Putting your spouse’s needs first can be a wonderful thing. It can show your desire to be loving and unselfish. It can really make a couple grow closer together.
However, giving too much can be a slippery slope. When people give all the time without caring for their own needs, it can be damaging to the marriage. It’s important to learn how to recognize when you are approaching that point so you can make some changes before it starts to damage the relationship.
If meeting your spouse’s needs is causing you to feel resentful, it’s not healthy to continue doing things the same way. Take for example, Ashley and Jason. Jason had lots of hobbies that he loved to do. He coached several sports teams at their local high school and he spent most evenings attending practices and games.
On the weekends, he often went golfing on the days that he didn’t have a Saturday game. Initially, Ashley was happy to stay home with the children and support Jason’s endeavors. However, she soon grew resentful that she was cooking, cleaning and caring for the kids while he was doing the things he loved to do. She had two choices- continue growing resentful while pretending not to mind or having a talk with him and trying to reach a solution together about how to address the issue.
Talking to Other People About It
If you start complaining to other people about a problem that you haven’t yet discussed with your spouse, it’s likely a sign that you need to speak up. For example, if a wife is complaining to her friends that her husband never picks up around the house or that he just doesn’t seem that into sex lately, it’s a definite sign she needs to talk to him. It’s not good practice to air out your dirty laundry. However, it’s even worse if you haven’t discussed the problem with your spouse first.
Feeling like a Martyr
If you start feeling like a martyr, it’s definitely time to speak up and do something different. When people feel like a martyr they sometimes think things such as, “I have to do everything around here,” or “I’m the only one who cares about anything.” These sorts of thoughts and likely the behaviors that accompany them often mean that the couple is not working together as a team. Speak up and make some changes if you develop a martyr like attitude. If you can’t keep up the workload with a cheerful attitude, it is going to be damaging to the marriage.
Couples who keep score enter into dangerous territory. If you purposely give in to your spouse only to use it against him later, don’t do it. Saying things like, “Remember when I said you could buy that TV? Well now I get to pick where we go on vacation.” If your conversations start to sound more like siblings fighting about what’s fair and what isn’t, it’s a sign that you need to make some changes.
You Don’t Even Know What You Want Anymore
Sometimes people are so used to giving in that they don’t even know what they want anymore. When asked, “Where do you want to go for dinner,” they may say, “I don’t care,” or “You pick.” When people struggle to make decisions it often spills over into other areas of their life. They may have trouble speaking up to friends, co-workers and family members as well.
If you’ve lost track of what you like and want out of life, it’s important to learn how to start recognizing these things again. You can have an opinion and it’s great to share your opinion as well.
Learning to Speak Up
Sometimes people aren’t sure how to speak up. They may have been passive for so long that the idea of speaking up seems like a foreign concept. And if your spouse isn’t used to you speaking up, it can be a different experience.
For other people, they have stayed quiet so long that they are angry. So when they do speak up, they are more likely to explode. Claims of “You never…” and “I always….” are likely to ring out. It is important to learn how to speak up assertively and not aggressively.
If you are having difficulty speaking up successfully to your spouse, consider counseling. A counselor can teach you skills to help you be assertive, get your needs met, and still meet your spouse’s needs all at the same time.