It has been my observation through the years that many husbands simply do not understand the needs of their wives. Conversely, many wives do not understand the needs of their husbands. In their ignorance, they make little effort to meet each others’ needs.
Some husbands believe that if they work at a steady job and bring home a decent salary, they have completed their role as a husband. Some wives believe that if they cook a meal now and then, do the laundry, and wash the baby’s face – that’s it. He should be happy. What’s wrong with the man?
The fact is we all have needs. This is part of what motivates us to get married. When these needs are not met over a period of time, we tend to get irritable. Irritation brings criticism, and criticism brings counter-attack. So, we find ourselves fighting rather than seeking to meet needs. This week we are going to look at marriage as a “mutual aid society.”
The husband who is satisfied with simply putting food on the table has a very limited view of the importance of his role as husband. The wife who is satisfied with cooking that food has a very limited view of the importance of her role as wife.
Food is important, but it is only foundational. It is not the final word. We have needs for love, affection, tenderness, kindness, and encouragement. These are as foundational to our emotional health as food is to our physical health.
Once the food is on the table, it is now time to nurture each others’ inner emotional needs. Why not make a list of what you think your spouse’s needs are? Then ask them to make a list of their needs. Rank them in order of importance. Compare your lists. You may find that you have been spending your energy in the wrong place. Remember your spouse is the expert on his or her needs.
One of our most fundamental emotional needs is the need for security. Safety from the crime-ridden streets of the neighborhood? “Yes,” but the greatest security need is the need for the deep assurance that your spouse is committed to you. That they can be trusted and that they will be there for you. The person who threatens his spouse with such statements as “I just think we should get a divorce. You’d be better off with someone else. Or “I think I’ll find someone who will really love me,” is striking emotional terror in the soul of the spouse.
We need to communicate to each other that whatever happens, we are with them. We want to help. We want to learn. If there are disagreements, we will take time to listen, understand, and seek resolution. “If you are hurting, I want to be there for you.” These are the commitments that create a secure atmosphere in which to grow a healthy marriage.
All of us have the need for significance or self-worth. We want to feel that we are important, that our lives are counting for something. In marriage we are called upon to encourage each other in our pursuits for significance. Ultimately our self-worth is rooted in who we are, children of God by faith in Christ. This makes us extremely important.
As children of God we are all uniquely gifted. As we express these gifts or abilities under the direction of the Holy Spirit we experience satisfaction. We can see something of how God is using us as His instrument for good. We are humbled, but we are also encouraged.
Positive comments about your spouse’s efforts to explore their interests and giftedness is a way to help meet their need for significance. “You’re a super mom,” is encouraging to a wife who has chosen to be a “work at home Mom.” Critical comments, on the other hand, tend to diminish self-worth. Look for ways to encourage your spouse.
Wherever man is found, he is a social creature. He relates to others. Marriage does not diminish this need to relate to those outside the family. The wife may wish to be a part of a ladies’ civic club. The husband should seek to encourage her involvement. In so doing he is helping meet her social needs.
A husband may want his wife to initiate a neighborhood dinner or participate with him in a church Bible study. Such activities may not be at the top of her priority list, but they quickly ascend in importance because meeting his needs is important to her.
In helping each other develop social relationships, we are enhancing their growth as a person. If we put down their social interests as being superficial and unimportant, we create tension because we are seeking to thwart one of man’s basic needs, the need to relate. In a healthy marriage, social relationships are seen as a normal part of life. When we seek to meet each other’s needs, we are building a strong marriage.