What to Do When Your Needs Aren’t Getting Met in Marriage Having your needs met begins with you. Use these 7 components to help have a happier, healthier marriage. BY SHARON RIVKIN, M.A., M.F.T.
You can't sweep your issues under a rug and expect that everything will be fine in your marriage.
“ Resolve your arguments instead of thinking they’ll magically disappear by sweeping them under the rug.”
There are seven components that create a healthy marriage, and if any of those elements are missing in your marriage, your needs are probably not getting met.
You can't simply express your "needs" to your partner, without first working to create a healthier marriage overall. What would happen if you told your spouse that, "you never listen to me?" Listening is a "need," but without having good communication skills in your marriage, that need will never get met. Or, what if your spouse told you he’s not happy because he’s not getting enough sex. You know he’s right, but you nevertheless don’t feel warm and fuzzy toward him because of the resentment you feel from the unresolved arguments cycling in your marriage.
Fortunately, there is a process that can help create a healthier marriage and ensure both your needs are getting met. Begin incorporating the seven elements outlined below:
1. Work together as a team so that your spouse doesn’t become your enemy. Once you become enemies and your relationship is filled with hostility and contempt, it’s very difficult to recover the love or even remember that you once were in love. So if you’re finding that your anger is growing, do everything you can to understand where that anger is coming from. Address your feelings of resentment so that you can get back on track as a team and work together to build intimacy.
2. Resolve your arguments instead of thinking they’ll magically disappear by sweeping them under the rug. Before resolution can happen, you need to learn what triggers you in a fight. The triggers will lead you directly to your core issue—that childhood trauma that is the underlying reason for the fights. If you don’t know your triggers, you’ll have the same fight over and over.
3. Be flexible and open to change. The more rigid the relationship and the more entrenched you become in negative behavioral patterns and the roles you play, the more unhealthy, stagnant, and difficult the relationship becomes. For example, if you always need to be right in a fight and are unwilling to see your spouse’s point of view, this will undoubtedly lead to your partner feeling insignificant, without a voice, and with a sense of hopelessness and helplessness. However, if you’re willing to work on "needing to be right," you open the door to happiness, connection, and safety.
4. Good communication. This includes the safety to speak how you feel without being criticized or judged, as well as listening to understand, rather than listening to reply. It takes practice, patience, the willingness to be vulnerable, and trust.
5. Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt when you feel angry, hurt, or disappointed. For example, do you immediately jump to the conclusion that your husband was being insensitive because he didn’t call to let you know he’s running late? Why conclude that he’s "insensitive" when there might have been an emergency at work, and he literally didn’t have a second to spare to call you. When we draw judgmental conclusions without knowing the facts, we’re not giving our partners the benefit of the doubt.
6. Take action by not ignoring the warning signs. If you’re not talking, sex has diminished, you’re fighting all the time, or you’re generally not happy, heed those warnings that something is wrong that requires immediate attention in your marriage. If not addressed, those warning signs could turn your partner into your enemy, thus creating a huge problem in your marriage that may be difficult to resolve.
7. Take extra time every day to let your husband or wife know that you appreciate them and are grateful to have them in your life. This could be done by words and/or gestures, like a kiss and a, "I love you." Or, "How was your day?" Or, "Thank you for making such a nice dinner." Most of us want to be appreciated by our spouse, and these gestures will go a long way to making us feel special, wanted, and loved in our marriage.
As you’ve learned from the above, you can see why simply asking your partner to fulfill your needs can’t happen until you work on your relationship. Marriage takes effort, focus, determination, and discipline. If you regularly practice the seven elements—the building blocks to creating a healthier marriage—you will see that your needs are getting met, and the result is a more satisfying and fulfilling marriage.
Also known as the "last ditch effort therapist," Sharon M. Rivkin, therapist and conflict resolution/affairs expert, is the author of "Breaking the Argument Cycle: How to Stop Fighting Without Therapy" and developer of the First Argument Technique, a 3-step system that helps couples fix their relationships and understand why they fight. Her work has been featured in Oprah Magazine, Reader's Digest, Time.com, Yahoo!News.com, WebMD.com, and DrLaura.com. Sharon has appeared on TV, was quoted on The Insider TV show, and makes regular radio appearances nationwide. She has also appeared on Martha Stewart Whole Living Radio and makes regular radio appearances nationwide. For more information, please visit her website at www.sharonrivkin.com and follow her on Google+.