Your Marraige Parner Cannot Fulfill Your Emotional Needs

Don't Count on Your Spouse to Make You Whole

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Ask About.com marriage experts Sheri and Bob Stritof a question. Photo: Gary S. Chapman/Getty Images

You may feel that your spouse is not meeting your emotional needs. But, marriage counselors and psychology experts generally agree that only you can satisfy those needs. You should not consider yourself an empty emotional vessel to be filled by your spouse. You need to take responsibility for your own fulfillment, and the best way to do that is to consider and satisfy your spouse's needs first.

Meeting Your Spouse's Needs

An emotional need "is a craving that, when satisfied, leaves you with a feeling of happiness and contentment, and, when unsatisfied, leaves you with a feeling of unhappiness and frustration," says clinical psychologist and author, Dr.

Willard F. Harley, Jr. His numerous books on marriage and relationships include, "His Needs, Her Needs," which focuses on the needs of men and women and shows husbands and wives how to satisfy those needs in their spouses. According to Harley, satisfying your own emotional needs means putting your spouse's desires ahead of your own.

TwoOfUs.org agrees, noting: "One of the keys to being successful in a long-term, committed relationship is properly understanding the emotional needs of your partner." You're not responsible for meeting all of your partner's needs, the relationship website notes, but you certainly should put those needs ahead of your own. Some of these needs include affection, conversation, honesty and openness, financial support and family commitment. It's like the old saying: with love, the more you give, the more you get back.

Ask for What You Need

Once you are in the mindset of being a loving and giving spouse, you can then start to advocate for your own needs -- but you have to be careful about how you go about it.

When you want your spouse to perform some kind of action to magically meet your needs, you are really asking for her to change, says Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist and syndicated columnist writing in "Psychology Today," and that's a nearly impossible request. Instead, be direct. "Ask for what you need," says Goldsmith.

"Do you want change, understanding or compatibility? Whatever your need, asking for it directly will greatly improve your chances of getting it." 

But, it is at this point that the need for reciprocation comes into play. Continue to show your spouse that you value and care for her. Do those things that, generally, put your partner's needs ahead of your own. "If someone feels valued he or she will do the best they can to keep your opinion of them high," says Goldsmith. "Reminding your mate that you know your life is better because he or she is in it is very motivational and very loving." Make sure you know what your partner wants and values: Is it a home-cooked meal? A spontaneous bouquet of flowers? A special dinner at a fancy restaurant or a quick burger at a fast food eatery? Fixing that leaky faucet or loose door handle?

It doesn't really matter what the act of kindness might be -- the important thing is that your spouse knows she is valued -- that you know what she wants and needs and that you are ready to provide it without being asked. This effort to understand and willingness to give is key to a good marriage, and ultimately, to having your own needs met.

Take Responsibility for Yourself

Understand that you are in a relationship to bond with your spouse, to share events -- big or small -- and to build a life together.

"When we have an expectation that a husband or wife fulfill us, we set ourselves up for disappointment, because no human being can satisfy another human being," says Mark Altrogge, a pastor at an Indiana church, and creator of the relationship website the Blazing Center. "To hope that another human can meet our needs is asking too much of anyone." 

Expectations are "killers," says Altrogge, explaining that all humans are fallible, and have their own wants and needs. That's unlikely to change -- in your spouse or anyone else. "Don’t look at where your spouse needs to change," Altrogge says. "Look to where you need to change. Don’t have expectations of your spouse. If you have expectations, place them on yourself."

Robert Fulghum, in his classic book, "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten," explained it well in some of his basic rules: share everything, hold hands and stick together.

If your partner knows that you care for him and will be there for him through big things and small, he is much more likely to reciprocate. Having your emotional needs met starts with sharing and caring for your partner. A person who feels loved, cared for and appreciated is far more likely to reciprocate in kind.