Sometimes the desire of one spouse conflicts with the need of the relationship. Mom wants to go back to school, but the couple needs the time or the money. Dad wants to relocate for a promotion, but it would disrupt the family. One partner has been working hard for a season and wants to spend some time or money for himself or herself.
On the surface, this desire of one member of the family can be seen as selfish because it will cost the relationship or the family something.
The rule here is that there is no rule. If there were a rule, it would be to find a balance over the long term. No relationship is going to survive if all the members are not getting some desires met; vice versa, no relationship is going to thrive if the members get their individual needs met and the relationship at times to “serve” its members.
I talked to a family the other day whose mother has found out in middle age that she has a particular talent. Pursuing this talent into a career costs the rest of the family. They all have to pitch in and take up the slack while she invests time and money into pursuing her dream. But it is a team effort. They are still in it together. The husband is more excited about what she is doing then he is about his own work. It is a beautiful thing to watch.
It works because this woman has given much to her family over the years. She has provided that she can sacrifice for the marriage and for the family. Now the family is sacrificing for her growth. It is a good balance for all concerned.
The problem comes when the marriage always serves one member and never the others. Make sure that over the long haul the marriage goes on the back burner at times for each member at that each member has learned that the marriage is more important then his or her individual wants.
Marriage means giving up some individual “rights” for the sake of the marriage. But sometimes the marriage returns the favor and sacrifices for the individual. In the end, the marriage benefits as each member grows. But keep it in balance, making sure that the marriage gets served first.
Here are some hints:
• Remember that the marriage comes first. Give the best to the relationship before your individual desires. Earn the equity to spend later.
• Be clear about what you want. Don’t passively wish. Tell your spouse clearly.
• Be excited about what your spouse wants for himself or herself individually. You are “one,” and it is for you as well, even if it seems that it is just “for him or her” right now.
• Make sure that your individual desires that take away from the relationship over the long haul are not unbalanced in terms of what your spouse gets.
• As much as possible, make long-term plans for individual things that take away from the marriage. This way you can plan together to sacrifice, and it is not spur of the moment. Immediate requests feel more like demands.
This article comes from the book, Boundaries in Marriage, written by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr John Townsend, published by Zondervan. This book helps you to deal with the struggle of differing needs. As Cloud and Townsend say, “in the process of knitting two souls together, it’s easy to tear the fabric.” That’s why boundaries –the ways we define and maintain our sense of individuality and integrity are so important. In this book you’ll learn how to deal with serious violations and betrayals and develop a haven of mutual love, care, appreciation and growth.