Here’s a story about relationships:
A couple came to a pre-marital counseling session. They had been talking about marriage and how they felt closer to taking this step in their lives. They had been together for several years. They both said they felt safe and happy together. They wanted to do their marriage right, not repeat some of the painful things they saw their parents and friends do in their marriages.
When they were asked to describe what they saw their parents do, one of them said that they saw alot of stress about money affect their parent’s relationship. The other said that their parents didn’t fight much but also seemed distant towards one another, as if they weren’t really affectionate or close.
The conversation turned toward the meaning of marriage. The first partner said, “Marriage means commitment and commitment means for better and for worse.” The second partner turned to the other and said, “I am ready to get married, are you?” The first partner sat still for a moment, looking pensive. He said, “I am ready and I’m scared. Marriage leads to buying a house, and having a family. It’s like the responsibilities keep adding up. I’m scared.”
The second partner looked into his eyes and said, “What do you need?”
What do you need? What do I need?
We have to take responsibility for asking this question of ourselves and our partners. Conversely, we have a responsibility to say, “This is what I need!” You can ask your partner for what you need but if they don’t understand, if they don’t really hear what you are asking, or if they balk, then take a break. Give your partner some time to reflect. Try again. Talk about what each partner’s concerns are. If you are still having difficulty with this, couples counseling can help.
It takes time and deep introspection to understand your needs. Quite often it requires guidance and counseling to clarify what you need as you grow throughout your life. Needs have to be prioritized. Some needs have to get met outside the relationship. Some needs come from old emotional wounds that need grieving.
Spend time on a regular basis evaluating what your true needs are. Talk to your partner about your needs regularly. Talk to family and friends who will give you positive and critical feedback.
If needs are regularly discussed in a relationship, quite often small changes can meet the needs of both partners. Other times a presented need requires major life change.
In the next part of this series, we will discuss questions about trust and flexibility.