There are two crucial feelings for a happy marriage. Do you feel them? Does your spouse feel them?
There are two essential feelings necessary for a marriage to thrive or even survive. Notice that I said "feelings," not emotions. I think that word better describes what I am trying to communicate: someone can feel a certain way. While it ties into an emotional response, it is still different.
I note these feelings for you as a way of considering how you are feeling, and to consider how your spouse may be feeling. At this point, I am suggesting these feelings, but am not going to be giving a great deal of answers. You can find more about restoring these feelings in your marriage by looking at my material on how to save your marriage.
So the two feelings are
- Feeling wanted.
- Feeling accepted.
"Feeling wanted" would be in opposition to feeling either a) needed or b) unwanted. And "feeling accepted" is in opposition to feeling rejected or unaccepted.
Let's take these in order. First is the feeling of being wanted. With this idea, I am referring to feeling wanted on a number of levels: "Am I wanted sexually?" "Does the person want to be with me?" "Does the person want to know me?" "Does the person want me to do better?" These are just a few of the “wants.” You can add your own.
The opposite of feeling wanted is feeling unwanted or feeling needed. Both of these feelings can destroy a relationship. If a person feels unwanted, then that person begins to feel undesirable, unlovable, even unworthy. This is especially true if it comes from someone loved. Feeling unwanted causes one to question physical attractiveness, or mental capacity, or even one's spiritual basis -- all from a single feeling.
But just as destructive is the feeling of being needed. You see, someone can need me without wanting me. Or the feeling of being needed can lead to fears of losing one’s self to the other person. When someone needs another person, it pulls that person toward meeting that person’s needs, regardless of what the needed person might want.
Let me clarify what I am not saying: couples do depend upon each other. That is the nature of marriage. The more you weave your life together, the more you functionally rely on each other, and really need each other. But that is different than the feeling of being needed, which is really about the neediness of a spouse.
So, I have two questions on this one:
- Do you feel wanted by your spouse?
- Does your spouse feel wanted by you?
The next feeling is the feeling of being accepted. This is one of the most basic emotional needs that we all have: to be accepted and loved. While I believe that unconditional love is a goal, not a reality, this is sort of what I am referring to: "Does my spouse accept me for who I am?"
I am reminded of some wise advice I heard long ago, “when someone says ‘I could love you if. . .,’ they already love you, they just want to change you.” Unfortunately, many marriages are built on people making a project out of their spouse. It may start before marriage, or it may start years into a marriage. But most spouses have a “wish list” of changes they would love in a spouse.
In the last week, I have heard about spouses that would be more loved if they: lost weight, got a better job, cleaned better, lasted longer during sex, had more sex, started an interesting hobby, dressed more stylishly, quit drinking, starting exercising, spoke more pleasantly, quit snoring, started going to church, helped more around the house, etc., etc.
Now my point is NOT that we cannot improve ourselves. My point is that when the pressure comes from outside of ourselves, we feel more defeated than empowered and we feel unaccepted (or rejected). When someone wants another person to change, the feeling is not of being accepted but of being rejected. That person does not feel like they are being helped to change, but only that they are not accepted.
Let me be clear about what this does NOT mean: we do not have to put up with any behavior, just to accept the other person. You don’t have to accept abuse, lying, criminal behavior, infidelity, and any number of other actions. So if we drop out all the “outliers,” and go with the more typical, then we are aiming at the same target.
Someone once said, after the husband made it clear that she needed to lose weight, “it’s not like I can’t see myself in the mirror! He acts like this is some revelation to me!” The fact is, most of us are aware of our shortcomings and imperfections. Having them pointed out is rarely constructive. Feeling accepted and loved, that is what we all need!
- Do you feel accepted?
- Does your spouse feel accepted?
What can you do that would make your spouse feel more wanted? What could you do that would make your spouse feel more accepted? You have no power over the behavior and actions of your spouse, but you DO have a choice on how you make your spouse feel.
You can find more advice and the Save The Marriage Podcast at the Save The Marriage Blog.
This article was originally published at Save The Marriage . Reprinted with permission from the author.