His Needs, Her Needs?
As a psychologist and counselor, I've discovered something interesting over the years as I work with people in various stages of life and in varying degrees of emotional upheaval. At the heart of most behavioral and emotional "dysfunctions" are lies. Lies that tends to be so subtle, that most folks are oblivious to their presence. This lack of recognition results in the lies going utterly unchallenged and accepted. Oftentimes, even when confronted with the lies, many will tend to deny their presence, insist on their veracity, and choose to cling a distorted reality. This false reality becomes the base from which their behavior and emotions operate.
Now if you are thinking that you're not one of these pathetic people that believe lies, you would be lying! We ALL believe lies to some degree and we typically don't recognize that we're even doing it. Unfortunately, the culture around us promulgates many of these lies, so that makes it even more difficult to "detox" when the world is telling you they're true. A great example of this is a book that came out a few years ago titled, "His Needs, Her Needs" by Willard F. Jr. Harley. This book "identifies the ten most vital needs of men and women and shows husbands and wives how to satisfy those needs in their spouses." Sounds wonderful, right? Well, here's the problem. What we'd like to be able to identify as "needs," are actually at their core, simply desires.
Aren't we bombarded with this lie in our culture today? Advertising and media try to convince us that we have more needs than we can keep up with on a daily basis. Pithy facebook quotes and memes are sending that message to us constantly. "You need this in your life"(with "this" being anything from weed killer to botox to romance). "If your spouse isn't meeting your needs, you need to demand they do or find someone that will."
If we're willing to be honest, human beings needs consist of fairly basic things: food, water, and shelter. Those are the essentials to our survival. Somewhere along the way, the word need became synonymous with the word want. Truth be told, all we want is not all we need. When we elevate our wants and desires to the level of needs in our minds, those things that we are wanting (e.g., a new car, to fit into skinny jeans, for your spouse to be more affectionate, etc.) begin to control us. Seeing my desire for affection as a need from my spouse will create a great deal of disappointment, frustration, anger, and ultimately bitterness when my spouse fails to meet that perceived "need." When we tell ourselves that we NEED something and that we MUST have it, we give it ultimate power over us. That need becomes the master and we become slaves.
Many of the desires that we have are good, even God-given desires, however, those desires become sinful when they cross over into the "need" department. We can become overly focused on those things that we aren't getting. Scripture has a name for this, it's called coveting.
"What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”" Romans 7:7
To want something that we don't have, that's the definition of coveting. Most marriages and other types of relationships end up failing because of the other person fails to give us something that we are desiring. The other person fails to meet our expectations. So often, folks move on to another relationship, bringing those same expectations with them, believing the lie, that there will be someone out there that will meet their "needs."
The bible tells us that there is only One who is able to meet our expectations, only One who can satisfy the desires of our heart.
"And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail." Isaiah 58:11
The Apostle Paul spoke about learning the secret to true contentment in the his letter to the Philippians. It should be noted, that when Paul uses the word "need," he's referring to life's essentials, not his unmet "needs" for affection, validation, or man's approval, matter of fact, he would never consider those to be actual needs.
"Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need." Philippians 4:11-12
What's the secret? Look at what Psalm 37:4 tells us,
"Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart."
...and Matthew 5:6,
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied."
If you're being honest with yourself, would you be able to say that you actually "delight yourself in the Lord?" If you're not sure what it means to delight yourself in the Lord, then the answer is likely, no. However, if you desire to know Him better, if you seek Him daily, if you hunger and thirst for His Word and truth, then you are on the path to contentment and peace (and likely already have it). If you struggle to find contentment, then take this secret to heart and begin to seek the Lord with sincerity. People are fallible, even the best spouse, friend, child, or parent will fail us. Yet, God is forever faithful.
"God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?" Numbers 23:19
As we grow in our contentment with God, we learn that Psalm 34:10b is true, "Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing." When we are being satisfied by God, we are free to love others without expectation. Recognizing that the desire of love is to give, while the desire of lust is to get. We become free from that desire to satisfy ourselves. Once we are freed up to love others fully, joy has room to flourish in our hearts. In 1 Peter 4:8, we are given the following encouragement,
"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins."
If you wait until your spouse (or anyone for that matter) is meeting your needs before you choose to genuinely, actively, and selflessly love them, your relationship will end up in gridlock. Each one waiting for the other, with arms folded, insisting on getting rather than giving. As you draw close to God, seeking Him and His light and love to meet all of your needs AND wants, He will equip you to love the unlovable and difficult people in your life (even if it's your spouse). God's love fills our cup overflowing so that it pours out on those around us, covering even their failures in loving you. Isn't this exactly how Christ loves us?