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Posts tagged ‘Marriage’

How To Get Your Needs Met In Marriage

Dr.Fran Cohen Praver, Clinical Psychologist and Relationship Analyst


“I’m so angry with Sam. He still doesn’t think about my needs, only his.” Laurie’s fists clenched and tears welled up in her eyes.

I asked, “What happened?”

“He went to his womanizing cousin’s wake and left me here alone all day with my sick mother. I’ve been her care-taker day and night for the last month and I needed a break. I would have liked to go out for a bit.” Laura pouted.

“What did you say to Sam?” I asked.

Raising her voice, Laura explained, “After he got home, I yelled at him and told him he’s never thought about my needs in the past and he never will. That he doesn’t get it at all and it’s pointless.”

“I know he was a married bachelor, left you home alone with the kids, and neglected you emotionally and sexually. ” I commented.

Tears streamed down her cheeks, as she said, “I realize the wake wasn’t a bachelor’s night out, but it brought back all the pain of the past.”

“I can understand the association and your pain. But I wonder why you didn’t assert yourself and communicate that you needed the break before he left?” I asked.

Looking down, Laura said, “I was afraid he’d get angry.”

“And if he did?”

“It doesn’t make sense.” Laura said.

“With your childhood history it does make sense. You feared your father as did your mother. He was an abusive alcoholic, and both of you learned to avoid him. It seems this passive-avoidance response was adaptive then, and it has continued autonomously, even though it is not working now,” I interpreted.

Looking up, Laura smiled slightly. “Yes, as I’ve told you, Sam is remorseful, feels guilty about the past and is trying to do anything to make it up to me.”

“But he’s not a mind reader.” I reminded her.

Like Laura, many women do not know how to get their needs met in a marriage. Instead of asserting themselves before the fact, they passively look the other way and attack after the fact. Laura does not assert herself in a timely manner in order for Sam to hear her. That’s only one scenario of numerous marital issues.

Another common reason that marital partners don’t get their needs met is that they do not listen to each other. Henning Mankell’s recent New York Times article, “The Art of Listening,” comes to mind here. He aptly writes that we have two ears and only one mouth so we should listen at least twice as much as we speak. But how many of us do that?

In our fast paced society, with both partners working, we barely have time to talk, let alone listen to each other’s stories. I see couples in such a hurry to respond, they don’t listen to everything their partners have to say. Instead they are in their heads planning their response. As a result, they have information but no knowledge of their partners. Mankell writes that people confuse information with knowledge. Knowledge means that you listen and interpret the information your partner conveys.

Unlike animals, we have the ability to listen to and understand our partner’s dreams, fears, joy, trauma, intentions, failures, and successes and our partners have the ability to listen to and understand ours. That innate connection is explained by mirror neurons, the newest, most exciting discovery.

Mirror neurons are miniscule brain cells located behind the eye sockets that connect intimate partners at an internal level. Each partner mirrors the other partner’s actions and feelings of attraction, romance, love, lust, moods, erotic desire, memories, and intentions. And that’s what humanity, intimacy, and love is all about.

Here then are some tips on how to get your needs met and enhance the intimacy and love in your marriage.

1) Always use “I” statements, so that you express your needs without complaining about your spouse. In this way you enlist your spouse’s cooperation. Instead of, “You never have time for me. I come last on the totem pole” try “I feel lonely and need a hug.”

2) Stay focused on the issues. Don’t digress and drag in the old dirty laundry. “I need your help, darling” is a better way to get your needs met than, “You never helped me in the past and it’s about time you did. ” Then again, if you do it yourself and complain afterwards, you are ensuring distance rather than closeness.

3) Suggest a time for alone-talk that is mutually convenient. Again, this brings your spouse into the mix and shows respect.

3) Remember timing is everything. If you’re feeling angry, take a breather, and strike when the iron’s cool.

4) Do not try to prove you’re right. What’s more important, being right or getting along? That’s a no brainer, but even brainy people are out to prove themselves right.

5) Take responsibility for your role in problems instead of blaming your spouse. Blaming your partner may feel powerful, but it’s not so. When you blame your spouse, you are trying to change him or her. Then you are at your spouse’s mercy and are rendered powerless. You can’t change anyone; the only one you can change is you.

6) A wish to control the other, often, underlies marital problems. Not only is the partner who dominates responsible, but the one who submits is too. Martyrs are bad for marriage. So if you feel your spouse is the domineering actor and you are the submissive passive reactor, you can change the dynamic. A good fight for equality is an active choice, and not a passive more-of-the-same position.

7) Become a role model for your spouse. It is up to you to lead the way, to act rather than react. Listen to your spouse’s side of things, and try to understand where he or she is coming from. When your spouse feels empathy from you, he or she may reciprocate with empathy for you. It is a case of good communication skills

Here then are some of these communication skills that you and your spouse can practice to get your needs met.

A. Listen to what your spouse says without interrupting or defending yourself.

B. When your spouse has finished, paraphrase what he or she has said. Then ask if that is what he or she meant.

C. If you did not understand, let your partner explain it further. Do not defend or attack him or her, simply listen.

D. Paraphrase once more to be sure you got your spouse. When he or she agrees, it’s your turn to respond.

E. Go back to the first step, but now it is your turn to express yourself, your feelings, and your emotional needs. Your spouse may not interrupt or defend himself or herself. He or she will listen and paraphrase till he or she gets it right.

Marital partners need mutuality, reciprocity, and equality. We want love and passion, security and excitement, commitment, and joy. We want it all and if we learn how to communicate our needs, we can have it all.

Dr. Fran Cohen Praver,  Clinical psychologist and relationship analyst
For more information on getting your needs met in marriage check out Dr. Praver’s latest book, The New Science of Love.

‘Help! I Hate My Husband!’

2012-January 25
Iris Krasnow Author, ‘The Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What It Really Takes To Stay Married’

“Help! I hate my husband.”

This is how a letter starts in my Inbox today. It’s from a 41-year-old woman named Cindy in Dallas who has been married for 12 years. I get hate mail like this using slightly different language several times a week. Substitute the word “hate” for “loathe”, “despise”, “can’t stand” and occasionally, “wanna kill”.

I always tell these women the same thing: You are definitely not alone. Plenty of wives feel this way. Plenty of wives think about divorce at least once a month, if not more, and manage to stay married for decades. My conclusions about the see-saw between hate and love come not as a psychologist or as a minister who counsels her flock. I am an author of five relationship books, including The Secret Lives of Wives, to whom women tend to tell all, about joy and sorrow and cheating and lying, about hot sex and no sex – and lots of dish in between.

Any woman married for longer than six months, if she is honest, knows the eggshell thin line that separates loving from loathing The deeper the love, the deeper the potential to hate. Any wife who is honest knows the compulsion to throw things, to hiss, to swear, to sit in the driveway in your bathrobe, engine running, sobbing.

What wife among you hasn’t occasionally sucked down too much wine to numb the pain of grinding against the same person, in the same house, every day, for weeks, months, years?

Yet we stay married because the love out-muscles the hate in our relationships. On those days we are socked under a gray malaise, we are suddenly lifted into the light as we walk by an old photo of the family, arms looped, heads pressed together, as if we are one big animal. And so it goes; happy some moments, miserable some moments, yet grounded in this flux of emotions by a fundamental commitment to each other, to the children, to forge onward.

I know from my own 24-year marriage and from the resilient women in The Secret Lives of Wives who have stuck it out for up to 60 years that marriage is ever-changing. Their own survival stories prove that periodic explosions can open up the channels to richer and stronger relationships.

I ended up having an hour-long email conversation with Cindy from Texas. She hit my heart. I felt her pain. I’ve been there, and persevered. Hopefully these snippets from our exchange will help you swing through the moods of hating toward loving, or at least toward liking him a lot, again.

From Cindy:

“At some point every week I feel like leaving him. When we got married I imagined this great life we would have together and instead we seem to always be fighting, about the kids, about the fact that he is so remote, about the stupidest things.”

From me:

“Are you still attracted to him?”

From Cindy:

“Sex is still, good, yes. But we don’t have it very often. I find myself lusting after other men.”

From me:

“Have sex more often with your husband. Keep the lusting in your imagination unless you want a torn up heart and buckets of guilt. Fantasy can be way better than reality; take it from one married woman who told me how she took a hubba-hubba office mate to a nearby hotel. Once he took off his shirt she saw a back that was so hairy she couldn’t even kiss him: As she put it: ‘He was gorgeous in his suit and I should have left it at that.’

“Sorry if this offends because your husband has a hairy back. I’m sure he’s adorable, but it wasn’t this woman’s taste.

From Cindy:

“No hairy back – don’t like them either. I know I’m lucky to be married to someone sexy. Some of my friends don’t go near their husbands. But this hate I feel, it simmers and I wonder if it’s a sign that there could be a better partner out there for me. Little things grate on me every day. My husband chews his food loudly. I hate his father. I hate our domestic hum-drum. This can’t be love!”

From me:

“Does he beat you? Is he gambling away all your money? Is he verbally abusive to you? Does he whack your children? Is he a philanderer?”

From Cindy:

“No, he’s a gentle man and a hands-on father. I have never been suspicious of him being with other women. He makes a good living, and that has enabled me to stay home with the kids.

“My hate comes from this feeling that I’m missing out on something else.”

From me:

“Here’s what you are missing out on, according to some wives who write to me. How about the agony of finding out your husband is sleeping with your best girlfriend? Or, getting daily critiques from your husband that you are repulsive to look at and lazy? One woman shared with me how her husband grew so frustrated with their autistic five-year-old he tossed him across the room.”

From Cindy:

“Yikes! Okay I admit I don’t have any really big problems. So what about this sense of just feeling bored?”

Last one from me:

“In the early years of marriage, during my 30s and into my early-40s, I often longed for a different life. In my 50s, I am grateful for a predictable routine with the same husband who has helped me raise four interesting sons. We loathe and we love and we carry on. When boredom hits, I go drinking with my girlfriends.

“Could my life be better with someone new? Perhaps, until the new becomes old, which it inevitably does. Does my head get turned by chiseled men in well-cut suits? Yes. Then I remember that I don’t want to necessarily see what’s under those threads. Acting on lust often turns out not to be true love but to be true disappointment. It takes grit and prolonged intimacy to love deeply and hate deeply and thus is the rhythm of family relationships. Ever tell a sibling or a parent, ‘I hate you’? Then, an hour later, you are hugging and wetting each other’s faces with tears.

“It takes a lot of love to hate.”

This blogger’s book, The Secret Lives of Wives can be found here, and she can be found on:

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