Use Your Strengths to Strengthen Your Marriage

Marriage strongThere’s no such thing as a perfect marriage, but everyone can have a great marriage. Some struggling spouses may respond: “I don’t see how; my wife is the opposite of me” or “I just don’t understand how my husband thinks.” Hope lies in the fact that awareness and appreciation of individual strengths in the marriage can narrow any divide.  Who knows?  Maybe you will create a marriage that will be a shining light for others.

As a leadership coach, I help clients identify and drive on their personal strengths.  The CliftonStrengths Assessment (https://www.gallupstrengthscenter.com/) can identify and force-rank 34 potential strengths.  Your top 5 become your Signature Theme and can provide insight into what brings you the greatest fulfillment (Evans & Kelsey, 2016).  Your Signature Theme also becomes the basis of your worldview—the lens by which you evaluate and judge people, their actions, and the happiness of your relationships.

People who are like you tend to “get you.” We typically gravitate to people who share similar worldviews except in those instances were feelings of love, newness, excitement, and romance can cause us to choose someone who is different than us. In these cases, when the “love chemicals” dissipate, it is not uncommon that spouses question how they chose their mate.

Hope is just around the corner! Differences in individual strengths can help explain the emotional distancing, but knowledge of Signature Themes can also be the bridge-builder to greater harmony and closeness. There are no perfect marriages, because there are no perfect people.  However, couples who understand their own and spouse’s strengths can work as a team in bringing together the powerhouse of all their gifts.

How do you get started on this journey? Take the CliftonStrengths Assessment and get to know yourself. Share your top strengths with your spouse and learn theirs.  The more dissimilarity in your strengths rankings, the more likely you will have different priorities, perspectives, and skills.  Awareness building around strengths should increase patience with your partner, because you realize your partner is not stubborn, uninformed, or unreasonable.  Your spouse is only filtering the information through their own lens.

The next step is to brainstorm how each spouse can use his or her strengths for the benefit of the marriage. My husband and I only share the “activator” strength in our top 5, which means we are impatient with pause and want to lead and make things happen. We are focused on performance.  When we partner on a project, watch out world.  Many people probably feel left in our dust.

My remaining four top strengths are classified as either strategic or executing: (1) futuristic, (2) learner, (3) strategic, and (4) achiever.  All of Darin’s remaining strengths fall into either influencing or relationship-building categories: (1) communication, (2) woo, (3) connectedness, and (4) individuation.  Yes, “woo” is a strength.

When you look at how we apply our strengths, I’m the business leader, and he’s the sales leader.  When Darin and I disagree on a customer approach, I typically defer to Darin, because I know he has a greater strength to understand and connect with customers than I do.  When it comes to business strategy, I will usually seek Darin’s input, but he defers to me as that is my strength.  When we disagree, it doesn’t divide us.  We are instead grateful that we have so much talent spread across our marriage.

Take the CliftonStrengths survey!  Find out your strengths and share your top 5 with your spouse over a date night.

Reference

Evans, J., & Kelsey, A. (2016). Strengths Based Marriage: Build a Stronger Relationship by Understanding Each Other’s Gifts. Nashville, TN: Nelson Books.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional leadership coach with an extensive background in premarital and marriage coaching, education, and mentoring. She coaches individuals, and couples, as well as facilitates relationship workshops.  She has a passion to help people experience outstanding marriages and relationships.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website www.shinecrossings.com

What’s Your Favorite Marriage Tradition?

How-To-Plan-A-Successful-Couples-Road-TripWhen asked, “What is your most important relationship?” many spouses respond, “My marriage.” When husband and wife agree and act consistently on that answer, I would expect them to have a solid foundation upon which to build a happy marriage.  The second question, “How are you investing in your marriage to strengthen it?” does leave some spouses wondering how to answer.  If you paused to think about your answer, you’re not alone.

Your pause doesn’t mean that you’re not investing in your marriage but perhaps signals that you’re not as intentional as you could be. If you asked my husband or me the latter question, we would answer, “Our annual Thanksgiving road trip!” With our children grown, we decided that Thanksgiving week would be reserved for our marriage strengthening.  No other family—just us!  Mapping out an itinerary taking us thousands of miles across several states, we start from home base or fly into a new city and drive in a big loop to eventually return home on Sunday following Turkey Day.

Our family knows that Thanksgiving week is reserved for strengthening our marriage with the Christmas holiday our designated time to spend with family and friends.  If road-tripping around the country during Thanksgiving week is not your ideal adventure, I would encourage you to get creative and think of a tradition or two that speaks to your likes.  If you currently have a tradition or think of one that excites you, please leave a comment.  You may inspire other couples.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional leadership coach with an extensive background in premarital and marriage coaching, education, and mentoring. She coaches individuals, and couples, as well as facilitates relationship workshops.  She has a passion to help people experience outstanding marriages and relationships.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website www.shinecrossings.com

Sex-pectations: The Difference and Implications of Marital Needs

his need her need 4I am crawling out on a limb as I share this perspective in the hope of helping just one struggling couple who wants to save their marriage in the aftermath of infidelity.  On the other hand, perhaps a husband or wife who is teetering on the edge of infidelity will decide to change course.  As a marriage coach, I have couples sit on my couch who are wrestling with a gap in sexual appetite.  In most cases, the husband desires more sex than his wife, and over time, this unresolved need has culminated in an extra-marital affair.  I fully acknowledge that women also have affairs, but in most cases, the catalyst for theirs starts with unmet non-sexual needs.

For the record, I believe every adult is fully responsible for his/her decisions and behaviors. However, one of my first coaching questions is usually directed to the faithful spouse: “What did you contribute to the extra-marital affair?” My question is not to suggest that this wronged spouse caused the affair, should feel any guilt, or accept any blame. My intention is to shine a spotlight on the couple dynamics that the husband and wife co-created before the affair occurred.  Husbands and wives share a responsibility in what goes on within their marriage. I would only ask this question if both spouses were committed to work on their marriage and not focus their energies on assigning blame or playing the victim card.

This pointed question expands the conversation around marital needs as discussed in Thriving Marriages? It’s All About Meeting Needs. A healthy and satisfying marriage results when each spouse tries to meet the needs of his/her spouse. As mentioned in His Needs, Her Needs, Harley (2011) discusses 10 emotional needs that husbands and wives seek to have fulfilled within their marriage.  These are (1) affection, (2) sexual fulfillment, (3) intimate conversation, (4) recreational companionship, (5) honesty and openness, (6) physical attractiveness, (7) financial support, (8) domestic support, (9) family commitment, and (10) admiration.  Men typically rate sexual fulfillment and recreational companionship as their highest needs; whereas, women favor affection and intimate conversation.  Harley (2011) states that when primary needs are not met by a spouse, over time, husbands and wives will usually find ways to get those needs met outside of their relationship.

As an example, it is common for a woman to crave intimate conversation with her husband.  When a wife does not receive it, she may innocently share her frustration with a male coworker or friend.  With no calculated intent, this intimate conversation blooms into a romantic affair.  Most likely, the man is also married and not getting his sexual needs met by his wife.  The same model holds true for husbands.  They may have no plans for an affair but are unable to hold the line at only flirtatious conversation. Unless suffering from sex addiction, neither spouse is likely to stray if their needs are met at home.

Readers may counter that spouses should not feel pressured into having sex with their spouse.  I could not agree more; however, I do suggest that a husband and wife adopt a self-sacrificing attitude to meet their spouse’s top three needs.  Love undoubtedly requires self-sacrifice.  For example, when I want to relax on the couch with a glass of wine and good book after work, my husband is in the kitchen cooking dinner and cleaning up afterwards.  Would he rather trade places with me?  Absolutely!  Yet, he knows that I will gladly gift him sex when we crawl into bed when I prefer to pull the covers over my head and drift off to sleep.

“What did you contribute to the extra-marital affair?” may be the first question on the table; however, the second is asked of the unfaithful spouse: “What did you not do for your wife/husband that led her/him to not care about satisfying your sexual needs?” Husbands and wives both have a responsibility to nurture their marriages.  When the love chemicals subside, the happy and enduring marriages require hard work and self-sacrificing decisions. I encourage couples to prioritize their individual needs and communicate their top three, so their spouse can make a concerted effort to satisfy them.  If successful, couples may be asked a third question after decades of marriage: “What’s the secret?”

Reference

Harley, W.F. (2011). His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional leadership coach with an extensive background in premarital and marriage coaching, education, and mentoring. She coaches individuals, and couples, as well as facilitates relationship workshops.  She has a passion to help people experience outstanding marriages and relationships.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website www.shinecrossings.com

A Father’s Gift to His Children

father-daughter-son2

When TV cameras pan a sports field, how many times have you noticed players mouthing “Love you, Mom.” How often have you noticed dads getting credit when sportscasters are interviewing athletes after a big win? My recollection is that moms are receiving most of the public praise. Why do fathers seem to be forgotten or avoided?

As a child growing up in a single-working-mother family without any father contact, some of the discrepancy can be chalked up to the single-parent family structure.  I believe another portion can be explained by the lack of emotional bonding between fathers and their children.  Although I do not have all the answers, I do know that dads play a vital role in the lives of their children, and what boys need from their fathers differ from what girls need.

Eldredge (2004) proposes that every boy wants to be a hero and continually asks himself the question, “Do I have what it takes?”  Boys want to impress others and are often doing things that allow them to say, “Look at me!”  Since every boy is seeking validation that he has what it takes to be a man, boys often look to their fathers to help them answer that question. Even God said of his Son, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17, NKJV).

On the other hand, Eldredge (2004) suggests that a girl has a different question she is looking to her father to answer.  Girls try to capture their father’s attention to answer the question of whether she is lovely and worth pursuing?  A father answers that question by letting her know that he is thinking of her and delights in her.

When fathers do not validate the core needs of their children, Eldredge (2004) proposes boys feel like a failure and girls feel abandoned.  Boys will forever try to prove they are a man and shy away from anything that might reveal otherwise.  A father’s silence can wound a son.  Since a father cannot give what he does not have, it is not uncommon for generations of fathers/sons to struggle.

Girls, whose worth is not validated by their fathers, may seek male attention outside of the family.  Children who are emotionally starved by their biological fathers, should seek a spiritual father.  Many wonderful fathers can step in to provide that need to non-biological daughters.  I am one of those girls, whose stepfather became my spiritual father. These needs cannot be fulfilled by a mother, only a father.  Mothers, on the other hand, give unconditional love, teach about mercy, and provide comfort (Eldredge, 2004).

If you are a father, consider looking for those authentic opportunities to say the words that convey to your son that you are proud of him and has what it takes to be a man.  For a daughter, make sure she knows that she is delightful and worth fighting for. Fathers are the most powerful men in their children’s lives.

Reference

Eldredge, J. (2004). You Have What It Takes: What Every Father Needs to Know. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.


144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional leadership coach with an extensive background in premarital and marriage coaching, education, and mentoring.  She coaches individuals, and couples, as well as facilitates relationship workshops.  She has a passion to help people experience outstanding marriages and relationships.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website www.shinecrossings.com

What is Your Marriage Worth?

His need her needAs a partner to couples who are seriously dating, engaged, and even married for several years, I am honored every time they invite me to coach and mentor them to greater levels of relationship understanding, commitment, and fulfillment.  As a certified coach for both Prepare & Enrich (http://www.prepare-enrich.com) and Save Your Marriage Before It Starts (SYMBIS, http://www.SYMBIS.com), couples typically ask me, “Which program would be best for us?” The simple answer is both.  Ideally, the programs would be integrated to create the best of both worlds, but either program is packed with insightful information tailored to the couple.

Research (Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott, SYMBIS) shows that those couples who participate in premarital coaching are 31% less likely to get divorced and have a 30% increase in marital fulfillment over those who do not.  More facts that are worth considering: (1) couples who do not receive pre-marriage education are more likely to see their problems as atypical and unsolvable, and (2) 41% of divorced couples say lack of pre-marriage preparation contributed to their divorce.

Regardless of which program a couple chooses, I applaud each for deciding to invest in the health of their relationship.  Even strong and aligned couples have been surprised in how much they learned about themselves and their marriage.  For those who are seriously considering this investment, I briefly summarize the process and differences between the programs.

  • Both programs require each person to take an online survey which captures pertinent information about the individual, couple, and their relationship.
  • A report is created from the survey results. No report is the same as each relationship is unique.
  • SYMBIS focuses on (1) marriage mindset, (2) individual and couple well-being, (3) relationship context around social support, finances, and expectations, and (4) personality dynamics that play out in love, sex, communication, conflict, and spirituality.
  • Prepare & Enrich focuses on (1) relationship dynamics involving assertiveness, self-confidence, avoidance, and dominance, (2) stress influences, (3) identification of relationship strengths and opportunities for growth, and (4) practical tools for improving communication, conflict resolution, and financial management.

Prepare & Enrich typically unfolds over eight sessions; whereas, SYMBIS can usually be unpacked over 3-4 sessions, because it focuses more on discussion without the tools provided by the other program.  Both programs have their merits, and either would be a worthwhile investment of time and money.

One of the most meaningful and rewarding pieces of feedback I received about the coaching experience was from a 56 year-old man who planned to marry for the second time.  After going through the Prepare & Enrich curriculum, he said he learned so much about himself and relationships that he was recommending this program to his two young adult sons.  He also mentioned that if he and his first wife had pursued premarital coaching, it may have saved his first marriage.

Many couples, who are on a relationship high, falsely believe they do not need relationship coaching and tools.  I guarantee that marriage coaching, regardless of relationship strength, is a worthwhile investment to ward off future relationship struggles, emotional pain, and the cost of marriage counseling.  Every serious relationship and marriage are worth the investment of premarital or marriage coaching.  Regardless of where you live, I encourage you to pursue relationship coaching.  If you live in the Houston area, I would welcome the conversation.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional leadership coach with an extensive background in premarital and marriage coaching, education, and mentoring.  She coaches individuals, and couples, as well as facilitates relationship workshops.  She has a passion to help people experience outstanding marriages and relationships.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website www.shinecrossings.com

Thriving Marriages? It’s All About Meeting Needs

his need her need 2Having coached premarital and married couples who sit on my couch every week, I am routinely asked, “What do we need to do to ensure we have a happy marriage?”  The answer is relatively simple:  “It’s all about meeting needs.”

Harley (2011) states that couples have 10 emotional needs that operate within their marriage that have to be satisfied in order for them to feel emotionally connected. The importance of each need varies by individual; therefore, husband and wife should seek to understand which ones are most valued by their spouse and try to satisfy those needs. This concept is similar to the five love languages, where Chapman (2015) proposes that people need some level of love through all five languages but prefer to receive love through only 1 or 2 in order to fill their love tank.

What are the emotional needs that operate within all marriages?  Harley (2011) cites these needs as (1) affection, (2) sexual fulfillment, (3) intimate conversation, (4) recreational companionship, (5) honesty and openness, (6) physical attractiveness, (7) financial support, (8) domestic support, (9) family commitment, and (10) admiration. By focusing attention on their spouse’s top 5 emotional needs, partners can help to affair-proof their marriage from emotional and physical infidelity. Husbands and wives would benefit from force-ranking the importance of each need and sharing this list with their spouse.  Spouses would then be empowered with the knowledge in how to increase the deposits in their partner’s emotional love bank.

Some of the 10 needs have a gender bias which can make it more difficult for some spouses to understand why certain needs are so important to their partner.  Men typically have a strong need for sexual fulfillment and recreational companionship; whereas, women typically favor affection and intimate conversation.  By rating and sharing the importance of each need and how well their spouse is meeting it, couples can determine the significance of the gap. Knowledge is power, and a needs assessment highlights where to focus attention in building the balance in the love bank.

References

Chapman, G. (2015). The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts. Chicago, IL: Northfield Publishing.

Harley, W.F. (2011). His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell.


144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional leadership coach with an extensive background in premarital and marriage coaching, education, and mentoring. She coaches individuals, and couples, as well as facilitates relationship workshops.  She has a passion to help people experience outstanding marriages and relationships.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website www.shinecrossings.com

Relationships: Have You Discussed Your Non-Negotiables?

List 1

What’s on your non-negotiable list?

Have you fallen “in love” and much further into the relationship found a few flaws in your partner’s character or behaviors that you judged to be show-stoppers?  Did the person you thought you would likely spend the rest of your life become the person with whom you could not imagine spending another night?  An answer of “yes” is not uncommon, and for some feels like a regular response as they jump from relationship to relationship hoping to find the right one for them.

Why the common pattern?  In most cases, I would wager that the relationship demise is not attributable to any one person changing, but instead the inevitable collide of non-negotiables.  For those not familiar with the terminology, non-negotiables are those attitudes, personal characteristics, and behaviors that are incompatible with a person’s expectations in how their partner should conduct themselves within and outside the relationship.

Many people do not take the time to define their relationship non-negotiables; therefore, they cannot evaluate their dating partner against them early in the dating process.  Without an understanding of objective non-negotiables, the “love” chemicals will dominate a person’s thinking and rationalization.  As the chemicals fade, the issue of non-negotiables will come to the forefront. I encourage everyone, regardless of age, to have a list of non-negotiables even if it changes over time, which most likely it will based on accumulated learnings and experiences.

You may be sold on the concept but unsure of what qualifies as non-negotiables.  First, there are no right or wrong, better or worse answers.  Second, the list should be rooted in core values and deep-seated preferences.  My husband had only two for the woman he would marry: (1) high self-confidence, and (2) a shared faith and love for the God he served.  He felt he could work with anything else.  On the other hand, my list was much longer and included: (1) never lay a hand on me, (2) be a financial provider for the family, and (3) maintain a family life where no one walks on eggs.  Although the list is short, the conversations are long with regards to unpacking what each of these looks and feels like in daily life.

As you may suspect, many of our non-negotiables were derived from prior experiences that left a prominent mark in how we expected to live our lives in the future. The list encompassed what we determined was intolerable or a “must-have.” If you have not yet written your list, I encourage you to carve out the time to create one on paper. Although there is no minimum number, if you find yourself with a grocery list of non-negotiables, you may be describing wants and not just non-negotiables.


144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional leadership coach with an extensive background in premarital and marriage coaching, education, and mentoring. She coaches individuals, and couples, as well as facilitates relationship workshops.  She has a passion to help people experience outstanding marriages and relationships.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website www.shinecrossings.com

Marriage: Uncomplicated

Mr and MrsToday’s marriages are more complicated than ever before.  A half century ago, the American marriage was simpler in its expectations and roles.  It was a male-female union to which the overwhelming majority of adults committed.  Divorce was not a chosen option, because it was penalized with societal ostracism.  Young adults would routinely marry their high school sweethearts, or those who were university bound would marry their college steady.  Marriage was the assumed relationship institution which led to the saying that girls went to college primarily to get their MRS degree—signified by a marriage proposal from a well-educated gentleman before graduation.

A successful marriage was defined by key behaviors and milestones such as a husband securing a well-paying job, buying a new family car, taking a home mortgage in the burbs, having children and grandchildren.  Both husband and wife had predetermined roles to play.  Husbands strived to work for the big company, measured success by promotions, brought home a paycheck to support his stay-at-home wife who cooked, tended to the children, and volunteered at the PTA.  Women could be teachers and nurses but were expected to give up their careers when their first child was born.

Fast forward to today, where the definition of marriage and its gender composition have challenged the mid-twentieth century design.  Marriage today is more complex and requires increased skills in communication, conflict management, and negotiation (Markman, Stanley, & Blumberg, 2010).  Why?  Because less is automatically assumed and accepted, and more needs to be decided.

Spouses are entering marriage with higher expectations of what marriage should be and what their partner will provide toward their happiness. Many couples expect their spouse to be both best friend and soul mate.  For those couples who can successfully fulfill those roles for each other, they should consider volunteering as marriage mentors to other couples who are struggling to achieve that status.

What can couples do to improve the strength and vitality of their marriage?  My initial answer would be to consider marriage coaching!  Ideally a couple should seek coaching before they say, “I do,” although it is never too late to invest in your marriage.  Marriage coaching can help with managing expectations as well as developing strategies for building and maintaining friendship, commitment, fun, and intimacy.  Although coaching can provide tools, success will be mostly influenced by the motivation to apply them.

In my marriage coaching practice, I had several couples who came with an expectation that if they could only learn some tools and skills, their marriage would improve.  What happened?  One couple voluntarily dropped coaching after 3-4 sessions, because as the husband said, “Although the tools are really useful, we just aren’t committed to put them to work in our marriage.”  I applauded his honest answer.  If either spouse is not willing to do the hard work to achieve the vision for the marriage, success will be limited or elude them all together.

Marriage is a partnership, requiring spouses to die to their selfishness in order to uplift their spouse and marriage. As I like to ask,” What are you doing that is contributing to a marriage issue?”  Many spouses are surprised by the question, and as they consider their answer, they usually come to the realization that they try to argue their position with the hope of convincing their spouse to their way of thinking. When my husband and I disagree, if I do not remind myself, we remind each other of a powerful Scripture: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye” (Matthew 7:3-5, NIV).  When you take the time to think about how you contributed or are contributing to an issue, you may surprise yourself how much more humble you engage in conflict resolution.

In marriage coaching, I work with couples to develop a vision, mission, and goals for their marriage that excited them.  Couples who bring optimism, a willingness to develop a plan, and commitment to take action usually see their marriages thrive.  Marriage coaching holds a couple accountable to develop the goals they want to work on together and move forward.  It is that simple!  Although the definition of marriage has been redefined in this modern age, it does not have to be complicated.  Skills, tools, and coaching can take what appears complicated and make it uncomplicated.

Reference

Markham, H., Stanley, S., & Blumberg, S. (2010). Fighting for your marriage. (3rd. ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in leadership and ministry, which provides her with the experience and relational skills to move individuals and couples to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including life purpose and plans, marriage, and finances.

Live, Love, and Laugh Alot!

Couple-LaughingThey say, “Laughter is the best medicine.”  I believe laughter is not only the best medicine for what ails you but is part of the required maintenance for a healthy and satisfying marriage.  This concept was driven home during one of my coaching sessions, where a couple was trying to figure out whether they should take their dating relationship to the next level—engagement.   Based on their survey, they were highly compatible in their emotional intelligence, communication, conflict resolution, spiritual views, financial stewardship, and interests.  What was missing?

Although they had differences in daily lifestyle habits and personality traits, theirs was not any more divergent than most couples.  Frankly, I had seen couples with greater differences that were extremely happy in their relationship.  As we dug deep, trying to understand why Peggy* was hesitating when her mind could justify why they were a good fit, she blurted out that she never belly-laughed with Mark*.   Peggy loved going new places and doing fun activities with Mark, but their conversations never evoked the silliness and laughter that usually comes from experiencing life together.  Peggy was known to see humor in many situations and did frequently laugh with her family and other friends.  She could never figure out why she did not laugh with Mark, and disappointingly, Mark never did get to put a ring on her finger.  Regardless of how compatible this couple appeared on paper, Peggy did not feel connected to her partner, and lack of laughter was a significant contributor.

Why is laughter so important in a relationship?  For an individual laughter helps to release stress.  People who have a sense of humor tend to have less physical ailments and find greater joy in their lives. Humor and laughter shared within a marriage helps a couple cope with daily stresses.  Laughter bonds and makes a couple feel like they are in it together.  When you reflect on the times your marriage was most vibrant, I bet you and your spouse were laughing a lot—seeing humor in the small situations.  I pray you are and continue to be in that stage.  On a personal front, my husband represents the classic duck, where water just rolls off his back.  On the other hand, I am the worrier in the couple.  I convincingly tell myself, someone in the relationship needs to worry.  Many times, I will be verbally expressing my worries to my husband, and when I do, he always makes me laugh.  How?  Because he just gives me his look and says “Hakuna matata!”  I usually smile in response and continue with my rationale, and he says again, “Hakuna matata.”  I then respond, “but…,” and he says again, “Hakuna matata!”  I finally give up and just laugh!  “Hakuna matata” is a joke that keeps us together.  What stories or shared experiences keep you living, loving, and laughing together?

*Names have been changed to protect identities


144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach and mentor with an extensive background in leadership and ministry, which provides her with the experience and relational skills to move individuals and couples to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including life purpose and plans, marriage, and finances.

Planning for a Successful Marriage

Husband and wife on bedMost couples plan for their perfect wedding but often overlook planning for a successful marriage.  It is not uncommon for a bride and groom to spend more on their wedding day than purposefully investing in their marriage over its lifetime.  Parrott and Parrott (2015) found that less than 20% of all American couples had any type of formal marriage preparation, and research showed that about half of newlyweds reported serious marital problems and had doubts whether their marriages would last.  Husbands and wives enter marriage with a set of personal needs and expectations in how they will be fulfilled by their spouse.  In many cases, these needs and expectations are unspoken, result from life experiences and family dynamics, and are biologically driven.  Some couples are not in tune with their needs; whereas, others are apprehensive in asking for fear of rejection.  A few husbands and wives have the unrealistic expectation that if their spouse really loved them, they would know what their needs were and act upon them.  Since it is unlikely that most spouses read minds, I would suggest that it is never too late to schedule a quiet date, where a couple can ask powerful questions about needs and expectations.

If you are considering that date, it might be helpful to understand some typical gender differences in marital needs.    These insights may help you better understand your spouse and why sometimes s/he acts in ways that confuse or frustrate you.  With awareness, empathy, and sharing, I pray you can get more of your needs met in marriage.  Love is the willingness to hear and try to meet your partner’s needs.  As my husband says to me, “Let me know what you need. If it’s not illegal or immoral, I’m on it!”

What does a wife need?

Many men confusingly ask, “What do women really want?”  Research conducted by Markman and Kraft (1989) found that a wife’s most basic needs in marriage are to be cherished, be understood, and be respected.  In my coaching experience, I often hear women say they need to feel safe in their marriages.  I would suggest that their concept of “safety” is weaved into their needs of being understood and respected.

A woman typically feels cherished, when she knows a husband puts her first among family, friends, and interests.  She believes when push comes to shove her husband will choose her.  The research also shows that when a wife believes she is cherished, she encourages her husband to pursue the things he enjoys (Parrott & Parrott, 2015).  Men who cherish their wives not only show their wives but tell them they love them, especially when “words of affirmation” is a primary love language.

A woman feels understood when her feelings are validated and accepted (Parrott & Parrott, 2015).  Men are biologically predisposed to speak less words and focus on solving problems.  Husbands validate their wives by just listening to them share their feelings and struggles without solving their problems.

Wives need to feel as if they are equal partners in their marriages.  Husbands can respect their wives by supporting their dreams and goals.  When women do not feel respected by their husbands, they tend to feel insecure, unworthy, and may suffer depression.

Without awareness of female-driven needs, husbands will try to love their wives in the ways that they feel loved.  The same is true of wives’ approach in loving their husbands.  Wives also need to understand their husbands’ basic needs, so they can love their husbands in ways that uplift their marriages.

What does a husband need?

God has a sense of humor.  What was He thinking when he designed Adam and Eve, man and women, or he and she.  Obviously, humans with enough similarities to be attracted to each other and enough differences to keep the relationship interesting.  Men are not only physically and mentally different in their hard-wiring than women, their basic marriage needs are as well.  The research by Parrott and Parrott (2015) suggest that wives should focus their efforts on satisfying their husbands’ needs to be admired, to have autonomy, and of enjoyment in shared activity with their spouses.

Men need words of encouragement from their wives in how they are meeting their needs.  Contrary to women who will try harder to get admiration, men tend to lose motivation to try and choose to focus on something else that brings them that positive reinforcement.  A wife should never resort to false praise but verbalizing specific behaviors to her husband that would please her and intentionally recognizing her pleasure when he acts will help to bridge the gap.

Wives tend to use words to draw closer, but sometimes husbands need autonomy to regroup before they can engage in marital conversation.  I learned this the hard way in my first marriage, when I would immediately start to vent the details of my work day to my husband upon walking into our home.  My husband, wHis vs Her Needsho had an equally stressful day, needed to go to his “man cave” for half an hour, before he could have conversation.

A common compliant I hear men express during marital coaching is their deep desire to have their wives join them or share in a hobby together. Men typically comment, “I wish my wife would (1) join me fishing, (2) travel with me on business, or (3) come to one of my softball games….”   Men connect with their wives by doing things together, even if it is just sitting on the coach together watching a movie.  Men bond to their wives through recreation; whereas, women feel intimacy by talking, sharing vulnerable moments, and cuddling.

What’s next?

Neither set of gender needs is right or wrong.  Instead, understanding the differences will hopefully make you realize that your spouse is not intentionally ignoring your needs. They are just focused on loving you in the way they feel loved.  You may already be aware of these differences.  If not, hopefully you have more insight.  Awareness is measured on a continuum, and wherever you are on that line, consider setting up a date to explore these gender differences.  Review the sets of basic needs and share your answers to the following questions:

  1. For each of the gender needs discussed, how much does this basic need hold true for you?
  2. For each need, on a scale of 1-10 (10=highest), how well is your spouse satisfying that need? Provide examples that support your score?
  3. Give examples of how your spouse could strengthen that need for you?
  4. Pick at least one of your spouse’s needs that you will commit to focus on and describe how you will do it.

References

Markman, H. & Kraft, S. (1989). Men and women in marriage: Dealing with gender differences in marital therapy. The Behavior Therapist, 12, p. 51-56.

Parrott, L. & Parrott, L. (2015). Saving your marriage before it starts. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.


144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach and mentor with an extensive background in leadership and ministry which provides her with the experience and relational skills to move individuals and couples to higher levels of personal awareness and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including life purpose and plans, marriage/premarital, and finances.