The Desires of One Spouse vs the Needs of the Relationship

Seek Wisdom angry couple AdobeStock_62220691 copySometimes the desire of one spouse conflicts with the needs 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. That is because it will cost the relationship or the family something.

Find Balance

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 is true too. 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 than 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.

The Relationship Needs Tending To, As Well

Make sure that over the long haul the marriage goes on the back burner at times for each member. Also make sure that each member has learned that the marriage is more important than 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.

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Filed under: Communication and Conflict

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3 responses to “The Desires of One Spouse vs the Needs of the Relationship

  1. (USA)  How can I stop my spouse from thinking I think he is stupid just because we have different views on everything? I don’t tell him derogative things when we disagree but when I try and explain myself he thinks I am trying to change his mind. This in turns leads to incredible verbal abuse from him. I think I am done working on it.

  2. (USA) C, I am experiencing the same issue in my marriage. It’s so hurtful, because my husband words become very abusive anytime I try to express my point of view on anything. And most times we have differing view points, so if we don’t agree, he sees my perspective/opinion as an attack against him. Our whole marriage has been centered around him, and I’m ready for my “season.” I feel that if I stay in my marriage I’ll constantly be making sacrifices for his needs and wants, but that he’ll never step back and allow me to thrive also. I’m praying but his selfishness is extremely discouraging… God bless you and do not give up.

  3. (NIGERIA) I am a man, and I feel ashamed and guilty of using words like a weapon, particularly when my wife won’t stop talking about a thing. I didn’t do right and of which I have requested that we ‘move forward’ on this issue, but for her nothing moves forward until all outstanding issues have been resolved and laid to rest. But men are not like that! At times I am still processing the thought and considering the pros n cons but she just doesn’t understand the man’s world. I am guilty of using harsh words when it appears as though my wife will not be on the same page with me. Honestly I don’t want to offend or annoy my spouse.

    I still recall how much I so desperately wanted her friendship and companion during our courtship that I’d write her 12 letters in just one day. I wonder where has all those ‘can’t live without you feelings have gone’. I daily ask God to please restore the honey in my marriage cause I love my wife and wish her all the best. The Lord once said to me during my quiet time “treat your wife as you would want me to treat you.” This was the safety catch that has kept me in check, though we still disagree on a number of issues.

    But I am learning fast now on how to use the 5 magic phrases: Please, Excuse me, I’m sorry, Thank you and the last one Pardon me. No man feels lifted when they know their spouses ain’t happy. Nonetheless two things are needful: daily family altars (nothing works like prayers) and knowledge expressed through grace. May the good HANDS of the Most High God reposition our marriages for optimum joy and revelations.