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(Life Journey)



The Biggest Shock in Marriage

By Larry J. Koenig, Ph.D. Early in a relationship, we feel totally cared for when we are with our lover. The reason for this is simple. Our cherished one does everything possible to take of our needs. He or she seems to have an uncanny ability to know just what we desire at any given moment and to fulfill that need. Not since we were young children under the protection of our mothers have we experienced that kind of total fulfillment and caring. It feels so good that we will do anything to keep this wonderful person in our lives (and fulfilling our every need).

Of course, the best way we know to keep the person in our lives is to ferret out their every need and to satisfy it. This is turn causes our loved one to feel deeply cared about, which reinforces their desire to keep fulfilling our needs. What a wonderful cycle!

Too bad it has to end.

At some point in every relationship, one of the partners starts attending to his or her own needs more than to those of his or her mate. This happens not by conscious design, but because of human nature. While it feels awesome to have someone attend so closely to our needs, there’s no way another person can know and satisfy all of them. To complicate things, at any given moment on any given day, our needs change.

So, a different cycle in the relationship starts. In this new cycle, one person has a need that isn’t being met, so he does whatever is necessary to satisfy this need. Because he is focusing on is own need, the spouse is naturally left then to attend to her own needs. This, of course, takes time and attention away from satisfying her partner’s needs. Eventually each of the individuals spends more and more time attending to individual needs.

What a shock this is. First you have someone attending to your every whim. Then, almost overnight, you find this person putting his own needs above yours.

In real life, it all happens something like this. During the early stages of the relationship, the couple discusses plans for the weekend. The woman wants to go to the beach and suntan, while the man is dying to go fishing with his friends.

But he remembers the incredible back rub his fiancée gave him the night before, so he lovingly says, “I can’t think of anything I would rather do than take you to the beach.”

She smiles and replies, “You are so wonderful! But all of your friends are going fishing. Are you sure you wouldn’t rather be with them?”

To which he says, “Not a chance! It’s the weekend, and I want to be with you, darling.”

She then responds, “How very lucky I am to have a great guy like you! But tomorrow you are going fishing. I don’t want to hear another word about it.”

Both then spend the weekend feeling totally at peace and completely cared for.

Fast-forward a couple of years, and the same scenario is played out in a dramatically different way. Let’s say the couple is again making weekend plans.

“I would really like to go to the beach and tan on Saturday,” she says.

“I hate the beach,” he responds. “I’m going fishing, if you don’t mind. I mean, you can go to the beach with your sister, can’t you?”

“Why can’t we ever do something I want to do?” she complains.

“It’s the weekend,” he says. “That’s the only time I have to go fishing. Besides, we always do what you want. I never get to do what I want.”

This often ends up in a big fight with both partners feeling unloved and uncared for. These feelings in turn cause the couple to focus more intensely on making sure their own needs get met.

Tragically, if focusing on one’s own needs becomes the norm, both the husband and wife are at great risk of falling in love with someone else and having an affair. In the new relationship, the love cycle starts over again. Each person becomes intensely wrapped up in satisfying the other’s needs, and in so doing they fall deeply in love. Because their spouses are no longer attending to their needs, they divorce them in favor of this new person who does care enough about them to do so.

I’ll give you three guesses what happens next.

Couples who stay together and build happy marriages learn at some point that to be happy they must strike a balance between satisfying their own needs and satisfying the needs of their spouse. This isn’t an easy realization to come to. Part of us will always believe that if our spouses truly loved us, they would continue to take care of us the way they did initially. When this doesn’t happen, it’s natural to feel betrayed. If the couple is immature, this feeling of betrayal is hard to overcome and too often leads to divorce.

Even if a legal divorce doesn’t take place, an emotional one often does. Partners find ways to avoid intimacy with each other. Consider whether you ever find yourself using any of these activities in excess to avid intimacy with your spouse: drinking, spending time with friends, watching television, reading, spending time on the computer (especially in chat rooms), working out, shopping, fantasizing, going to bed early, staying up late, camping out on the phone, focusing on hobbies, volunteering, complaining, refusing to make love, refusing to talk, going to the movies alone, having sex but not making love, falling asleep on the couch, coming home late, bringing work from the office, taking drugs, reading every word of the newspaper, or spending too much time with the children.

Please not that I said emotional divorces are made up of doing these things excessively. Most of these normal activities are just fine in moderation. But taken to excess they are effective means of ending a marriage without ending it legally. These things allow the partners to avoid being intimate with each other.

By intimacy, I don’t mean sexual intimacy (though that can suffer greatly too). The kind of intimacy I am talking about is when two people harmoniously share their lives. A couple able to achieve this kind of intimacy can have an awesome marriage, with both partners’ needs being met.

But to arrive at this point, every couple must deal with the shock of discovering their spouses aren’t placed on this earth to satisfy their every need. This is a formidable task. The good news is that you can build and maintain a mature and happy marriage in which you meet each other’s needs and your own.

Want more tips for building a happy marriage? Check out Happily Married for Life: 60 Tips for a Fun Growing Relationship.

Excerpted from Happily Married for Life by Larry J. Koenig, Copyright 2006. Published by Life Journey. Used with permission.



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