When husbands and wives go to counsellors describing what is going on in their marriage, of course, they talk about things their spouses are doing wrong. But very often, they mention about what their spouses are not doing for them. Perhaps the second list is causing them more heartache than the first, because they came to marriage expecting certain things, and they are not getting them. These are some ‘sins’ of omission that their spouses may not be even aware of! Many times they both say that they are doing ‘everything’ from their side and yet the other spouse is not responding to them. Over time, when their needs are not being met, they begin to react in irritable, angry or violent ways, and then these behaviours become the focus of attention for those who try to help them! But unless these underlying needs are addressed, there is not much use trying to deal with the wrong behaviour.
Psychology points out that all human beings have a strong desire to be loved (security), to feel important (significance) and to think that their life is worth something (self-worth). When we are born into this world, we look for these desires to be met from our parents. When the parents shower the children with affection and attention, the children grow up in a stable and balanced manner. However, if the childhood has been marred by neglect, rejection or abuse at various levels, they grow up without a sufficient foundation of self worth. Then when they become teenagers they begin to look elsewhere to meet these needs, and often get into problems.
Though these are universal desires, there is also a gender bias in these desires! Women, in general, have a stronger desire than men to know they are loved, and men have a stronger desire than women to feel important! When people get married, these are needs they unconsciously expect to be met from their spouses, even though usually they are totally oblivious to these desires working inside their heart. One of common complaints wives bring to the counsellor is that they aren’t sure their husbands love them. From the husband’s side, it looks like their wives don’t show them sufficient respect! When both of them begin to sense this in their relationship, they begin to react in ways that show their displeasure. This behaviour coming from their spouse confirms to both of them that they were right in their conclusions! And this vicious cycle becomes so established in their routine to the extent they even begin to hate the one they had been in love with before!
If the counsellor asks the husband what he thinks about his wife’s comment that he doesn’t love her, he seems to get flabbergasted! He points out how hard he is working to be able to provide for his wife and children, the things he has bought for her, and the many things he has done for her. He is sure that all this is enough proof to show how much he loves his wife. It appears that he actually loves her from his heart, but somehow she thinks otherwise. Though she agrees that he has done all these things, she still thinks he doesn’t really love her! When the counsellor gets down to it, he understands that what she wants is more personal attention and expression of affection. She wants her husband to spend time with her, talk to her and show affection through words and little acts of tenderness and care. He had never thought seriously about such things. He had been thinking that as long as he provides for her and takes care of her practical needs she would be happy!
And what has the husband been missing from his wife? Appreciation, admiration and respect for him personally and for what he does. Instead, what he has been getting are criticism and repeated reminders of his slip-ups. She is always arguing with him and doesn’t even listen to his explanations. Her regular attempts to correct him and teach him the niceties of life make him want to stay longer at work. When she talks rudely to him (he is supposed to be the head of the family), he thinks she has gone beyond the limit and reacts violently. When the counsellor asks her about her husband’s complaint about her, her answer is that he doesn’t really love her and treats her as if she was a servant in the house.
Certainly there are many other issues also that can come up in relationships. But just think about the husband’s need to feel significant and the wife’s need to feel secure in her husband’s love. Aren’t these things many couples are unaware of, and don’t deal with from their own side?
The Bible says, “Husbands, love your wives,” and “Wives, submit (show respect to) to your husbands” (Eph.5:22,25)!