“You just don’t get it.”
“If you really knew me you would know why this bothers me so much.”
“Never mind! I guess I will just have to do it myself.”
Do these comments sound familiar? Often in relationships we can get frustrated that our spouse doesn’t see or feel things the same way we see and feel them. It may appear that our spouse is oblivious to our needs and how to meet them. This can become frustrating in most relationships, but even worse, it can also become dividing and lead to distancing, separation, and even divorce.
Couples that assume that their spouse should know how to meet their needs without direction or coaching may find that they get frustrated in their relationship more than couples that guide their spouse in meeting their needs. “But I want it to come from my husband without me needing to tell him exactly what to do,” a wife may say. Granted, it does feel good when our spouse is in tune with
our feelings and understands how to meet our needs without being coached. However, if this is our strategy for getting our needs met in relationships, we may end up waiting a long time and developing a lot of resentments in the meantime.
Scratching each other’s backs
Coaching someone to meet your needs is not as mechanical as it may seem. Think of a time when you were near your spouse and you had an itch on your back that you couldn’t scratch yourself. When you asked your spouse to scratch your back, did you get frustrated because they didn’t know exactly where it itched? Or did you guide them to the area by saying, “a little to the left… Okay, up a little… to the right… yea, that’s the spot. Thank you.”
Similarly, helping our spouse meet our needs by guiding them to the “right spot” can meet our needs more thoroughly and thus enrich our marriage relationship.
Most couples want their spouse to be happy
Most married couples want to express love to their spouse and want their spouse to be happy. But since we have individual bodies, past histories, and likes, the things I want someone to do for me may not be the same as what the other person wants me to do for them. Therefore, the best thing I can do to know if I am meeting my spouse’s need is to ask her if she likes what I am doing or if she would prefer me to do something different.
For instance, I may feel most loved when my wife gives me a hug or a kiss, while she may feel most loved as I engage with my children and help around the house. If I try to show her love by hugging and kissing her, she may appreciate it, but it may not get the need met at the “right spot” as much as it would if I were to lessen her stress by helping with the house work, and by taking more of an active role with my kids. If I get offended and feel rejected that my wife isn’t as satisfied with a hug or a kiss as I am, I may feel that what I do isn’t good enough and I may get resentful – which wouldn’t help the situation at all. So rather than get upset that my wife’s needs of feeling loved are different than mine, I can ask her what I can do to be of most help, or to help her feel loved the most in that moment. Just like guiding a spouse to satisfy an itch, she can guide me to help her feel the most loved from me at that moment.
Therefore, coaching our spouse to meet our needs by saying things like, “I sure appreciate what you are doing, but what would help me feel loved even more is if you would…” (Fill in the blank). As we coach each other and allow ourselves to be coached, we may find that our communication becomes more insightful and we become more effective in showing our spouse love and helping them feel our love.
Shiloh Lundahl, LCSW, is a child and family therapist in Gilbert and Mesa, Arizona. He is the founder of Parent Arizona and Counseling Services and is part of the Arizona Family Therapy Group.
He works with couples on establishing safety and security within their relationship and helps couples understand and support each other more. He also teaches parenting classes using the Love and Logic curriculum, classes for parents ofchildren with ADHD, step-parenting classes, and advanced trainings for foster and adoptive parents. He also provides in-home therapy in Gilbert, Mesa, Queen Creek, San Tan Valley, Chandler, and Tempe, Arizona.