Why Can't You Meet My Needs?
By Marita Littauer with Chuck
Noon, MA, LPCC
In the last installment, we heard about the struggles Annette is facing due to her husband’s debilitating stroke. This week, we will take our first look at the insights—from both peers and professionals—for dealing with the issue. If this is your first time to read this column, please go back and read part one.
While Troy and Annette's situation presents her need for a job and her fear of temptation as primary concerns, we see a bigger issue. This is common to many women, no matter how healthy their husbands may be—expecting her husband to fulfill all of her needs and interests. If Annette addresses this first, her career options and the temptation they provide will be less of a worry. Additionally, she needs to deal with the underlying anger she feels over her unbalanced sacrifice. We’ll also look at some things Troy can do to help the situation.
Annette's Personality is the combination of the Popular Sanguine/Powerful Choleric. This tells us she likes lots of activity and stimulation. Additionally, we know that Annette is ten years younger than Troy. So, while Troy is ready to slow down and retire—possibly even if he had no disability—Annette still desires more activity. As women often marry older men, this is a situation that may be present in your marriage even if there is no health issue.
Annette is to be commended for honoring her marriage vows and sticking with Troy through the past six years. Being a caregiver is not a position that her Personality type would naturally gravitate toward. Now, however, Annette says that she is running on empty. This is natural in her place. For more than six years, she has been doing nothing that fills her or stimulates her. Her whole life has been focused around her husband and caring for him—she has been giving extravagant love.
Fortunately for Annette, she can now make some changes. Unlike a terminally or chronically ill person, Troy no longer needs constant care. If your situation today is that of being a caregiver, either long term or temporary, you need something that will offer you emotional and spiritual nourishment to fill you up—or like Annette, you will find that you are running on empty.
As I talk to women around the country, I find that many women expect their husband to fulfill all their needs: physical, emotional, and spiritual. If he isn't their provider, best friend, spiritual leader, and companion in shared activities they feel disappointed and cheated. I believe it is unreasonable to expect any one human being to meet all our needs. In her book The Power of Femininity, Michelle McKinney Hammond says, "We will strive, weep, and deprive ourselves of opportunities to live a full life if we put our hope in a person to fulfill our expectations."
Check Your Spiritual Walk
First, many of our needs can only be met through an ongoing and active relationship with our Lord, Jesus Christ. So, I would ask anyone in a situation that bears any of the elements of Annette’s, “How is your spiritual walk? Are you in a women's Bible study group, one that offers you both spiritual food and fellowship?” Because the fellowship aspect is so important for Annette as she finds a new equilibrium in her marriage, I believe a group study is a vital link for her. She could read the Bible or use a study guide on her own. Both of these activities would be beneficial, but a group study also offers much-needed social interaction.
To find out about Bible study groups in the area, start with the women’s ministries in your own church, then call some of the major churches near you home, or check with the local Christian bookstore. Christian bookstores often know of Bible study groups because they have ordered supplies for them or because they have postings of Christian activities. Another option is to look in the local newspaper’s religion section (usually on Saturday) that lists events taking place within the community.
In addition, all Christian couples should consider studying the Bible together—either a couples’ group study or just the two of them. Maxine Marsolini, author of Blended Families, recommends a study called Becoming One by Don Meridith. Maxine says,
Make Some Friends
It is a great study to do because it moves life's trials away from selfish feelings into an enjoyable and focused Extravagant Love commitment.
Attending a group study will help any one in Annette’s place fill both her spiritual and social needs. For a Popular Sanguine, like Annette, her need for friendship cannot be ignored. Consequently, I’d encourage Annette to seek other forms of social activity with female friends as well. If you are in a similar situation, ask yourself, “Is there a physical activity I enjoy, or have enjoyed in the past?” In my area, the local bike store hosts a women's ride every Wednesday evening. I have enjoyed joining them occasionally for a casual ride along the river. Many gyms host aerobics classes or other group activities that would provide you with a forum for meeting women your age and with similar interests. Taking a class through the community college or other adult education programs would be another option. A woman in Annette’s circumstance needs to develop a social network of friends who can encourage her and lift her up. After being a caretaker for an extended time, you may find many of your former friends have moved on. Or, your previous social network might have been largely related to her work. Get out and make new friends!
Another way to fill one’s emotional tank and prevent the running-on-empty feeling is with activities you enjoy. Surely, some of these activities are things that can be done without your disabled spouse. You can also explore other avenues.
Even for someone who does not have a spouse with a handicap, this is good advice. For example, I like to sail. Chuck does not enjoy it the same way I do. He would rather ride his bike. Since sailing is not something I can easily do all by myself, I gave it up for a while. I found that I was harboring resentment toward Chuck because he did not join in this activity with me. Then I realized it is unrealistic to expect Chuck to share every activity with me or for me to expect Chuck to meet 100 percent of my needs. One day our newspaper had a feature on a local sailing club that holds races on the lakes here in New Mexico. For a while, I joined. I love the feeling of standing on the bow with the wind in my hair, the sun on my face, and the splash of the refreshing water cooling me off. While I drove three hours each way to get to a lake, the seemed like nothing compared to the satisfaction I receive from the activity. After a while, my life went another direction and the sailing no longer seemed important.
These three areas—spiritual walk, friends, and satisfying activities—will nourish the soul of anyone in Annette’s situation and help her feel fulfilled. For those with her Personality, these are especially important. By feeling strengthened and stimulated with healthy activities, the temptation to stray will be lessened.
So far, we have looked at three suggestions for Annette—and, hopefully for you too—that will help her as a caregiver to feel more personal fulfillment. These same suggestions will be helpful for anyone, caregiver or not, who struggles with feeling personally fulfilled. Do you have some suggestions for what you have done to fill this need in your own life? For example, nearly two years ago, I moved from the far west side of town, to the far east. While I am in still in touch with my old friends, some are now as much as an hours drive away. Our church is also, now, far away. Chuck and I have started attending a new church just down the road from us and I have begun to attend their women’s Bible study. While the spiritual nourishment is helpful, I am mainly looking to meet women who live near me.
Be sure to watch for the next installment of Marita's column. It will address some insights that could improve their marriage, plus career options for Annette.
Marita Littauer is a professional speaker with more than twenty-five years experience. She is the author of 17 books Including Personality Puzzle, Communication Plus, The Praying Wives Club, Tailor-Made Marriage—from which this column is derived, and her newest, Wired That Way. Marita is the President of CLASServices Inc., an organization that provides resources, training and promotion for speakers and authors. Marita and her husband Chuck Noon have been married since 1983. For more information on Marita and/or CLASS, please visit www.classervices.com or call 800/433-6633.
Chuck Noon has worked as a professional counselor--licensed in two states. He holds a BA in Motion Picture Production from Brooks Institute and an MA in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling from the University of San Diego. He has worked with hundreds of families and couples in many varieties of settings. Currently, Chuck is working in mental healthcare management. Chuck and Marita live in the mountains outside of Albuquerque.
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