Your Spouse Cannot Provide All of Your Existential Needs

I read an article recently, How to reset your wife when she’s falling apart. First, the article resonates. In describing the problem that a mom faces, who feels her work is “quiet,” never quite appreciated enough, who needs a break, it is spot on. It’s the solution that I am challenging. The article gives a point to by point of what husbands can do to help their wives. I am obviously for spouses helping each other, and many of the points are things that only a husband can provide, such as holding her tight. But, from my experience in marriage and as a mother and from much reading, I would like to suggest to moms and women to look for some creative solutions to these problems, outside of the marriage. Let me explain better.

One of the solutions is “Give a Day All to Herself.” Yes! That would be glorious! The problem is that both spouses are burning at both ends. You might enter an arrangement where you trade off giving each other personal days. The problem is that while one takes it, the other is doubled up on a day where they otherwise would have at least some relief. My experience with this was that both spouses come home to a grumpy spouse at the end of their personal day. You can’t refill each other when you are both empty.

To refuel both parents, I finally found some babysitters that could help us. Personal days can now be taken by both parents, for the same amount of time, such that it feels very fair, without doubling the other one up. I think it is great. Typically, the female (me) will go do something energizing to her feminine energy, such as getting a massage or pedicure–the exact things the article suggests. The man will go do something to energize his masculine energy. When you come home, you meet up, energized, set up for a great, erm, date night.

I had started to adopt this philosophy before I had kids. I had actually read the book Parent Effectiveness Training. This book is about parenting, but it challenges all authoritarian relationships, such as a model where the husband is dominant over the wife. The author describes instead a relationship where both parties are equal, both have their needs, both have a set of skills to communicate their needs, to listen to the other’s needs, and to enter negotiations when the needs conflict.

At the time that I had read this, I had a problem with our typical family meals. I thought they were too high in calories and stopping me from losing weight. With the model of “the man is the lead of the house and takes care of those in it,” I had somewhat felt it was up to him to lead and change in this area. In truth, it was my problem. It was not just my right to find a solution but my responsibility. When I finally found some books that give better solutions to this problem–that the problem is sugar and starch not fat–I lost a tremendous amount of weight. I was able to eat almost whatever I wanted at dinner, I just kept it to a certain portion. The majority of my meals are actually eaten separate from my husband.

I’m not saying to be callous to your spouse’s needs. I’m not saying what you need is unimportant. I’m not saying your marriage isn’t a rich source of support that may serve as a strong foundation for your emotional well being. I’m just saying: Your spouse may not be able to fulfill everything you need. Creative solutions may help refuel you both.

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