How Do You Let Your Spouse Know You Need Them?

How Do You Let Your Spouse Know You Need Them? I love asking this question in therapy.  It reveals so much about a marriage.  Often, it is all I need to know.  Do you let your spouse know you need them emotionally, physically, affectionately, as a companion, a confident, a shoulder to cry on, a place for comfort?  And if so, how you do let them know? Is it working?

People come in for marriage counseling for so many reasons.  Communication.  Sex. Parenting differences.  Infidelity. Disconnection.  Trust.  We can tackle all of those topics individually.  But if there is no effective stage set for letting your spouse know you need them, there is no foundation for securely addressing these relationship issues. We need a foundation.  This foundation is always, “I need this from you, because I love you,” and “let me try to give that to you, because I love you too.”  Once we lay this foundation, we can tackle anything.

There are a million reasons why this foundation can be so hard to create in a relationship.  Rest assured that if your relationship doesn’t have this, it is because it can be hard to create and maintain.  But, with some effort and guidance, it can be done.

Many spouses get this wrong.

Their methods of letting their spouse know they need them are actually pushing them away even further.  Criticism.  Anger. Judgment.  Silence.

Instead of saying “I’m hurting, can you just be with me for a bit?” they say, “Geez, you and your phone.  You have serious problems that you can’t be off your phone for even 5 minutes!”  

Instead of saying “I’m lonely, can we put some time aside tonight after the kids are in bed?  That always seems to help” they say, “You are never here for me when I need you! You are always doing something else, I don’t even know why we are even married! I might as well be single because I feel just as lonely!”

Instead of saying “I’m overwhelmed and anxious; can I share with you the things that are weighing me down right now and maybe we can tackle them together?” they say, “I do EVERYTHING around here! It would be so nice if you could at least clean up the kitchen once in a while!”

Instead of saying “I’m struggling, I think it would help if I talked about this with you” they say nothing.  They hide behind office doors, bedroom doors and technology.  

If you and your spouse are not each other’s safe place for comfort, connection and confiding, pause for a minute and consider what is keeping you from reaching for your spouse in a more effective way.  If someone could give you the words, the phrases that would help your spouse lean in to you, would you use them?

If not, start to consider what holds you back.  Here are some popular reasons:  “They don’t care how I feel” “I don’t want to be a burden” “They have so much going on already, I don’t want to make it worse” “I’ve already hurt my spouse so many times, I can’t ask them for anything” “They want me to be strong, not weak.”

What to do:

If you are open to taking one step to making your marriage a place where asking for your needs is a safe conversation, consider this conversation starter:  “Honey, I was reading something today about how important it is to be able to talk about the things we need from each other.  I realize I’m not very good at this.  I’m trying to get better so that we can be stronger together. Are you open to what I’m learning?”  If the answer is yes, keep going, “I’m realizing I hold back from asking you for what I need because I’m ___________________ (pick one that fits: AFRAID / WORRIED / SCARED / CONCERNED / NERVOUS that ____________________ (pick one that fits:  I’ll be a burden / you will look at me as weak / you won’t think it’s important / you are too busy)”.  *Don’t elaborate on all the times they have acted in ways like this in the past.  Just keep it simple.

That’s it! That’s all you need to do for now.  It doesn’t matter if your spouse responded with mountains of reassurance, affirmation and validation that indeed, they want you to come to them with your needs.  It doesn’t matter if they looked at you like you just spoke a foreign language.  It doesn’t matter if they said “what the heck has gotten into you” or accused you of taking crazy pills.  

You did it! You made one healthy step toward strengthening your marriage. Feel good about that.

ADD Version:

  • Couples need to be able to find comfort in each other.
  • Many partners ask for these valid emotional needs in ineffective ways.
  • Often, couples shift out of distress when they learn to reach for their partners in ways that pull them close instead of ways that push their partners away.

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