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Monday, October 7, 2013

Relationships: Your Spouse Can't Meet All of Your Needs

As a psychotherapist in NYC who sees both individual clients and couples, one of the biggest complaints I hear from therapy clients involves the unrealistic expectation that a spouse should meet all of their needs.

When you choose a romantic partner or a spouse, you want that person to have similar values on core issues that are most important to you, including whether or not to have children, your views on money, sexual compatibility, monogamy, trustworthiness and, for many couples, religious or spiritual views.  In addition, when you have some similar recreational interests or hobbies, it makes the relationship more fun and interesting.

You also want a spouse who is empathetic and emotionally supportive--someone who is a friend as well as a lover.

Relationships: Your Spouse Can't Meet All Your Needs

But expecting that your spouse will meet all of your needs isn't realistic, and it places a strain on your relationship that can cause long term problems.

This is why it's so important to develop and maintain friendships outside of your relationship that help you to fill fulfilled in the areas of your life where some of your needs aren't being met in your relationship.

Let's take a look a the following scenario, which is a composite of many different cases with all identifying information changed:

Sue and Bill:
Sue and Bill met in college on the West Coast.  At the time, they had many friends in common and they enjoyed going out on dates together as well as seeing their friends.

After they graduated from college, Sue and Bill got married and moved to NYC, where they didn't know anyone, to begin their careers.  Most of their friends remained on the West Coast.

Several months after they were settled into their jobs and their new apartment, Sue decided she wanted to resume her yoga practice.  When she was in college, she would go to yoga with her friends, Ellen and Betty.  Afterwards, they would go to brunch feeling blissful from their yoga class.

After Sue and Bill moved to NYC, she missed this shared experience and tried to persuade Bill to go with her.  But Bill had no interest in yoga.  He liked going to the gym for a vigorous workout.

Whenever Sue would try to convince him to come with her by telling him about all the health and emotional benefits of going to yoga, Bill felt that Sue was nagging him.  Sue felt that Bill was being obstinate and he didn't understand how much this meant to her.

So, one day, Bill relented and he went to one of Sue's yoga classes.  Sue was thrilled and she told him that he wouldn't regret it.  When they arrived, Bill was relieved to see that there were several other men in the class.

But once the class got started, Bill felt self conscious.  Everyone else was able to go through the poses smoothly and he was at least one or two paces behind.  The teacher helped him to get into the various yoga poses, but this only made Bill feel more self conscious, and he couldn't understand why anyone would enjoy this.

After class, Sue was glowing.  As they strolled to a nearby cafe, she talked about the next yoga class that they could attend together.  But Bill shook his head and told her, "I tried it because I know it means a lot to you, but it's not for me."

Sue tried to convince Bill that if he went to a few more classes and stuck with it, he would soon learn the poses and feel more relaxed.  But Bill was having none of it, and he told her that he wasn't going to attend any more yoga classes.

Sue felt hurt and annoyed.  She felt that Bill's refusal put a damper on the rest of the weekend for her.  She couldn't understand why Bill was behaving this way.  From her point of view, they could have this wonderful shared experience, but Bill was refusing it and, in the process, he was letting her down.

Within the next few months, Sue and Bill began arguing about other activities that Sue wanted to engage in that Bill wasn't interested in.   They had plenty of other activities that they had always enjoyed together, but Sue missed having companionship in these other activities where she used to have college friends who went with her.   She felt that if Bill loved her, he would go along with her.

Their bickering about these issues turned into full blown arguments.  Soon, they were spending days at a time without speaking with Bill sulking and Sue in tears.

Finally, Bill recommended that they attend couples counseling to work out these issues.  Sue agreed.

Over time, Bill and Sue learned in couples counseling how to communicate more effectively with each other.  They were able to talk about their expectations of each other and saw that they were compatible in all of the most important areas in their life together.  They also saw that they were different in terms of some of their likes and dislikes, and this was okay.

Gradually, Sue realized that her expectation that Bill would like everything that she liked and he would participate in activities that he didn't like just to please her was unrealistic.  She realized that she needed to make new friends and also learn how to enjoy certain activities on her own.

Both Bill and Sue realized that they were undergoing big adjustments to being newly married, living in a new city and starting new careers, so they needed to be patient with one another.

What Are Your Expectations in Your Relationship?
As I mentioned before, there are certain expectations in a relationship that are basic to most relationships.

Before you make a commitment to be together, it's important for each person to understand what each person considers to be core expectations and values.  What's most important is that you're both compatible in the ways that are most important to each of you.

It's important to have friends that share interests or hobbies with you that you and your spouse might not share--rather than trying to strong arm your spouse into engaging in activities that s/he has no interest in.

When you have close friendships with people who share your interests, you enrich the quality of your life and, in doing so, you also enrich your relationship.

Getting Help
If you and your spouse are unable to work out your differences on your own, you could benefit from seeing a licensed therapist who works with couples and who can help you to develop the skills you need to work out your differences and enhance your relationship.

Getting Help

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

I have helped many individuals and couples to lead more fulfilling lives.

To find out more about me, visit my web site:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me:  josephineolivia@aol.com.




photo credit: A.Shazly via photopin cc

photo credit: Chi King via photopin cc







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