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I’m not getting what I need in my marriage

Jay Dee

I’m not getting what I need in my marriage

Feb 27, 2015

I see a trend in marriages these days.  A lot of people complaining, lamenting, asking, wondering, why their spouses don’t provide for their needs in their marriage.  Sometimes they’re simple things, like hugs, kisses, or just time together alone.  Sometimes they’re bigger things like security,

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Im Not Getting What I need in my marriageI see a trend in marriages these days.  A lot of people complaining, lamenting, asking, wondering, why their spouses don’t provide for their needs in their marriage.  Sometimes they’re simple things, like hugs, kisses, or just time together alone.  Sometimes they’re bigger things like security, commitment, sex, or orgasms.  I’ve noticed a pattern in a lot of them though (not all, but enough to write a post about).  When I ask “what does your spouse say when you ask?” the answer is often “… well … I haven’t asked, exactly.”

So, today one of my coaching clients (she gave permission to quote her), when talking about this said:

So, Coach….let ‘er rip! Show me a better way.

But, I think a lot of marriages could be helped by this one, so you all get to benefit from her question.

How does this happen?

Why do spouses fail to ask for what they want anyways?  I think it has to do with a false teaching in our churches.  Well, it’s not only in our churches, but I hear it a lot in Christian families:

False teaching: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

Today, when discussing this issue, I realized that this is a horrible teaching.  I don’t know about you, but I heard it from my parents from a young age.  I’ve heard my wife’s parents say it too.  Actually, I’m pretty sure I have told my kids this as well … and I think it needs to stop.  I know why we say it.  Usually I think we intend to paraphrase this bible verse:

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

But, it has the unfortunately side effect of teaching kids that they can’t say anything that might cause conflict.  This, along with other teaching along the same lines teach us to suppress our needs so that we won’t be a burden to others.  Now, I agree, ideally, we should all strive to give 100% of ourselves for the cause of supporting and growing God’s kingdom, however, the vast majority of us aren’t there yet.  Most of us are still, frankly, fairly childlike when it comes to this stage of Christianity.  Honestly, I don’t know any who aren’t.  I think we’ve lost all our mentors and elders.

So, until we learn to be completely truly sufficient in God’s love, to be able to be content in all things, regardless of circumstance, we’re going to need to learn to ask for what we need.

I think this is Biblical.  We see over and over again in scripture to ask God for what we need.  And Jesus spends some time talking about asking in Luke 11:5-11.  Now, granted these are about asking God for things, but Jesus’ parable is comparing asking God for our spiritual needs to asking our neighbors to fulfill our physical needs.  Surely, it is okay to ask our spouses to help meet our emotional needs.

But, that’s hard to do.  Women don’t want to feel needy or nagging.  Men don’t want to feel … well, like women.  Men are taught that we don’t have emotional needs, which is a load of crap, frankly.

How twisted is this mentality though that we all grow up with?  We are upset that we aren’t getting our needs me, but then we fail to do anything about it.

Why you should be asking for what you need

Your marriage has needs.  It needs two healthy, fulfilled, spouses to reach it’s potential.  If you aren’t satisfied, if you aren’t getting what you need to be the best spouse you can be, then your marriage is suffering, and ultimately your spouse is suffering as well.  Because you can’t be the best spouse you can be if you aren’t content and feeling loved.

I think that’s why the Bible says “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18).  It assumes you are going to love yourself first, because you can’t learn to express love if you aren’t feeling loved.  That’s why it’s so critical for parents to form good attachments with their children, so that they will grow up to be able to form attachments themselves.

So, if you aren’t feeling loved in your marriage, you need to speak up, so that you can be the best spouse to your spouse.

How do you start asking for what you need?

I suggest an agreement between you and your spouse.  Sit down one day, when you don’t have some burning need already on the table, and say something like:

I was thinking we should get better about telling each other what we need from one another.  So, I want to make a deal: When one of us has a need in the marriage, we can express it, and the other will do their to consider it and not get angry.

Or, if that feels too scripted…you should just hand them this post.  I mean, it’s still scripted, but at least you don’t have to say it.

If they don’t agree to the deal … then you have a much bigger problem.  You may want to seek a marriage counselor.  If they agree, then you follow up with

Do you have any needs that I am not meeting right now?

If they share one, you had better keep to the agreement and consider it, without getting angry.  If you don’t … well, you’ve done more damage than good.  Ideally, they would ask you the same question in return and then you can share yours, but give them a chance to express themselves first.  If they don’t ask.  Maybe wait a day or two and say something like

Remember we were talking about expressing our needs the other day?

And then you have to use all the good communication skills you have learned to express your need.  Using I statements, not you statements, and all that.  And you should spend some time thinking about what your real need is, so you can express it properly.  For example, don’t do this:

Remember we were talking about expressing our needs the other day?  Well, I need you to give me more sex.

If you do … don’t ask me for help.  Scratch that, you can still ask for help, but my advice is going to start with “Well, first you need to apologize for being an idiot.”  Now, exactly how you phrase it going to depend on the need, on your spouse, and, honestly, probably on your gender.

For most wives, your husband loves to swoop in and be the rescuer.  If you say something like “I need your help with something” with a tone that makes it sound like you need a big strong man to rescue you … almost guaranteed he’ll do just that.  If you ask with a tone that makes it sound like he’s an idiot for not doing it sooner, or that you expect him to do it, well, he may still do it, but you’re going to damage your relationship.  Sadly, too many wives do this hourly.  I know, because I hear them, in public no less.

For most husbands, your wife loves to know that you have emotions, that you care and want to share vulnerability and true intimacy with her.  If you phrase your need in a way that shows you want to connect with her, or that you are sharing something personal with her, chances are that she’ll be interested in sharing that with you.  However, if you ask in a way that shows you are weak and need help … this can backfire.  You need to show you are asking to connect, but it has to be from a place of confidence, of self-assurance, of strength.  Unless your need is sex … then you shouldn’t ask … but that’s a whole different topic.  Actually, I’m working on a workshop to teach men how to initiate assertively and with confidence.  If you’re interested, email me.  Sorry, that one can’t be anonymous, because I’m going to need to communicate with you.

Continuing the conversation

Ideally, asking your spouse to fulfill your needs should happen continuously in your marriage.  We have problems with our needs build up to such a point that we either do something stupid to try and get our need met another way, or blow up at our spouses about it (which is also stupid…).  Instead, we should be continuously keeping our spouse in the loop.  When they say “how are you doing?” don’t just flippantly answer “okay”, and hope they’ll somehow magically know you’re feeling a bit neglected.  Answer honestly and truthfully.

Spouse 1: How you doing?

Spouse 2: Honestly, I’m feeling a little disconnected from you lately.

Hopefully, you get to a point that you don’t need them to ask.  You can come right out and say you’re feeling a need.

What about with sex stuff?

For some of you, you need to learn to do this during sex.  That’s especially hard, because we have this teaching about not expressing our needs, on top of a teaching about not talking about sex, on top of a teaching (perhaps) that you shouldn’t like sex, and certainly never express a desire for sexual pleasure.  Of course, these are all bad teachings.

Some of you will need to just blurt out:

Honey, I need some help getting an orgasm.

There’s no shortcut I’m afraid, no way to ease into it that I can think of that isn’t manipulative.  It’s going to be uncomfortable at first … but it gets easier, I promise.  So many behaviours in marriage are uncomfortable when we start them, even if they are good, necessary, things.

Of course, the wrong way to do this is to say:

You know, you didn’t give me an orgasm…

Please, don’t ever do that.  You will damage your spouse’s self-esteem in unimaginable ways.

Your Turn

Have you had to learn to speak up for what you need?  Do you have any tips or tricks on how to get started?

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17 thoughts on “I’m not getting what I need in my marriage”

  1. LatterDay Marriage says:

    One of the wrestles I have in this area is the feeling that if I ask for it, and she does it, it isn’t genuine and from the heart. She didn’t feel inside herself a desire to do it. I had to tell her, and her doing it comes from her knowing I asked for it so it doesn’t have the same value to me as if she knew me well enough and was attentive enough to do it without being asked. I know that isn’t quite how I should look at it, but it is a thing I am working on overcoming.

    The other side of the coin is what if I ask for it and she still refuses it. Then she goes from being unaware to being uncaring and sometimes it is easier in the short term to not ask and leave things uncertain than risk rejection.

    Asking is taking a risk. But there isn’t really another option other than just put up with things as they are.

    1. libl says:

      Same here. Often because if I ask and he agrees, it is accompanied by sighs, groans, and a half baked effort. So, it basically murders my sex drive and ability to orgasm.

      1. Ricky says:

        It’s crazy women carry the connection from something non sexual related over into the bed room. If it was like that for men Mankind would be sexless. Or orgasmless I suppose.

        1. Jay Dee says:

          If they didn’t, we’d probably never bother to try to fix nonsexual issues….

          1. Ricky says:

            I don’t think sex should be the reward for showing another human being respect. I think people men and women have subconsciously been put into these roles and stereotypes for what they are supposed to feel. Obviously if I show interest I’m my wife outside of sex she is going to feel loved and in return WANT to be intimate with me. I’m not showing her love in all areas because of any reason other then she deserves it And she wants sex because of very physical reasons regardless of me showing her those things. It only heightens the experience but isn’t absolutely necessary for intamacy and orgasm. It also goes both ways that’s why I said that about mankind. Men could not feel loved outside of the bedroom but still feel loved in it. Women can too.

            1. libl says:

              So, I am crazy for asking for oral sex (which my hubby hates, and yes, I am clean and shaved) and his eye rolling and groaning and half baked attempt at it killing my arousal. Yeah….

    2. Chris Tian says:

      My husband once told me that if I want something and he’s not doing it, it’s because he doesn’t know not because he doesn’t care. I say ask if the spouse does it, doesn’t mean they didn’t want to. The Bible says “dwell with them according to knowledge” so if your spouse doesn’t have the knowledge, how can they dwell with you?

      1. LatterDay Marriage says:

        I know, but I have to deliberately remind myself of that.

        1. Chris Tian says:

          I hear you. I think we all do at times. 🙂 xx

  2. Anonymous says:

    This is a great post. I’m a 44 yr old Male in an almost sexless marriage. I’ve tried this several times before and it works for a short period, but inevitably we end up falling back every time. We’ve been married 24 yrs. She’s the love of my life. And I can’t touch her, haven’t seen her body in over 12 yrs, haven’t had sex in 2015, cannot speak of the topic without an argument, and it’s absolute torture for me. I catch myself looking away when she’s around the house braless in a t shirt or in nice jeans simply to distract my mind from the fact that sex won’t happen. When on occasion it does happen, it’s on a Sunday night, the last night before the work week starts, never during the week, which equates to doing it only when she has to at the last minute. We never touch, haven’t experienced any level of “passion” in years, and I miss her and that so much it makes my heart race and tears well up at times. I’m at a point in my life where I ask if this is how I want to spend the last good sexual years I have left and I honestly struggle with it. We have done what you list above time and time again, to the point that now I am extremely hesitant to even bring it up and try again. I have actually set up an appointment with my doctor to discuss medications out there to lower my sex drive to the point that a few times a year will be ok for me. It’s just tough right now. Very tough.

  3. Gary says:

    Newbie here — and a little late to the party. I’m not sure what to do with my situation: I told my wife about my needs:
    — More variety in the bedroom (same process, 25 years… time for a little newness)
    — More affection during the day. A kiss goodbye in the morning and a hug and kiss hello at the end of the day would be wonderful.
    — A request to read a couple of books with me to aid some sexual growth and development.

    I made the mistake of bribing her with a gift card to her favorite online store. She spent weeks and weeks happily lamenting over her purchases. After she got everything she told me “Why do we have to discuss all of this? Can’t we just let things occur naturally?”

    I think I just got bamboozled. My fault. After reading one of Penner’s books I realized I went about this the wrong way. It came out more as a demand than a request for meeting some needs. I give. I’m done. I’ve been trying to work this out every day of our marriage. Frankly, all I really ever, ever, ever wanted was a blow job. I hate to be crass about it, but that’s it. I’ve been competing with some incredibly bad pre-marriage counsel from her incredibly opinionated and out-of-line trusted family doctor who told her to never put a penis in her mouth. Great. Thanks doc. You must have had one whiz-bang of a marriage, you Casanova you.

    Time to lower the flag of expectations. I’ll stay married and I’ll do it with a smile on my face. But it’s not going to get any better than it is now, so after smacking my thick skull against the wall for 25 years, I declare a winner! My wife. She wins. I will now go the way of most every other older man I’ve seen with the dour look of “what the hell happened and why do I even bother having a penis?” I’m done trying to fight against the ghosts of her past fertile mind.

    My ears are now covered with a thick hat of cynicism, but if anyone has a breakthrough idea, I’d love to hear it. Otherwise, I’ll be in the yard… puttering or something old men do.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Well, if you really want to give up, then I suggest you stop reading.
      But, if you want to stick around, you may pick up a breakthrough idea or two.

  4. Gary says:

    Looking over my list, I see I failed to include “give me a snarky reply.” So, thanks.

    I was really searching for some kind guidance. Maybe a reference to someone who has been dumb enough to try it my way. I pray I’m not the only guy who has approach marital intimacy with my level of idiocy — but then again…

    It’s just depressing, defeating, and deflating. I have poured and poured over this site and many others and am now feeling more hopeless than ever before.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Sorry Gary,
      Didn’t mean to be snarky. I was hoping to kick you in the but and say not to give up. I get so many husbands in similar situations who waited too long and have just become bitter. They don’t want help, they just want to complain and tell everyone who will listen how awful they think marriage is.

      Glad you’re not there.

      So, I’m a guy who’s been dumb enough to try it your way. I’ve been there, depressed, defeated and deflated. Actually, I’ve been worse than where you are. At least you’re having sex. Not for 25 years, only about 1/5th of that, but still. If you want to talk, shoot me an email and I’ll see what I can offer.

      1. Gary says:

        Jay Dee,
        I sent you an e-mail. Your aid is greatly appreciated.

  5. M.Campbell says:

    So, “ask and you shall receive” huh? I’ve been asking my husband for YEARS to “meet my needs” and it hasn’t happened yet. I even spelled it out for him and told him I was dying inside and if the lack continued I would eventually actually be “dead” inside. I’ll give him credit, he did contact a Christian pastor who hosts marriage, family, and youth retreats and ask for help, but the guy said he didn’t have time. Yes, that guy sucks as a Christian marriage counselor, but my husband pretty much gave up at that point and did not search out any other form of help and eventually the relationship demise (sexual and otherwise) led him to having an affair. Naturally it destroyed our relationship (although we’re still married–trying to “work it out” but after 3 years still spinning our tires in the muck). Now, before all you men out there get all flustered up and comment about meeting his needs; I spent years changing my sexual prohibitions (I won’t go into detail) and meeting his needs; asking him what he wants and making appropriate changes, etc. After his affair, we had sex pretty regular for months, but after so long of my needs being left unattended, I’m pretty much depleted and dead emotionally. Yes, I realize I should “die” to myself and fill myself up with “God’s love” for me and rely on God to meet my needs, and love my husband unconditionally, etc., etc., but I’m human too. I have feelings that, guess what, God gave me; plus I have a little self-respect and don’t think I should be treated less than human just to “meet his needs” without anything expected back; sorry to the article about “performance based marriage”, but I do think marriage is a TWO WAY STREET. I don’t know. Maybe I’m asking too much, or I haven’t read the right article or done enough research or prayed enough or something, all I know is it’s not as simple as “just asking”.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      That’s the problem with writing a blog. I try to help as many marriages as I can, but sometimes individual marriages don’t quite fit the advice. In a lot of marriages, spouses simple are too afraid to ask for what they want. They think it’s being selfish, or are afraid of the answer. This isn’t so in your case, so this post, I’m afraid, won’t help.

      Is there any chance of encouraging your husband to see another counselor?

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