Posts Tagged ‘dysfunctional marriages’

PhotobucketOn 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

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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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PhotobucketBased on some of the comments I have received, it appears that some readers are equating asserting your own needs in a marriage with trying to change your spouse. I see these are two different things, which is why I would like to blog about it.

On my blog entry entitled Marriage after Child Abuse: How Much Do We Owe Our Spouses?, Shen posted a great comment about how there are four directions a couple can go when he and she aren’t in the same place. It’s a long comment, so I won’t repost it here, but be sure to read it if you have not already done so. I would like to build upon Shen’s comment in this blog entry and then move onto the difference between trying to change a spouse and meeting your own needs.

Shen’s comment focused on the big picture, but I am going to focus on specific needs within a marriage. In a nutshell, Shen said that when a spouse’s needs are not being met, the couple can go in one of four ways, which are summarized below. I have purposely chosen four neutral examples from my marriage so we can keep the focus on how unmet needs can play out within a marriage without getting into one being “right” and one being “wrong.”

  1. He adapts to meet her need: Hub needs to save money, and I need soft toilet paper for my sensitive skin. Hub let go of his need to save money buying cheaper toilet paper to meet my need for more expensive, softer toilet paper.
  2. She adapts to meet his need: Hub is a night owl and has trouble getting moving in the morning. As a result, he goes into work late (he is the boss) and stays late, resulting in a later dinner. I am an early bird and eat breakfast and lunch early, so I need dinner earlier than hub gets home. I adapted by building in an afternoon snack so I can wait to eat dinner with hub.
  3. Neither adapt – they proceed with the situation not working for either of them: Hub and I have a child with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who has a difficult time sitting through a church service. My compromise with our son is that he doesn’t have to go to worship service as long as he goes to Sunday School (until he is older). Hub needs to sleep in on Sundays and does not join us for Sunday School. Hub and I both need us to worship together as a family, but, while I need to be going to worship service (I do miss it!), I also need not to be spending an hour telling child to “sit down and shut up.” So, child and I go to Sunday School only, hub goes to worship service alone, and neither hub’s needs nor mine are really being met.
  4. They go their separate ways to meet their needs: Hub loves to watch sports, which bores me to tears. I like to watch dramas, which bores hub to tears. We have two TV’s and DVR’s so we can each watch our own preferred programming and have chosen not to make TV viewing a couple activity.

This blog entry has gotten too long. More tomorrow…

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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