Not everyone realizes they have relationship needs (emotional and physical needs that you expect your spouse/partner to meet). This is especially the case for older couples I work with who were raised in a generation where the phrases, “emotional needs” “emotional intimacy” and “need for validation” would cause confusion. In the past, a statement like, “I need you to…” might be seen as selfish, self-indulgent, and counter to what marriage is all about.
But times have changed.
Relationship Help: Are you entitled to have all your needs met?
Today the expectations of what is possible in marriage and romantic relationships have dramatically evolved, and taking center stage is the idea that our needs are vital and should be met. This is a positive evolution that recognizes the significant impact healthy and unhealthy marriages/relationships have on the lives of couples—getting one’s relationship needs met is part and parcel to a fulfilling life.
Your needs should be a part of the relationship-equation, and so should your partner’s needs.
Relationship Reality: Since your needs (and your partner’s needs) will not always overlap and neatly complement each other, there will be times when one of you will have to make the decision to place your needs on hold in order to meet the needs of the other—unfortunately for more and more couples, the idea of compromise and sacrifice for the greater good of the relationship is seen as an affront to the right to have one’s needs met.
This occurs when couples confuse the idea that their needs should be taken seriously with the belief that they are entitled to have each need met without compromise.
Entitlement (the belief that all or most of your needs must be met by your spouse/partner) places undue stress on your partner and the relationship. This is unrealistic and a recipe for failure.
A mature relationship will always involve:
~the ability to take perspective (to see the bigger picture and complexities of life);
~a willingness to choose your battles and, at times, bite your tongue for the greater good of the relationship;
~the maturity to delay and resist the need for immediate and ongoing gratification (keeping in check the “because-I-want-it-I-should-have-it” thinking);
~an awareness that compromise (and, at times, self-sacrifice) is part of the commitment process;
~the ability to self-soothe, pursue separate interests, and find fulfillment outside the bounds of your marriage/relationship.
Certain conditions should be a part of every marriage/relationship: love, respect, being valued and treated with dignity.
But the expectation, “My partner should meet all my needs; my relationship should make me happy beyond all else” creates a slippery slope that ends in frustration, dissatisfaction, and disillusionment.
In its place, try on the following relationship expectations (and of course, tweak them to fit your own relationship values):
- “My spouse/partner will meet some of my needs some of the time.”
- “I’m responsible for my happiness and there are different paths to fulfillment in life, in addition to my marriage/relationship.”
- “I’ll strive for life-balance so some of my needs will be met in my marriage, and others will be met through friends, family, work, intellectual and creative pursuits, personal and spiritual growth, etc.”
To bring out the best in each other, couples should always set the relationship bar high. But remember, having unrealistic expectations about your relationship needs places the bar far beyond anyone’s reach.
Until next time,
Dr. Rich Nicastro