Giving Versus Getting in the Marriage 

People often focus on what they are getting out of their marriage, rather than what they are giving to it. This seems to be especially true when people feel like they are not getting what they want out of the relationship. It can be helpful to spend more energy focusing on what you are giving rather than worrying that you aren’t getting enough.

Your Expectations of What You Think You Should Be Getting

If you feel like your needs are not being met, it’s important to examine your expectations. What had you thought you would gain from the relationship? What did you think your partner would be doing that isn’t happening?

Then you can examine how realistic your expectations were. Sometimes people think that a happy marriage will remedy all of their problems. For example, some people think their spouse should make them happy, prevent them from feeling lonely, and be there for them all the time. It’s impossible for your spouse to do all of these things for you.

The reality of marriage is often much different from what people pictured prior to tying the knot. Television, movies, and books often romanticize marriage and couples end with “happily ever after.” However, in reality, marriage requires hard work and it can be tough at times. So before you decide you aren’t getting enough from your marriage, make sure that your expectations are realistic. If you expect too much from your spouse, you will most likely feel disappointed much of the time.

Your Response When You Think You Aren’t Getting Enough

How you respond when you feel like you aren’t getting enough from the marriage can either help the relationship or cause further damage.  Some people withdraw when they feel like their marriage isn’t going as well as they had expected. This can lead to further marital problems and lack of intimacy.

Other people grow angry and hostile. This can lead to them purposely not meeting their partner’s needs. Their mindset becomes, “If you don’t give me what I want, I won’t give you what you want.” This causes the relationship to become destructive. This sort of tit-for-tat type attitude further breaks down the relationship.

Sometimes people go a step further and try to punish their spouse. For example, “You didn’t do what I wanted so I will teach you a lesson.” When people behave in this manner, it is very damaging and a relationship can quickly become toxic.

Focus on What You Are Giving to the Marriage

Spending time focusing on what you are not getting out of the marriage will not be helpful. In fact, the more you think about what isn’t working, the worse you will feel. It may result in changes in your behavior as well, which may further damage the relationship.

Instead of focusing on what isn’t working, it can be helpful to take a closer look at what you are giving to the relationship. For example, if you feel like your spouse isn’t giving you enough attention, focus on giving your spouse more attention. If you think your spouse isn’t handling the finances well, focus on what you can do to manage the finances better. Behaving pro-actively can help focus your energy in a way that can improve the marriage rather than feeling sorry for yourself or behaving in a way the further damages the relationship.

An Example of Non-Helpful Response

George and Anna had a 3 year old daughter. They had decided that Anna would stay at home to raise their daughter. Anna had imagined that she would enjoy her time at home with their daughter and she thought that evenings would be spent spending time with her husband and their child enjoying their time together as a family.

However, Anna felt overwhelmed. Instead of coming home on time, George was working long hours to support the family now that Anna wasn’t working anymore. Anna felt lonely, isolated, and frustrated by her lack of time with George and their lack of quality time together as a family.

She grew angry and resentful toward George because she felt like he wasn’t meeting her needs. Rather than talking to him about it, she chose to leave when he got home in the evenings. She would tell him to take over with parenting and she would go shopping and visit with friends. This resulted in George not getting his needs met either, putting their marriage at great risk for divorce.

Anna further contributed to the problem. If she had instead focused on spending as much time as she could with George, she could have made their time together much more enjoyable and special. She could have talked to George about her feelings and together, they may have been able to resolve the issue.


If you feel like your needs are not being met and you aren’t sure what you can do about it, consider counseling. Individual counseling for you may help you identify strategies that can help improve your relationship. Marriage counseling may be helpful if both you and your spouse are agreeable to trying to get some added support.


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