Monday, March 16, 2015

Need. It's not a selfish word.

Needs. Not preferences. Not wants. Needs.

The word needs is overused. I need a new phone. I need a coffee. I need to lose weight. Overuse has meant need has become a selfish word.

Growing up in a church meant I learned about humility and loving others. Others first. Submissive wives. Make allowances for faults and love them anyway. None of this is wrong.

But all this teaching led to a mindset that went too far. None of those teachings should be taken to mean that you are not allowed to seek to have your own fundamental needs met.

Everyone has relational needs. Everyone.

Need is not a selfish word.

Having your fundamental needs met is not a selfish life.

(Focussing only on your needs/wants/desires is a completely different story! But that's not what I'm talking about here).

I was married for 17.5 years. He was kind. He was gentle. But we had these issues in our relationship that ultimately cost us our marriage. I need to be clear- my ex-husband never discouraged or stopped me from raising matters of need. But faulty mindsets on both our parts meant the marriage didn't survive. The damage was done. We could deal with day to day issues. We were not unhappy, but the fundamental problems were left undealt with - like painting a house but leaving the termites in the framework.

There is a great danger in mistaking a need with selfishness.

There is a critical problem if seeking to be a Godly loving patient partner results in overlooking fundamental relational needs that need to be met.

The desire not to be a "needy spouse", and all the stigma that goes along with that, does mean you overlook your own needs being met if they are fundamental to a healthy relationship . What you think is helping your relationship may be the very thing that is sabotaging the future of your relationship.

In the last 2 years I have repeatedly seen relationships fail because of this issue. My own included.

Here is a list of needs in a relationship: (not endorsing Dr Phil- but it's a good list)

The result of long term unmet fundamental needs is inevitable. Eventually one or both partners will burn out. Like a car that is driven endlessly without being maintained where needed, eventually it will ultimately break. It's not something that one chooses. It is the inevitable consequence.

From analysing my own failed marriage over and over and over, I have the following statements that I believe need to be said about unmet needs:

1. Ignorance of the need won't save the relationship. Read the list.

2. Fulfilling one of your partner's need (and doing a good job at it) will "band-aid" other unmet needs for a time only, but ultimately won't fix the problem or save the relationship. You may do aspects of the relationship very well. That buys you time. It doesn't buy you a pardon.

3. Don't mistake the patience of your partner while their needs remain unmet as comfort that you don't need to deal with the unmet need.

4. Feeling bad about not meeting your partner's need won't fix the problem or save the relationship. Telling your partner you feel bad only makes it worse- because they may feel compelled to say "it's ok" - when you both know that, after a while, it's not ok.

5. Any form of punishing your partner for raising unmet needs (sulking, anger, withdrawal) will only make the problem worse.

6. Not raising unmet needs for fear of hurting your partner won't fix the problem and won't save your relationship. You're actually hurting your relationship more than you know.

Ask courageous questions and then do something about it before it's too late.

Look at this list of needs that I linked. Then say to your loved one on a yearly basis: "I am giving you permission to be honest - which of your needs aren't being met (that I am responsible for meeting)".

Chances are - you already know the answer. But ask anyway.

Face the answer - don't punish them for telling you.

Then DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT - don't wait until it's too late.

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