Archive for October 19th, 2011

PhotobucketYesterday, I wrote about the four different options couples have when a spouse’s needs are not being met: Four Options for Unmet Needs in Marriage. Today I am going to focus on needs and compromise in marriage. Finally, in tomorrow’s blog entry, I’ll get to the difference between asserting your needs and trying to change your spouse.

As abused children, we were taught that our needs didn’t matter. If you were like me and did not go through the healing process before marriage, you likely brought this dynamic into your marriage. At age 23, it never even occurred to me to think about what needs I had, much less express them to my spouse. Fast-forward roughly 20 years and post-therapy … I now know that I have needs and am in the process of learning how to identify what they are. It shouldn’t come as a complete shock that, in a marriage where I never expressed any needs, many of those needs are not currently being met.

From what I have observed with couples who grew up in healthy homes (believe it or not, a few of those actually do exist!), couples begin a marriage asserting their needs and reaching compromises. For example, a friend was working full-time when she married her husband, who was also working full-time. She was clear from the beginning that she was not going to be responsible for cleaning the house, so he could either do it himself, or they could pay a maid to do it. As a couple, they decided to hire a maid.

This couple also agreed from the beginning that they were each in charge of cleaning their own cars. He wanted to save money, so he would wash his own car. She did not want to spend her time washing a car, so she would drive to the car wash while her husband was washing his car and return with a clean car before he was finished. It was a joke between them – he saved the money, and she saved the time. Neither tried to change the other – they were clear about their needs and compromised on ways to meet those needs as best they could.

This process did not happen in my marriage because, quite frankly, I did not know it was supposed to, nor did I have an inkling of what my needs were. At the time I married, I needed hub to keep me safe physically and financially from my abusive mother, and I needed him to want me. (I had a hard time believing that anyone would.) That was pretty much it.

Meanwhile, hub assumed that all marriages aligned duties in the way that his parents’ marriage did, so that’s what we did. His mother cooked, so I cooked (even though I had to learn how). His father worked full-time while his mother was a stay-at-home mom, so that’s what we did. Hub did appear to change a few things around from what his parents did to meet his own needs, but that’s pretty much how our marriage came to divvy up the family responsibilities.

I have gone on too long again. More tomorrow…

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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