And the Real Need is…
In a really difficult marriage, you will never be able to address the real problems until you understand what motivates your spouse’s behavior. All of our behavior is motivated by inner needs.
One husband complained, “She thinks she is smarter than I am.” His wife’s perspective? “Any time I disagree with him, he thinks I’m trying to control him. I just want to be a part of the decision. Sure I call him names, but it’s because I want him to listen to me.” Both husband and wife are motivated by the need to be treated as a person. To feel that their ideas are important to the other.
If you can understand the motivation, you can address the need instead of arguing over the symptoms. You can start with something as simple as, “I value your ideas, and I want us to work together as a team.”
The Need for Love
Do you understand that some of your spouse’s most negative behavior may be motivated by the need for love? Barb complains that her husband doesn’t have time for her. She often raises her voice and delivers angry lectures to him, accusing him of not caring for her. Sometimes these lectures work. Her husband Bob will sit down and talk with her.
How much better if Bob understood that her primary love language is Quality Time and would make time regularly to talk with Barb. Addressing her need for love may well eliminate her negative behavior. Learning to identify the emotional need that is behind your spouse’s behavior is a major step in being a positive influence in an otherwise desperate marriage. Don’t curse the behavior. Address the need.
The Need for Freedom
One of our deepest emotional needs is the need for freedom. In a marriage, we want to be free to express our feelings, thoughts, and desires. We want the freedom to make choices. We often do things for each other, but we don’t want to be manipulated or forced to do things. If we feel like we are being controlled we get defensive and angry.
Freedom is never to be absolute; to be totally free is to live a life without love. Love chooses to look out for the interest of the other person. However, if we realize this need for freedom we will allow our spouse freedom to make choices. We will make requests but not demands. We will express our opinions, but give them the freedom to disagree. Love and freedom are two key elements in a healthy marriage.
The Need for Significance
If you are married to a workaholic, do you understand that one of the emotional needs that pushes the workaholic is the need for significance. Many do not realize that our real significance comes from being children of God and living out His plans for us. Thus they put all their marbles in excelling in the market place, and often neglect the home.
Perhaps his father said, “You will never amount to anything.” So, he spends a lifetime trying to prove his father wrong. If you are married to a workaholic, don’t curse his work. Praise him for his accomplishments. Tell him how proud you are of him. With more praise coming from you he will likely choose to spend more time with you. On the other hand, your condemnation pushes him to spend more time at work.
The Need for Recreation
Many of our conflicts in marriage focus on recreation or relaxation. She complains that he spends too much time watching TV. He sees her as a nervous cat who never relaxes. She says there is too much work to be done. She does not have time to watch TV. However, if you examine her schedule, you’ll likely find her relaxing in other ways.
One of our basic physical and emotional needs is the need for recreation or relaxation. The need for rhythm, of movement between work and play was ordained by God. The old saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” reflects this fundamental need. In a healthy marriage we don’t try to force our spouse to relax the way we do. Instead, we try to help each other find a balance between work and play.
|Adapted from Desperate Marriages by Dr. Gary Chapman.|