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My husband and my emotions

In the past, I've found that I lean on my husband to meet my emotional needs. (And get terribly insecure, frustrated or disappointed when he doesn't come through!) Now I'm realizing this isn't totally his responsibility. What is the balance between looking to my husband and taking responsibility for my own needs?

Robin's Response

I think most married women relate to the temptation to look to our husband to meet our emotional needs. We might be tempted to think: Isn't he supposed to love me unconditionally? I want to meet his needs and make him happy. Shouldn't it be the same in return?

In fact, there have been times when I've acted like my husband should have psychic powers to know exactly what my needs are! Or I've hinted around at my needs and then been disappointed when he doesn't come through--tempting me to either pull my heart back from him or reinforce my attempts to get what I think I need from him. When I take these paths, I start to resemble the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:28, "Give me what you owe me!" And I only become more insecure.

One of my first big steps to change was learning to own my emotional needs. One of our counselors taught my husband and I to use these two simple, but powerful statements: I feel... I need...

For instance, I feel... overwhelmed, sad, confused, afraid, etc. I need... encouragement, support, reassurance, some time alone, etc.

We also learned to ask each other those questions to prevent needs from turning into arguments: What are you feeling? What do you need?

That helps us avoid where we've gone in the past: "you statements" that are shame-laden, and that put the other person on the defensive, "You don't meet my needs! You don't care. You only think of yourself."

As much as I yearn for Dave to love and protect me (a God-given yearning I believe) I've also learned to take my emotional needs first to God. I love Psalm 73:25-26: "Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."

When I go to God with my emotions I can mourn my losses, then come to a place of entrusting those needs to him. Then I can approach challenging conversations with my husband from a more peaceful place and with purified motives--understanding that God is using Dave and I's differing perspectives and struggles to change and heal me.

Taking responsibility for my emotions also means developing meaningful relationships with other women who can give me perspective, and help diffuse some of my emotionality (and my insecurity!).

As I've done this, I've found it easier to open up to my husband in ways that make him feel like he has what it takes to love me and meet my needs.

And bit by bit, (although it sometimes floors me how selfish my perspective can be!) I'm figuring out the flip side of this equation.

I'm learning to let my husband own his feelings and needs without overreacting--a good starting place for giving my husband the kind of respect for which he longs and deserves.


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