He complained to his wife, “I’m not getting enough affection. As a matter of fact, the only place I’m getting any affection is from the dog, and it’s just not enough.”
To which, she replied, “We’re not getting another dog!”
Coupling is always a struggle of communicating needs, sharing feelings and even sometimes taking a hit for the team. Sometimes our coupling requires a little sacrifice.
Each couple will have to struggle with the boundaries of self-sacrifice, service and selfishness. From these fluid facets of every relationship, we hammer out the shape and meaning of our common life together.
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We all need to get in touch with our feelings and hopefully we have the safety and security in the relationship to share these feelings. (I’m a therapist, I’m contractually required by the guild to say these things.)
Out of our feelings comes a sense of need. Hopefully, we have a partner with whom we can share these feelings and needs -- but this doesn’t always mean our needs will be met.
This is a little different than the common problem of not listening. Too often we are listening only to refine our argument against the request. We might be listening but really thinking about our point and how it perfectly refutes what the other has said. This is just poor communication.
What I’m referring to is the limitations and weaknesses of any two people. What if I’m chatting with old high school girlfriends on Facebook and it’s perfectly innocent? Maybe planning a reunion or get together (My old girlfriend, Julie, is laughing right now.) But my wife is threatened. What do I do?
Well, if I’m interested in teaching her how right I am, that she need not worry about me, then I go on doing what I’m doing. But then I haven’t really listened to her concerns, haven’t heard her feelings. Instead, I’ve put my needs in front of hers.
If I can tolerate yielding to a little sacrifice and giving a little service then I will find a different way to communicate with my old friends. Theoretically, I put my spouse’s needs first. Then, I need to put some action behind this and try to respond her needs.
He asked her to go out to the symphony, but she’s a little tired and doesn’t want to go, “I don’t have anything to wear,” she says. But he enjoys it and likes to be out. Can she get past her resistance and say yes?
Sometimes we may have to say no to our own desires and our first impulses in order to focus on the needs of our mate.
I generally think we need to love our lovers through their weaknesses instead of forcing our own will. Relationships require a different kind of softness. We need to accept our significant other where they are, and grow from there.
Good luck in your listening, which may lead to sharing, which could require a sacrifice to get to the contented coupling you imagine.
Bruce Conn is a licensed marriage and family therapist, and works with individuals and couples. Contact him at Bruce@BruceConn.com or call 478-742-1464.