Statistically speaking, married people in the U.S. expect their marriage to do a lot for them individually. We believe marriage should meet most of our relational needs.
However, this perspective is a huge problem.
Author, professor, and psychologist Dr. Sue Johnson puts it this way: “We now ask our lovers for the emotional connection and sense of belonging that my grandmother could get from a whole village.”
It Takes a Village
Many of us don’t live in the same community for our entire lives. The tension comes when we don’t establish a village of people. Instead, we rely on our spouse to be our “everything.” This lifestyle puts a ton of relational pressure on our spouse.
I’ve seen this happen countless times: once a single person gets married that stop hanging out with the friends they had when they were single.
- A single guy plays golf with a coworker for some of his recreational needs
- He hangs out with his dad for some of his spiritual needs
- He talks with a church friend about his girlfriends for his relational needs
Then, the single guys gets married. Suddenly, he no longer has time for those guys. And all of these relational needs are shifted to his wife.
The Wrong Approach
On the surface, this seems selfless. The man wants his new bride to have all of his free time. Why?
- Because that is what you do when you get married. Right?
- That’s what a new bride expects? Right?
- If you want to get your marriage off to a great start, you need to invest as much time together as possible? Right?
No, I’m not sure that is right.
As I’ve worked with married couples for years, I’ve seen how this approach to marriage is actually wrong. It helps me to think of it this way.
Who Can Meet Your Relational Needs?
Let’s say I have 10 legitimate relational needs. Doesn’t it make sense that if I get some of those needs met by my guy friends, that puts less pressure on my wife to meet these needs?
Granted, only God can meet our relational needs. But typically He does that through other people.
If my need to feel valued and respected is met in part by a close friend, wouldn’t that make it easier on my wife? Wouldn’t she be dealing with a less needy man? Aren’t needy people some of the toughest people to be around?
Spending Time With Others
My wife models this beautifully. Every year she takes a three-day trip with her three best girlfriends. It is staggering how great that trip is for our marriage.
She gets a break from our kids and chores around the house. This gives her a chance to talk and listen to women who love her and want her to win. These trips are not gripe sessions. They are full of laughter and encouragement.
When she returns home, many of her relational needs are really full. She is happier as a result of being with other women who love Jesus and love her. Her trip is always great for our marriage.
You don’t have to have a three-day trip to reap rewards. It’s just about taking some time to spend with another person. When I play golf with a buddy, it fills a relational need for me. I’m less needy of my wife.
A Community of Two
Do I stop taking trips with just my wife? Do we stop dating? Of course not. I’m not saying we ever engage with anyone who is discouraging of our spouse or our marriage.
There are some needs that can ONLY be met by our spouse. Obviously, they should be the number one person in our world to meet our relational needs.
I’m only suggesting God’s call into community should include more than our spouse. I don’t believe He ever intended for us to live in a community of two.
Who Are Those People For You?
Who is that person or people, other than your spouse, that fills your relational tanks? Is it a small group at church, a neighbor, a great friend, a mentor, a family member?
Healthy, balanced relationships with those people is great for you, your marriage, and your soul.
What about you? Who is that person outside of your marriage that is great for your marriage?
Ted Lowe is an author, speaker, and the director of MarriedPeople—the marriage division at Orange. Ted is the author of two books—one for marriage ministry leaders (Married People: How Your Church Can Build Marriages That Last) and one for married couples (Your Best US: Marriage Is Easier Than You Think). He served for almost 10 years as the director of MarriedLife at North Point Community Church. He lives near Atlanta, Georgia, with his four favorite people: his wife, Nancie, and their three children.
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