Before Patrick and I got married, we decided to go through about eight sessions of premarital counseling. It was probably some of the best money we’ve spent as a married couple (other than for the ring, of course), and we walked out with much more wisdom about how to use conflict to breed more not less intimacy in a marriage.
Today I want to share one question that our counselor posed, and see if it strikes you the way it did Patrick and me. Does it mean less if you have to ask for it?
Like it or not, we all walk into relationships with a whole host of needs and expectations. Physical needs like water, shelter, clothing and sex are no less important than emotional and spiritual needs, like love, acceptance, forgiveness, and intimacy.
When you first get married, it’s easy to begin feeling like the other person just doesn’t get you. Our counselor prepared us some for those feelings by sharing one simple question: Does it mean less if you have to ask for it?
If I have to ask Patrick to tell me he loves me, does that make his words less meaningful?
Sitting on the couch of our counselor’s office, clutching a tissue like a life-raft–I wasn’t so sure. Doesn’t he love me so much that he will always spontaneously tell me so? Won’t he always show me affection like he has while we’ve been dating? If I ask him to, what if he says no? If I ask him to show me love, am I being needy? The questions bred questions.
When you’re first dating, it’s easy to spontaneously show affection, shower your significant other with words of affirmation, and wine and dine each other right down the aisle. But soon after most of the hubbub dies down, it’s easy to let the normalcy of life distract you from the needs of the person you love the most.
What I learned that day in counseling is that no, asking for something I need should not devalue what I get in return. Sometimes, I need to hear Patrick say “I love you” and it’s okay for me to ask for it. That doesn’t mean he loves me less.
The truth is, though it’s hard to admit, while I’m walking around asking for love, I’m rarely aware of Patrick’s needs. In fact, I’m so self-absorbed that most of my thoughts are centered around my own. Ouch. But the beauty in what we learned through counseling is that now we both know that we can safely ask for what we need, without feeling hesitant to do so.
Can you imagine how many marriages could be saved, if people could simply ask for what they need?
Do you think I’m beautiful? Do you think I’m strong? Will you spend time with me tonight? Do you think I’m competent? Do you respect me? Why do you love me?
So, what do you think? Do you think that asking for something makes the answer less valuable, simply because it’s prompted, rather than spontaneous?
[Photos by: Jason Mundie @ADreamWithin]