I know you want to get right into the tips for getting your needs met in your Baha’i marriage, but let me start with a little story first…
Last night I was feeling really antsy. We had gotten the kids to bed relatively early and even packed their lunches (we were on top of our game!). But although I was feeling like a pretty good parent at that point, I had this deep restlessness.
Our weather here has been insanely stormy lately- wind, rain and chilly temperatures. I’ve been seriously lacking in exercise, fresh air and being in nature: all three of my big needs.
And since my husband and I have been off sugar for over 5 weeks now (woop, woop), I wasn’t able to do my usual run-to-the-store-for-a-chocolate-fix to deal with the lack of dopamine in my system.
So I paced, and annoyed my husband with my general unhappiness.
He was perfectly content to chill out and watch Netflix but I needed something else. At about 8:10 pm I declared that I was going to brave the dark, stormy night and go to the store to buy some more exciting herbal tea (I know- super thrilling).
But then I sat back down on the couch.
I tried to ignore my need to get out of the house. In fact, I even tried to get my husband to meet my need for excitement by complaining that we were in a boring routine lately.
That didn’t work very well.
Finally, about 10 mins before the store closed, I raced to the door, threw on my parka and rain boats and made it just in time to pick up peppermint, licorice, vanilla and cinnamon apple tea.
And while the tea was delicious, I could have done so much more if I have just taken responsibility for my needs that night. I could have left the house as soon as the kids were asleep, maybe attended a yoga or exercise class or gone swimming…. Maybe even called a friend to meet for tea (apparently, I like tea).
But instead I moped around the house, waiting for my husband to magically make me feel better.
And I know better than that!
So, in an effort to remind myself of how this works and to share a little insight with you, I’m going to offer a couple of thoughts about how you can get your needs met constructively in your Baha’i marriage.
Most of us have a dysfunctional relationship with our needs.
We don’t want to admit we have needs because it makes us feel needy!- childish, lame, and reliant on other people. We see it as a sign of weakness to have needs because our society values being self-sufficient and going-with-the-flow of life.
So we shove them down, deny their existence and generally make those around us miserable because they aren’t being met.
For example, I have a need for structure and the perfect bedtime scenario for me (I have 2 young daughters) is bath at 7:00 pm, followed by getting on pjs, brushing teeth, stories and prayers.
All in a neat little row.
When I’m accepting and conscious of this need, I prepare for this by making sure dinner is made on time and everything is ready for the bedtime routine at 7:00 pm. I’m happy, the kids are happy and I get some alone time with my husband at night!
But when I try to pretend that this need doesn’t exist or expect my husband to take care of this need for me, all hell breaks loose and I end up a miserable puddle on the floor with the kids bouncing off the walls at 9:00 pm at night (maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but not by much).
Which gets me to my second point:
It’s your responsibility to get your needs met in your Baha’i Marriage, not your spouse’s.
This goes against most of the romantic and mushy yet ridiculously unrealistic notions about marriage out there which sets up this expectation that your spouse will just magically know how to ‘make’ you happy and fulfilled.
And I’m here to burst that bubble.
Because the truth is that your spouse doesn’t have the same needs as you. My husband is perfectly happy with a loose, relaxed bedtime routine! He is ok dealing with the million requests and masterful art of bedtime procrastination.
Your spouse won’t ever ‘get’ it.
So, what’s the alternative?
You must identify your needs to get them met constructively!
To help you out with it, let me list a few of mine:
connection with my Creator
safe adventure and fun
Go ahead and make a quick list of some of your needs right now. It shouldn’t be that hard.
Some barriers that you might bump up against while making this list are: feeling like you are being selfish, thinking that your needs aren’t valid if they are different than your spouse’s or just generally feeling like the ‘needy’ one in your relationship. Notice this as you write.
And to help you along, it might be nice to know that both ‘Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi had needs. Here are two stories that I got from the wonderful website run by my good friend, Susan Gammage.
Those who have been with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá notice how, often after speaking earnestly with people, He will suddenly turn and walk away to be alone. At such time no one follows him.
(Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p.38)
During one or two of those summers early in Shoghi Effendi’s ministry he told me he had bought a bicycle and cycled over many passes. His bicycle–the poor man’s car–became a favourite of Shoghi Effendi. He sometimes climbed the highest passes in Switzerland, pushing it up and riding down.
(Ruhiyyih Khanum, The Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith, p. 61)
When you take responsibility for your needs, your Baha’i marriage will become lifted from that heavy burden.
For example, the strong need I have to connect with my Creator is a very personal one. For the longest time, I waited for my husband to join me in this enthusiasm. And while I waited to him to be just like me, I missed out on years of loving communion with God.
All the while having massive amounts of judgement about his journey and complaining about the lack of spirituality in my life and marriage. All I did is whine!
So now I take responsibility for my need by reading the Writings morning and evening with him in the room. He is totally happy with that, I’m happy with that and the burden has been lifted from our marriage. Phew.
Don’t put the power of your happiness in your spouse’s hands.
It’s simply not their responsibility. Is it their job to listen to your requests? YES! Is it their responsibility to be the best helpmate possible? YES! Is it their honor to accompany you as you learn about your needs? Of course!
But it’s not their job to make you happy.
That’s your job.
So to get you started right away, pick one of your needs and see how you may get it met constructively. It might be something that could be fulfilled in your marriage (or not, which is totally fine too). Either way, remember that your spouse is there is to help as long as you make a clear request and stay vulnerable!
Let me know in the comments below what your need is and how you plan on getting it met. You’ve got this!