For thousands of years, people have married each other for all kinds of unromantic reasons — political alliance, financial gain, social climbing, escape from abusive parents, the legal right to stay in a country, etc. Another reason people marry is to satisfy behavior style needs. People who have already found healthy ways to satisfy their own behavior style needs marry to share their lives — their feelings, experiences, and dreams. People who do not know how to satisfy their own behavior style needs often do not know how to share feelings, experiences, and dreams. Three types of marriages are possible:
Both spouses marry to share feelings, experiences, and dreams (sharing life marriage)
One spouse marries to share feelings, experiences, and dreams; one spouse marries to satisfy needs (sharing life/seeking satisfaction marriage)
Both spouses marry to satisfy needs (seeking satisfaction marriage)
Only a sharing life marriage will be good for both spouses. Each spouse wants to share in the other spouse’s feelings, experiences, and dreams. Because they want to share, they pay attention to what matters to each other and make what matters happen. By making what matters happen, they keep each other’s needs satisfied. These spouses marry to share life and benefit from keeping their needs satisfied as well.
In a sharing life/seeking satisfaction marriage, both spouses will be disappointed. The sharing life spouse will feel unloved while the seeking satisfaction spouse will feel unsatisfied.
In a seeking satisfaction marriage, both spouses will feel unsatisfied. Their unsatisfied needs plus the inability to share feelings, experiences, and dreams will damage their marriage.
The following examples illustrate the differences between the three types of marriage. All three couples are real couples who used to be part of my life.
Sharing Life Marriage
The spouses in this marriage are from different racial groups. They shared their feelings, experiences, and dreams through all of their ups and downs. The wife helped the husband cope with the discrimination he endured for their interracial marriage before the Civil Rights era. The wife had been unable to get her driver’s license when she was young, so her husband helped her overcome her fears and learn to drive in her forties. When the husband had to get up at 3:00 a.m. to work long hours an hour’s drive away, the wife got up with him so they could have time together. If one of them did something for the other, the other one responded with the same, as in trading back rubs.
In later years after their finances improved, they shared their dream of traveling far and wide. After decades of the wife having to make do with a very tight budget, the husband made sure to buy her a piece of her favorite jewelry on every trip. As the wife’s health worsened, the husband did more and more of the housework and cooking. He also changed his work schedule to make daily life easier for his wife. This couple will share anything life brings them as long as they have each other. Along the way, they have kept each other’s needs satisfied.
Sharing Life/Seeking Satisfaction Marriage
The husband had dated little when he married to share his feelings, experiences, and dreams. The wife had been far more sociable, but married to satisfy her need to improve her social and financial status. For a time, the wife enjoyed being married to her husband. His career gave her a better social status, though his salary would never be high. After the babies started coming, the husband had to choose a profession that paid enough to support his family. His new profession lowered the wife’s social status, but there was little she could do about it. The one thing she could do was to make him work extra hours to earn even more money. The husband had expected to share the feelings, experiences, and dreams of his children. Instead, he found himself spending time away from his children in order to satisfy his wife’s need for more and more money.
When their children were older, the wife took a job at a company that allowed her to advance further than her husband had been able to advance. After several years, her salary was greater than his. She had improved her own social and financial status. The husband had to bury his feelings and set aside his dreams because his wife didn’t care about his dreams. She only wanted her husband to work long hours to make as much money as he could. The wife considered herself superior to her husband and felt that he had failed her. The wife did not share in her husband’s feelings, experiences, and dreams. Instead, she punished him by treating him like a servant, expecting him to do whatever she wanted. In this sharing life/satisfying need marriage, the unloved husband became an alcoholic and the unsatisfied wife became an abuser.
This was my parents’ marriage.
Seeking Satisfaction Marriage
The man felt his father had never given him approval. He filled that emotional hole with drugs and alcohol. He lived across the street from his father and parked a fancy car in his driveway, hoping to prove himself as a man to his father. The woman had an artistic profession that she lost because of a crippling illness. She became depressed and turned to alcohol.
This couple met when the man’s friend started dating the woman. Her dating relationship was a long distance, rocky relationship and both were alcoholics. When the boyfriend’s drinking led to his sudden death at age 50, the woman threw herself into the man’s arms. Less than three week’s after the death of the friend/boyfriend, the man and woman were sleeping together. Within months, they were engaged.
This couple married a year after the friend/boyfriend’s death. The husband married the woman to satisfy his need for his father’s approval. He thought if he married an alcoholic woman and made her happy enough to quit drinking, his father would have to see he was a good husband and give him approval as a man. The wife married the man to satisfy her need to have someone take care of her while she drank herself to death. She thought that if she acted helpless the husband would have to take care of her.
The husband had stopped drinking and doing drugs years before he met his wife. The wife sweet-talked her husband into drinking again so she could continue drinking herself to death. The husband became abusive to his wife, laughed about the abuse to a friend, and talked about suicide to a friend. Both husband and wife felt unloved.
Neither spouse married to share feelings, experiences, and dreams. The husband stayed focused on his relationship with his father, using his wife as a prop to improve that relationship. The wife stayed focused on herself, using her husband as a caregiver while she drank herself to death. Their use of alcohol and drugs further prevented them from sharing feelings, experiences, and dreams.
What to Do
If you are married and concerned about your marriage after reading this, there is something you can do. Look through the information at smilessparksuccess.com to help you identify and learn how to satisfy your behavior style needs and your spouse’s behavior style needs. If you feel your spouse married you to satisfy his or her needs, your marriage may never give you the sharing you want. But do not immediately decide to end the marriage. Use what you learn about satisfying each of your needs. Identify activities you could do with your spouse that would satisfy both of your needs. You will then be able to make an informed decision about how much your spouse is willing to share or not share feelings, experiences, and dreams with you.
Paula M. Kramer
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