On Tuesday, 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. Yesterday, I built on that topic by talking about needs and compromise in marriage. Today, I will finally get to the difference between asserting your needs and trying to change your spouse.
As I have already shared, I entered into marriage not knowing that I had needs, much less what they were, so hub and I built a marriage modeled after his own parents’ marriage with some tweaking to meet hub’s needs. I am not blaming hub for this – I was the one who had no idea that I had needs and just went along with whatever hub proposed.
That being said, were a few areas over the years where I did identify needs and did what I had to do to meet them. A big one was adopting a child. Hub and I had agreed we wanted children, but after we learned we were infertile and spent thousands of dollars on infertility treatments to no avail, hub would have been OK staying childfree. That wasn’t an option for me, so hub agreed to adopt a baby with me.
Another area was my need to work. Both my mother and hub’s mother modeled that moms don’t work outside the home, but that arrangement did not work for me. I needed the validation of hearing I was doing a good job, which I get from bosses but not from family. I also needed to have “my” money that I did not have argue with hub about. Hub wants to save every dime, and I want to travel with my son (hub doesn’t like to travel). I found a flexible part-time job working as an online college instructor, which provided me with the validation and money I needed that did not affect hub’s savings account.
Both of those areas were huge deals to me, so I was willing to fight the status quo to make them happen. Throughout most of our marriage, I was passive and didn’t assert my needs. However, as I have grown and healed, I am becoming more aware of my unmet needs, and I need to meet them. That’s where my current marital situation comes in, and, as I have previously shared, hub is making an effort.
I can understand why child abuse survivors are averse to the thought of “trying to change” a spouse because they had abusers trying to “change” them as children. I don’t see asserting my own needs as trying to “change” hub. I am saying, “This isn’t working for me,” and we need to figure out a way to meet those needs as a couple. As Shen shared and I built upon here, there are four ways to do this.
I think it helps to address one unmet need at a time versus the entire marriage, and you have to look at the marriage as a whole rather than at only one area. Is the marriage working more than it’s not? It’s easy to lose sight of what is going well when you are fixated on a particularly difficult unmet need. The goal is not to “change” your spouse – the goal is to work together as a couple to figure out how to meet the needs of both spouses.
Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt