Would you like a guidebook that tells your partner exactly how to meet your needs and expectations?
Here’s how to start:
Many couples who are looking for help with their relationship can benefit from taking a look at their needs. That includes needs, wants, desires, preferences and requirements. Often I discover issues couples want help with that should have been addressed before the marriage but are just now being looked at.
They are arguing over things that could have been settled years earlier. For instance, she wants help with dinners and dishes, or putting the children to bed, or getting the laundry done. He wants to feel appreciated and wants her to acknowledge his hard work and that it is a sign of his love for her. He needs to relax when he gets home.
Early on you can have some wonderful conversations about these areas. Or, if you are facing challenges with them now, have those conversations now. Start talking. Set aside an hour a week to have a Relationship Meeting and make an agenda concerning your expectations, deal breakers, needs, preferences, etc.
Be sure to keep your focus on the solutions. My clients who do their meetings religiously and successfully learn a lot about each other and find a roadmap that helps them stay focused on their happiness.
First off, it is important to know what your partner thinks of as “deal breakers” or requirements for a committed relationship. Most couples require honesty. But some don’t want to talk about difficult things. Most couples want fidelity and say they will divorce if the other has an affair. Often, after years of marriage, that might change because they have too much to lose and prefer to fix the relationship after the affair.
Some couples might require living close to their families. Others, far away. Some have holiday and religious traditions that must be observed by both people. Some want the children raised a certain way. Often deal breakers might include both parties working. Or an agreement that one will make career decisions no matter what the other prefers.
Some folks expect sex several times a week. They are usually married to people who want much less sex. Often that isn’t even discussed, it’s just expected, and the war begins.
It saves a lot of heartache and heartbreak if you have these discussions early on and you have the time to see how the behaviors are synchronized with the words.
Most of us need time to be our real selves and authentic. That is when we see who we have really married. If your spouse says they like sex but it’s not even happening weekly, you need to notice the difference and talk about it.
Understand what is happening that makes the behavior so different from the words. Figure out some solutions enabling both of you to be happy.
Expectations & Needs
There are many needs and preferences people have that are not deal breakers, but they are important. His need is to be in control of money and decisions. Her pattern is to get her way and expect her husband will give it to her, because that is love (and what Daddy did). Both want to be in charge although their styles sound a bit different.
It is normal to go through a power struggle stage after the honeymoon roar dies down to a purr. At this point you have to consider how well you handle differences and negotiate what is important.
This is the primary skill you need to have a successful and happy relationship-how you handle your differences.
Let’s look at a typical marital disagreement due to different needs and expectations. She expects the husband to help at home in the evenings. He expects her to be in charge of the household and children. Discussion and negotiation is needed. Does he have a job that takes him out of town or demands 12-hour days? Does she work or have her own career?
Discuss your desires and expectations. Understand you can’t have it both ways. She wants the income from his 12-hour a day job. Which is more important, that income or help with dinner and dishes? He wants sex after the kids are in bed, but he also wants her to bring in an income and take care of the home and children. She is exhausted by 9:00 P.M. and falling asleep. Some negotiation is needed here.
Sometimes hiring a housekeeper once a week solves things. Or an after school program may be the solution for you. Perhaps you can find an easy way to get home cooked meals. Perhaps you can be like most married couples and make a commitment to sex every weekend. Or you might agree to only quickies during the week.
Compromises and solutions have to be agreed upon. Everyone can’t get their way. Understand your partner’s needs and explain yours. What is each of you willing to give up or change to get a solution that will make you both happy?
If you understand each other’s desires and you examine many solutions, you can both get your way – or at least enough to make you happy. You have to understand the other person’s expectations and preferences and then you learn to develop “win-win” solutions.
You both have to be happy with the solution. Give in on the little things so you can hold out on the more important areas for you where super-negotiation is needed. I find in my practice many marriages are helped with simple solutions.
Sometimes a great solution might be to have a specific night that the kids go to their grandparents, like every Wednesday or Friday night. You can count on that as a date night or a sex date night. You can hire a baby sitter so you can have adult time together for a date every Sat. Sometimes you can get more time by paying the housekeeper to also do the laundry.
Perhaps you schedule to work one night a week to “catch up”. Several fathers in my practice picked up the children from school and got dinner. After the kids went to bed they would return to the office or go to their home office to work a couple hours longer. Sometimes working Saturday morning when the kids have practice allows you to get in a few extra hours a week. Just remember to get to their games!
Here are a few more ideas:
- For guys’ time and gals’ time once a week, the neighbor girl takes care of the kids until 9:00.
- Maybe you golf on Sat. and pay for the housekeeper.
- Or your spouse gets a job that doesn’t allow her to be home until 6:00 P.M. She makes enough money to pay your sister to drive the kids to their lessons.
- You each do our own laundry and the kids do their sheets and towels.
- One of you takes care of meals Monday and Wednesday. The other has them Tuesday and Thursday.
- The kids do chores and help with many household tasks.
There are sooooo many great solutions, if you will but recognize your partners’ needs and get to work on the solutions instead of trying to get more things done your way. Your intimacy and loving feelings will be much better if you address the differences in your needs and desires.
What’s in your “Rule Book?”
Sometimes these needs or desires are expectations that you bring into the relationship. Your parents did things a certain way and because of that you simply copy them without considering there may be a better way. Or you purposefully do something different because you don’t want to do it their way. Your spouse came from a different family with different rules and expectations.
When you bring two different “rule books” into the marriage you must edit them into one new guidebook or rulebook for the two of you. Start discussing and rewriting. Recognize what expectation isn’t being fulfilled for each of you. No one tells you this when you get married, but it becomes your job to “write a rulebook” for your marriage – something that works for the two of you.
Let’s take a look at Frank and Clarissa, for example. Frank was raised in a traditional German family in the Midwest, with different experiences and expectations than Clarissa who came from an Italian family living in Southern California. His parents had him late in life and her parents were young. He was the oldest with a lot of responsibilities. She was the baby and the only girl.
They had to begin to identify the patterns that began in their childhoods. He had to get out of the way of his father’s alcoholic anger. He did that by being silent and trying to disappear into the woodwork. Her father doted on her and tried to teach her everything. They had conversations about the world and he taught Clarissa to defend her opinions. Her mother was Italian through and through. She was loud, emotional, reactive and very outspoken.
When Frank and Clarissa got married, their normal childhood patterns were in the forefront of their interactions. She valued open and honest communication. That included passion and often translated into yelling. Frank wanted to keep things peaceful so he would simply shut down and go inside himself. Ten years into their marriage they finally adjusted because they accepted that these behaviors were hard-wired in them both – it was the way they actually were! Then they made some rules.
It is easier to agree about guidelines or rules in year one instead of year ten. Frank and Clarissa needed to find the solutions that worked for them. They looked at many possibilities. If she yelled, he left and stayed in a hotel. As they learned, they began to take time outs and talk the next day. Sometimes she went to the gym and he stayed home with the kids. They talked later or sometimes saved it for the weekend.
Frank and Clarissa, like all married couples, had to work hard to understand each other’s expectations of married life and their limitations. She needed to accept he might not be able or willing to talk now. She wanted to get her feelings out of her system. Therefore he needed to hang on and listen and she needed to tame it down. Together they needed to find solutions that lead them to better peace and happiness and not the marriage counselor’s office or attorney’s office.
All couples have to express what they want and what they expect in their relationship. Listen to your partner’s needs. Don’t judge or be defensive. Express your own needs and preferences in a non-confrontational and non-blaming manner.
Expressing Love the Way Your Spouse Wants It
Tell your partner how you like love demonstrated to you. You want to teach each other what is meaningful to you so the behaviors reach you and make you feel loved. What good is it to write poetry to someone who can’t be bothered and does not appreciate it?
Find what turns on your partner and show your love that way. If he feels loved when you prepare great snacks for the football games, find a way to do that and please him. If she loves help with the dishes, do that.
Know if she prefers helpful acts of service done for her or gifts to express love. Does he like appreciations told to him or does he prefer physical touching? Maybe she likes quality time together as the way she prefers you to show her you love her. Make sure your actions are translated into, “I love you!”
Getting What You Really Need in Your Relationship
- Begin with weekly meetings and agendas for your conversations. At some point these things will work their way into your regular conversations.
- Become excellent at communicating your desires and being an outstanding listener.
- Know your deal breakers and how your spouse likes love demonstrated. Know their love languages. Then practice your negotiation skills and create only win-win solutions.