Well I’ve been thinking away about these topics as usual, and thinking about my favourite things…. However a thought that has been quietly niggling away at my mind is the following: what if my needs change? I have become totally and thoroughly convinced of the importance of focusing on unconditional love for my husband. However, concerning my own needs, there are two important questions I have right now as I am writing this.
Firstly, if I am going to be totally focused on loving my husband unconditionally within our marriage, to what extent should I consider my own needs as a requirement for the marriage? That is, does it make sense to choose a husband beforehand based on how likely he will be to give hugs spontaneously within the marriage, if I am going to try not to think about that once the marriage has actually started? Is that a silly question, or is it rather a matter of levels – yes, it is good and appropriate to think of it up until such and such a level? (Do I ask a lot of very silly or unnecessary questions on this blog – and is the willingness to explore things to this depth, even to asking these sorts of potentially silly questions, a powerful tool in the goal of building a powerful marriage?)
Secondly, if it is indeed right – or acceptable – to consider my own needs when choosing a husband, as surely it must be, even if in marriage I will be focused on his own needs – what happens if – or rather when – my needs change in marriage? Surely my needs will change, to account for the different stages of life? At the moment, I’m all about hugs or other gentle but passionate, tactile expressions of affection and tenderness. However I suspect that to a certain extent, that is because there are currently no hugs in my life! What happens when we finally get married, and we have exhausted all the hugging that exists in the world – just between the two of us, so that there is none left for anyone else! – and also all the holding hands, and gazing into one another’s eyes, and ahem, all the other exciting things that marriage promises?! When these things no longer present a desperate and urgent need in my life – will I then require different things of my husband? Will I ever grow tired of holding hands, and emotional heart-to-hearts? The things I see in other people’s relationships, things on which I currently pour scorn – would I then start to dream about these very things, the way I currently dream about hugs? Things like “keeping up with the Joneses” and other things? Perhaps by that time I will have developed a sophisticated rhetoric for justifying these yearnings to myself and everyone else, to explain why I will then have started embracing what I currently reject as materialistic…
I guess I will not know this for certain until I actually get there. One thing I can “take away” from my reading of other people’s relationships is that almost everyone says that feelings fade. Even the most passionate, intense, and insistent romantic feelings eventually subside – or so people say. Perhaps that indicates that even the most intense yearnings for tender touches will also fade.
So then, how can I build for/plan for the needs I will have at that undefined point in the future, if I don’t know what these needs are going to be? How can I use those as yet unknown needs to choose the husband who will be most likely to adequately fill them?
Perhaps the key is to choose a husband who will be most committed to living for his wife! That sounds dreadful and self-centred, but it obviously does equally work the other way too.
To think about it in Christian terms, perhaps I have to make up my mind to only recognise needs in my life that are consistent with a passionate pursuit of God. And then as long as my husband remains in the centre of a passionate walk with Christ, hopefully none of these needs will be too onerous for him to wish to fill.
Or to turn the question backwards, to focus instead on my husband: I am confident that the needs required of me by the man I will marry will adapt over time. For all I know, he may be very “huggie-wuggie hungry” when we meet – that mutual yearning might be what draws us together in the first place. But as that recedes over time, his marital needs might change to become very different to my own needs, he might start speaking a different language to me, maritally speaking. How do I know, how can I plan for myself so that I can be confident that by the grace of God, I will at least do my best to adapt to his changing needs?
When considered from this opposite perspective, it becomes very clear that great patience will be needed from him to deal with me, as I might grow into what he needs of me, possibly slowly. And then he will have to keep committing to loving me, even while he is still waiting for me to get to the point where I can meet his needs as required. And then it works both ways of course, because all this while he might equally not be at quite the right point to meet my own needs. So then the possibility is that we will both be trying our hardest to keep loving one another unconditionally, even while neither of us is adequately meeting the other’s needs. Perhaps this is the truest understanding of marriage: a commitment to keep loving one another through mutual confusion and failure. Also, all this while, it might be tempting to let our eyes stray outside the marriage, and to notice people who do appear to be able to cater to our respective needs. This might be true even when our spouse is “trying their best”. How much more might it be true with a spouse who does not appear to be overly concerned about our needs, or who has different priorities?
Once again, yet again, I feel that this post demonstrates the supremacy of unconditional love as an attitude to cultivate within marriage. This attitude says: “No matter what, I will keep loving you, I will keep investing all that I can into fulfilling your (ongoing, changing) needs, even where you appear unable, or unwilling to consider my own needs”. This is obviously a big thing. If then I were to choose a husband, based on this understanding, there are two facets I need to think of, to make my own life easier for myself.
1. Firstly his attitude to my own ability or willingness to fulfil his ongoing, changing needs
2. His own attitude to the question of fulfilling my own ongoing, changing needs
1. If I were to truly love myself, I would choose a husband who would commit to loving me unconditionally, whether or not his own needs are being met. This is not necessarily because he has a desperate desire to love me in this way, and not because he is not aware of his own legitimate self-interest. Also, this is not because I am so spectacularly special that I somehow command this kind of love. Rather, it is because he recognises that this is the kind of commitment on which you can build a strong marriage. I am a human being. Even though I will try my hardest, there will be times when I simply don’t deserve this kind of love – or that might be how he feels about it anyway!
Within this, he also has to demonstrate ongoing patience as he waits for me to get to the point where I can grow to adapt to his own needs. True patience will be needed here, as this might take months, or even years. But then, because his needs are ever-changing, by the time I’ve finally caught up his own needs might actually have moved on… (Perhaps that awful day will come when we realise that we will never adequately meet one another’s needs – and yet we remain mutually committed to bumbling forwards…)
2. His own attitude to fulfilling my own needs
He has to demonstrate an unconditional commitment to keep loving me, and fulfilling my own needs, as far as he can, as far as is reasonable and wise and sensible (and legal!) even where I am completely failing to meet his own needs – even where this is deliberate on my part. While the following response is completely understandable, and consistent with human nature at any place or at any time during human existence, he cannot “punish” me, by withholding my own needs, where I am failing to meet his own.
Realistically speaking, finding a man like this would be like being married to Jesus. This is why it is good to insist on a man who is in passionate pursuit of Christ. While I have written this in terms of what I need to look for in a man, the same is obviously true of the wife that I need to be, if I really yearn for a marriage that is “all that”. I have to make the same commitments to loving him, no matter what; to patience while he might spectacularly fail to meet my needs – or to even care – and I also have to commit to investing all I can into meeting his needs at the very same time while he might be totally and deliberately ignoring my own.
This sounds like a tall order, but you know what, as I write this, something resonates within me saying “Yes, this is it! This is what really makes a marriage, a marriage!” And by the awesome grace of God, by His constant empowerment, this is the kind of wife I will be! (Amen!)
For more thoughts on this subject, please check out this post here on this blog which is very similar: Everybody Changes
Blue waterfall image by Petr Kratochvil at http://www.publicdomainpictures.net