In “No Vacuum!” I mentioned that our marriage (and probably many others) would have been healthier if we had compromised between realistic expectations and what we needed from one another. This is a big kettle of fish that whole books could be written about, and probably have! But I’ll just put in my 2 little cents, and pray that it will give you some new insight.
What do you need? What does your spouse need?
Those 2 little questions look deceptively simple. In the first place, it’s sometimes difficult to articulate what you need; you just know that something is missing. Then if you DO figure it out, it’s often difficult to communicate that need to your spouse. Sometimes you think it might hurt their feelings, and you don’t want to do that. You might be hurt or angry that they aren’t doing something you need, and resentful that you would have to say anything about it. (Have you ever said to yourself, “If he loved me, he would just know to do it!”) You might be afraid to say anything, for fear of what your spouse might think. (“She’s so NEEDY!” or “He’s a sex maniac!” come to mind.)
Here’s some of our story:
I felt like I lived many years mostly underwater, barely able to catch a breath. A “full-time” job, especially when you are just beginning it, is exhausting. And being a homemaker and mom is another full-time job. Consequently, I never felt like I did that well at either one. This guilt and perceived failure took up lots of brain space. Remember, to a perfectionist, what she DOESN’T do is much weightier than what she DOES do. What I didn’t/couldn’t do was always heavy on my mind. Were my kids neglected? No. Did I do a good enough job as a teacher? Yes. Does reality matter to a perfectionist? NO! Guilt and condemnation make themselves right at home anyway.
Mr X was not one to talk about his feelings, even if he could have figured them out, and there was no internet or even books (that I was aware of) teaching about sex in marriage from a Christian perspective. I just knew that he wanted more than I felt I had to give; I thought that he should be satisfied with all the other stuff I did (work full time, mother 3 young children, and run a household). Then I’d feel guilty because, in yet another area, I wasn’t good enough, then resentful that he wanted more from me. I had absolutely no clue how important lovemaking is to a man; the emotional part of it and how it affects his feelings about himself and for his wife. (Once more, I refer you to Sheila Gregoire’s very insightful post here.)
When Mr X began school full-time, after several years of going to night classes 2 or 3 nights a week– a very difficult period for this stay-at-home mom of 3– he scheduled his classes on 2 or 3 days and his work on the other days. He drove the kids to school and was able to be “Room Dad” and chaperone often. He did the grocery shopping. Once he began to take up some of the slack with the kids and at home, it helped me feel lots better. I don’t think he realized how much of a load those few things took off my MIND, but it really did make a huge difference.
Then at some point a friend recommended The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands by Dr. Laura Schlesinger. It opened my eyes! In a nutshell, she said when we say NO to our husbands’ sexual advances, they perceive us as saying NO to THEM, as men. It’s like their saying NO to our conversations with them.
These 2 things– neither of which we can really take credit for– helped us get a little further down the road to a good, healthy marriage.
What does your spouse need? Do you know? I challenge you to have that conversation!
Up next: setting realistic expections of ourselves and our spouses.