How to save a marriage or relationship – Part 2
You can watch the other video here and I would recommend doing that before watching this one as it will make more sense in context.
Today you will learn how expressing and acceptance of needs is the glue of intimacy and connection you need to save or fix a marriage.
Why are needs so important?
Well if you don’t eat, drink or regulate your temperature then you die.
But while other needs might seem less dramatic or less of a priority, they can be just as important.
For us to feel happy and have good well-being we need our needs met and this involves both physical and emotional needs.
Getting touched, sex and feeling emotionally connected has a massive impact on our physical health, how long we live and how happy we are throughout our lives.
It also significantly lowers our stress levels and works as a second immune system.
When we don’t express our needs, don’t get them met, or feel they are rejected we become resentful, angry or disconnected.
We often struggle to even know our own needs and when we do know we might struggle to express them clearly, which leads me to the second question…
Why are needs so hard to express?
Shame is used to control behaviour as we have an innate fear of feeling rejected by the group.
In tribal communities’ rejection often spelt death, so shame is a perfect tool to force compliance.
Most often because we have been shamed around our needs as children.
We might have been made to feel our needs were a burden, that they were not important or that other people’s needs took priority over our own.
If we can’t sense our own needs and express them clearly, we are unlikely to get what we want.
Going for long periods of times and supressing our needs, or not having our needs met will likely lead to resentment… the number one killer of relationships.
The first step is to gain self-awareness and the ability to sense our own needs.
Once we have done that, we can go on to practise how to express them clearly.
What’s important when you learn to express your needs is that we also understand other people can’t always fulfil your every need.
It might cross their boundaries or not be something they have energy or capacity to give us.
Disappointment is a natural part of any relationship and the process of learning to express our needs.
What’s often not discussed about disappointment is that it is a great opportunity to create more closeness.
If rather than moving apart you sit and listen to each other’s disappointment, show empathy, acceptance and understanding, it can bring you closer.
Often what we want the most is being heard and seen by our partner.
You can learn a lot more about disappointment and how to turn it in to connection and intimacy in my eBook.
Now let’s learn how to get in touch with your needs
If you feel frustrated then it’s often down to unmet needs.
This is a great opportunity to discover what needs that are important to you and which are currently not being met.
Frustration is like an alarm bell for unmet needs.
Other emotions can also point you to unmet needs so focus on how you feel and your bodily sensation.
I know now that when my mood drops or I feel tense it’s because I am not getting enough exercise, touch or social contact (probably because I spend half my life writing -)).
So, I go do exercise, ask for stroking or call friends to see if they want to meet up.
Write down as you feel needs come up so you don’t forget them and can express them later.
This will also show you what needs are most neglected and urgent, as they will likely cause repeated frustration and be repeated multiple times in your journal.
These are likely to be your most important needs so be as specific as possible.
Writing down you want to “feel more special” is not specific as different things make different people feel special.
What makes you feel special?
Here are two more examples:
“I want more touch.”
Is that specific? No.
Your partner might start touching your feet when you want back stroking.
I personally like 5 minutes of slow gentle scratching on my back when I come home from work.
Now that’s specific and clear.
Or similar the example above:
“I want to feel special.”
Would you know what I need if I said that?
No, of course not.
It’s different from person to person and moment to moment.
I like when/if you make me my favourite dinner, Sushi.
It makes me feel special and I have the need to feel I am special to you.
That again is specific.
All your needs are natural and good.
It could be that you want more quality time with your partner, that they be more attentive when with you, show more interest in your life, give you gifts, do things for you, touch you more etc…
You might have no idea of your sexual needs if you have never explored this.
Go get some inspiration, read books about fantasies or watch erotic movies.
Notice what turns you on.
Explore with self-touch if you are not sure how you like your body to be touched.
Explore, explore, explore. Only when you know what you need can you communicate it clearly and get your needs met.
We often expect that our partner should know what we want
The romantic lie, that they should know us well enough to know what we want is purely nonsense.
You don’t even know what you want half the time and that doesn’t even account for how many times we change our mind, so how is anyone else supposed to know.
This leads to misunderstandings, conflict and disappointment.
We constantly change, and so does our needs.
It’s your job to get in touch with and communicate your needs clearly to others.
Our needs even change throughout the day.
Sometimes you might be tired and need some tender care or you might feel bored and want some excitement.
Your partner is not a mind reader and can’t read your ever-changing needs… so express them clearly.
So how do you do this?
You should now be a lot clearer on your needs.
Now let’s practise expressing them.
Make some time to sit with your partner and express the needs you have noticed and written down.
It’s very important when doing this that the listener does not judge, shame or put down the needs.
The listener can get triggered easily if they think they can’t meet the needs.
They might worry it means the relationship will not work, or it could simply trigger old insecurities or wounds in them.
Practice empathy and acceptance in both directions.
If the listener does get triggered then ask them how they feel?
What do they sense in their body?
If you can address that underlying fear (often of being abandoned/left or not being good enough) then the listener can listen much better to your needs next time.
Continue so you both have a turn to be the listener.
As the listener, when you hear the other’s needs try to notice your own emotions and bodily sensations.
If you feel tense, angry, or any other sensations and emotions then thank your partner for expressing their needs. Respond with, “I feel/sense …x… when I hear you say that.”
In that way you can deal with it together rather than the listener attacking or disengaging to protect themselves.
If you don’t have any triggered emotions or sensation, try showing and expressing how wonderful their needs are and state in what capacity you might be able to fulfil them.
If you can’t fulfil their needs then acknowledge that they might feel disappointed and offer to be there to support them in their disappointment.
It’s important to be very specific and avoid blame language when expressing your needs.
Rather than saying “I am so sick of you never organising any fun dates for us, I wish you could just book a date a surprise me once in a while.”
This starts with blame meaning you will likely trigger your partner to defend themselves.
As you know, in this state it’s unlikely they will hear you and give you what you need.
The need is also unclear.
Book a date.
Do you want a dinner date?
If so what kind of food?
Here is how that could have been communicated instead with vulnerability. (We will discuss vulnerability and how this can create incredible intimacy and connection in my eBook)
“I have felt really sad lately because I have a strong need for quality time with you.
I feel more insecure when we don’t prioritise quality time with each other.
I would really like it if you could find some time and energy in your schedule to organise a date, even once per month would be wonderful.
I love dancing so a dance lesson would be fun.”
Can you feel the difference?
Here we replaced blame that cause a defensive response with vulnerability and share the impact it has on us and how we feel.
This is something most people are not used to and comfortable with but practise makes better.
Because we are vulnerable it’s more likely to stimulate empathy and allow our partner to listen and feel connected to us.
Then we went on to express that we need quality time and specifically a date, once per month and dancing is a preference.
It’s now much clearer what we need and how they can give it to us.
The big pitfall avoid is BLAME.
When we are disappointed, frustrated or resentful we often express our needs through blame language.
So, what options do we have when our partner can’t or won’t meet our needs because it might cross their boundaries or capacity?
Two of the options are outsourcing and dealing with disappointment together.
We will look at both in my eBook.
I hope you will use these tools so you never have to type in Google “how to save a marriage, how to save my marriage, how to fix a broken marriage, how to fix a marriage” ever again.
Also remember to get my free eBook and sign up to the weekly newsletter for intimacy and sex tips.