I had a conversation today. Actually I listened while a male client vented about his ex-wife. I had heard what he had to say many times so while listening all I could think was, “some men just don’t get it and never will.”
Mike was angry; he had “given her everything, a great home, new car, financial security.” Seems she couldn’t be satisfied, according to him she was too “needy.” I asked him to define “needy” for me. She was “always wanting to talk, insisted on a date night, came to me with every problem, she needed attention, attention, attention.”
“I felt like I was drowning” Mike said. When she finally realized she was not going to get the emotional connection with him that she so needed she left and filed for divorce. He was devastated and angry. She pushed and he pulled away and his pulling away finally cost him what was most precious to him…his wife.
So, what doesn’t he get? He has failed to understand that the more he deprived his wife of what she so badly wanted, an emotional connection with him the needier she became. Her neediness was a response to his fear of her sucking him dry emotionally. He viewed her as a bottomless pit of need, not realizing that if he had given her what she wanted, her tank would have been full. Instead of a needy wife he would have had a happy wife.
In their marriage, Mike was the distancer, she was the pursuer. The distance/pursuer is the most negative pattern seen in unsatisfying relationships. A relationship pattern Mike could have avoided by sharing his feelings with his wife, and listening to their partner. Giving his wife more time and attention would have dispelled her fears and built trust in him.
Mike loved his wife and showed love to his wife the way HE thought his wife needed to be loved. He failed to express his love to her the way she needed and as a result there was no marital harmony. The sad thing, they both had the same fear, he feared he would never be able to satisfy her needs, she feared that also.
In his book, The 5 Languages of Love, Gary Chapman says, “Your emotional love language and the language of your wife may be as different as Chinese from English. No matter how hard you try to express your love in English, if your wife only understands Chinese, you will never understand how to love each other.”
We normally love others in the way we want to be loved. According to Mike, his wife was very affectionate, always asking if he needed anything, how his day went and show an interest in how life was treating him. She was giving Mike what she wanted in return.
For marriage to work we have to learn to speak each other’s love language — to step outside our comfort zone and see a spouses needs from their perspective. Doing that ends deprivation, neediness and the fear Mike had of being “sucked dry” emotionally.