favorite hobbies? Can you help them make time? Is there a cause that he or she feels strongly about that would be rewarding to be involved in? Are they called to a particular kind of ministry in the church? Do they have particular career goals? Are there sports activities they love?

While you can't and shouldn't try to control these outside interests, you can be encouraging and supportive to your spouse's involvement in these things. Maybe you can be their cheerleader or coach. As it is with friends, maybe you can help them make time for the things that feed their soul.

Needs Met by God

I strongly believe your spouse should be your highest priority earthly relationship (including above your children), but there is one other relationship that should come even before you: God.

Again, you cannot dictate your spouse's relationship with God nor should you try. But you can be a source of encouragement and spiritual support to your spouse. A healthy spiritual walk includes things like worship, prayer, Bible reading, etc., but truthfully, the most important thing, and the thing that God wants most, is intimacy with us - a close, daily, personal relationship. The best spiritual encouragement you can give to your spouse is simply to live your life in God. Let him be a natural, integrated part of everything you do.

Side note: when you try to be the one to meet all your spouse's needs, you are essentially trying to be their god, their all-in-all, their everything.

It is certainly important for you to work at meeting the needs of your spouse for which you have primary responsibility. But that doesn't include every need they have?

What has been your experience at trying to meet your spouse's needs? How are you doing at finding the balance? Are you trying to play God? Are you being appropriately attentive? Are you encouraging and supportive about them getting some of their needs met outside of your marriage?

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image credit: novelo


Anonymous said...

This was REALLY great! The thing that came to mind was to be careful! "Trying to meet all your spouse's needs yourself is a formula for guaranteed failure. Don't set yourself up to fail!"

It's not only a recipe for disaster, but it could be downright dangerous. If you are meeting (or trying to meet) all of your spouse's needs - this is what God does. (as side from sex of course) You could, in effect, become your spouses idol.

I know, it sounds wrong, right? When I was praying and waiting, praying and waiting for Darrell to become a Christian, the longer it took the more focused I became - to the exclusion of almost everything. I mean what can be more important than someone's eternal condition? This was dangerous, for me.

Clearly, I had crossed a line with God. I'm just saying, be careful - good things can easily become idols.

Scott said...

Thanks for sharing your story Robyn. For sure making an idol out of your spouse (or anything) is dangerous.

Caleb Suko said...

I think when I understand as a husband that I can't meet all my needs then I'm much more likely to help her find what will meet those needs. In particular for me this is allowing my wife to have quiet time with God and to have fellowship with other godly women.

Scott said...

Caleb - thanks for your comment. It sounds like you have learned the difference between meeting your wife's need and helping her to find way to have her needs met. Good job!

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