Thursday, January 15, 2009
Two Feelings Necessary In A Marriage
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. That is something I am still working on.
So the two feelings are
- Feeling wanted.
- Feeling accepted.
To take these in order: Feeling wanted. With this idea, I am referring to feeling wanted on a number of fronts. 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 yours.
The opposite of feeling wanted is feeling unwanted or needed. Both of these feelings destroy a relationship. If I feel unwanted, then I begin to feel undesirable, unlovable, unworthy. This is especially true if it comes from someone I love. Feeling unwanted causes us to question our physical attractiveness, or mental capacity, our 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 me, it pulls at me to meet that person's needs, regardless of what I might want.
What I am not saying: couples do depend on each other. That is the nature of marriage. So 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, really of neediness from a spouse.
So, two questions on this one:
- Do you feel wanted by your spouse?
- Does your spouse feel wanted by you?
I am reminded of some wise advice I heard long ago, "when someones '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 me to change, my feeling is not of being accepted but of being rejected. I do not feel like I am being helped to change, only that I am not accepted.
What this does NOT mean: we do not have to put up with any behavior, just to accept the other person. I 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!" 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?
Talk to me. Tell me what you think. Am I on target? Would you like to hear more on this subject? Do you disagree? Leave a comment and tell me what you think.
More marriage saving information can be found in my ebook, SAVE YOUR MARRIAGE HERE.
I hope you still remember me coz I e-mailed you a few months ago, I purchased your e-book and it broaden my perspective on my relationship to my spouse. I still continue to read it. I will send you an e-mail re: this topic. All the best!
"What this does NOT mean: we do not have to put up with any behavior, just to accept the other person. I 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."
So what about if your spouse IS abusive? The violence (so far) is all symbolic (i.e., throwing/ smashing things, driving the car like a maniac when I'm in it, etc. He is a Disney Daddy who brainwashes our child and totally undermines me as a parent. But nobody seems to see it because he's Mr. Perfect; even a marriage counselor (whose focus was on neutrality and making me 50%responsible for all problems) said I needed to change my perception of his behavior as "abuse" if we were going to get anywhere. No one seems willing to hold him accountable for his actions. He's very good at making nice-nice and charming everybody, while I'm the dark bitch who just doesn't know how to be happy. All counseling did was show him where to stick the knife; he never misses any more. Two other counselors (neither of whom we can treat with because they are personal friends, and both of whom have known him longer than me) said he is a narcissist and they don't change, so get out. He refuses to leave, and according to two lawyers, has me over a barrel. I am his third wife; he is my first.
Wanting and acceptance? Whatever happened to trust and respect? Emotional, if not physical, safety?
SO... can your program address this, or am I part of that OTHER 90.3%?
First, let me say that I have no depth of knowledge or understanding of your specific situation. I have not seen you or your husband in my office, so I am speaking in generalities.
That said, I have been clear in all my work that I do not support saving abusive relationships. Abuse tends to escalate, and safety becomes an issue. If you are in an abusive relationship, then it is not a "50/50" responsibility, EXCEPT for being responsible that you did not protect yourself.
You keep looking for answers, but it seems to me that you already know the answer; you are looking for another answer that fixes him.
Without trust and respect, feeling wanted and accepted isn't going to happen. Trust and respect are decisions we make, and the "wanted and accepted" are feelings we experience. Not separate and independent; part of the package.
I ran across your site totally randomly while feeling desperate about my marriage. My wife and I are in counseling right now and have been off and on with counselors for the last year.
I don't want to be in this marriage. (No there is no one else, no affair, etc.). There's more here than I can explain so let me just get to my question or thought.
How can I help what I feel? Because I am religious, I am told that feelings don't matter. So it doesn't matter if I don't want to have sex with her ever and I don't want to be in the marriage and I don't feel like I love her anymore. Love's not a feeling it's a commitment. That's what I hear all the time. But trying to have sex with someone you don't want to have sex with is awful. Saying I love you when you don't feel it seems hypocritical. This has been going on for years. But if feelings don't matter, then what else is there to do?
I feel lost and confused!
First, let me be clear that in this post, I am talking about two specific feelings (feeling wanted and feeling accepted). I am not addressing the feeling or emotion of love.
I do not agree that feelings are unimportant, and there is only commitment. I do believe, however, that commitment should lead the day. Feelings are an important part of the relationship.
But feelings come and go. Commitment is the glue that holds the relationship together. "Love" is choosing to love someone, not just a feeling. I cannot create emotions, as you note. But I can choose to act lovingly when the emotions aren't there.
And I can work on what is getting in the way of emotions. Often, what is getting in the way is one of several possibilities:
1) Anger and resentment built up over time, and not addressed.
2) Not staying connected, and therefore allowing the initial feelings to abate.
3) Someone else drawing attention away.
The solution depends on the problem. If there is built up anger and resentment, then it is necessary to deal with those feelings (which is why I have addressed this specifically in my system).
If it is about disconnection, then there is a need to reconnect (again, I cover this in the system).
If it is someone else, then it is important to stop that relationship. First, it is a violation of the vows you made. Second, relationships built on deceit are unlikely to survive. And third, you can't resolve the situation with someone else present.
Are feelings worthless? Absolutely not! But feelings and emotions are fickle. They come and go. The marriage vows are built on commitment through thick-and-thin. We don't make a promise to "love as long as I feel that emotion." We promise to love through good and bad times, up and down times, healthy and sick days. . . there is not much left!
We make those vows because we know the emotion will not always be there, so we promise to work through that.
The question, then, is how to work through them!