The Need for Attention – Marriage Message #244
“The need for attention makes us vulnerable.” Please consider that statement. When we yearn for attention we’re more vulnerable to give in to temptations that otherwise would have no influence on us. We shouldn’t give in —we should stand up against temptation no matter what, because of the integrity of our hearts! But in our “weakened” state we can sometimes let our guard down and give in (regretting it later, but none-the-less, the damage is done).
That’s one reason why we want to warn you to be on the alert. The Bible tells us to be cautious because the enemy of our faith “is prowling about like a hungry lion looking for someone to devour.“ He looks for the weaker prey —the ones who are easier to take advantage of. So be cautious if you’re feeling weak, and be careful not to put your spouse in that vulnerable position.
David and Teresa Ferguson talk about this in their book, The Pursuit of Intimacy (which unfortunately, is no longer being published). Pay attention to what they write, asking the Lord to show you whatever you need to learn:
A marriage partner who goes for long periods without attention, affection, or appreciation can easily become vulnerable to moodiness, retaliation, or rejection. A wife may turn inward and become uncommunicative, a husband may retaliate by beginning an affair, or both partners may find a hundred minuscule ways of rejecting each other every day.
She fixes his least favorite meal. He doesn’t remind her that her favorite TV program is on. Their cuts and digs and little betrayals are limited only by the boundaries of their own imaginations. These various creative relationships are never justified; in fact they’re wrong and sinful. In order to avoid them and even stop them we must often come to better understand them.
But relational needs aren’t limited to adults. A child who misses out on attention, acceptance, or affirmation may begin to “act out” in order to gain attention or strike out against those who withhold his or her basic need.
Do you recall the Los Angeles riots in 1992? We all sat in stunned horror as unimaginable violence and devastation blazed across our TV screens. Later, as TV reporters talked with both victims and offenders, a common theme became evident: People —especially young people were striking back at a system that they felt abused and deprived them of their basic rights.
As husbands and wives we aren’t likely to start any riots in our households, but a spouse’s discontent can become just as deadly to the marriage. Surveys consistently indicate that marital affairs are not primarily sexually motivated. Instead, infidelity usually begins with emotional bonding. An acquaintance becomes more than a friend; add a little flirtation, and temptation can’t be far behind.
Surprisingly, the typical “attraction” is based not so much on physical as emotional needs. In other words unmet needs lead to frustration, frustration leads to vulnerability, and vulnerability can lead to an affair.
[The authors then give illustrations of individuals who allowed themselves to get caught up in adulterous affairs, and realized afterwards that the other people made them feel valued again —they listened to them, gave them undivided attention, and affirmed them —which they hadn’t felt with their marital partner for a long time.
This doesn’t justify their behavior but it gives better insight into what led to their downfall.] The authors go on to say:
We could all learn a lesson from [these people]. But how do you put that lesson into principles you can apply in your own life? How do you “affair-proof” your own marriage? It’s important to begin by understanding your spouse’s emotional/relational needs.
Dr. Les Carter, in his book “Broken Vows,” shares reasons given for extramarital affairs. One of the most common arguments is, “My wife (husband) and I don’t ever talk anymore. I was just looking for some companionship.”
This comment highlights significant unmet needs. For example, “We don’t talk anymore” might really mean, I need attention, understanding, and empathy. “Looking for companionship” might be expanded to include the unmet needs of support, appreciation, acceptance, or affection. When these emotional/relational needs are met, a mate is less vulnerable to other “companionships.”
Keep in mind that marriage is a role model of the relationship between Christ and the church. Ephesians 5 speaks of Christ loving the church as He gave Himself for it (v. 25).
During your private times of prayer and fellowship, God meets your needs for intimacy with Him. As you share your innermost self with Him, you receive His love and acceptance, and your deepest emotional yearnings are satisfied. Then you share with your mate the same love, comfort, and acceptance God has given you.
When both you and your mate have spent time basking in God’s love, you’re likely to come together with an overflow of love for each other.
Lynne confirms this fact from her own marriage. “When I’ve spent time in the presence of Christ and feel His love surrounding me, I’m a different person when I return to my family. I’m not bothered by things that normally would have irritated me. I can feel God’s love flowing through me to my husband and children.”
It may sound funny, but it’s almost a transcendent feeling. It’s not me showing them that special love; it’s Christ through me. It’s a wonderful, joyous feeling. And it’s contagious. My family responds to me with patience and love. It’s a snowballing effect, and I find myself thinking, Yes! This is the way it was meant to be!
But I have to admit it doesn’t happen like that often enough. Usually I just stumble along, trying to love my family in my own strength. They can tell the difference. Boy, can they tell the difference! When it’s only me, my love wears pretty thin sometimes and I’m not as patient as I want to be. I get downright grouchy and then I just wish they’d leave me alone.
John 13:34 sums up what Lynne is seeking to put into practice: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.“
Matthew 10:8 underscores this admonition: “Freely you have received, freely give.” Since we have freely received from Christ, with gratefulness we can freely give to others.
Consider this, as it pertains to your marriage. We sure don’t want to give the enemy of our faith anymore opportunity to hurt us than he’s going to steal anyway! We need to lavish attention, acceptance, and affirmation on our spouses every opportunity we can so they aren’t as vulnerable to temptation.
By doing so —we build even stronger and more loving marriages —a true reflection of the love of God!
Cindy and Steve Wright