I’m a solution provider. It’s just how I’m built. The majority of my job is finding solutions to business problems. Usually it’s a technological solution, but not always. Some days I do more management consulting than IT consulting. But, it’s not just my job. I’m like that outside of work as well. It’s just who I am. I like finding, and delivering, solutions to problems. However, sometimes, especially in my marriage, that is not the right approach.
Sometimes my wife doesn’t need, or doesn’t want, a solution
Sometimes she doesn’t want me to say “here’s what you should do”. Sometimes just needs me to listen. Sometimes she needs me to give her a hug. Sometimes she needs me to get mad at what she’s mad about. Sometimes she just needs time alone. I’m slowly starting to learn that if she knows what she needs, then me providing a solution is not going to help.
So, these days, instead of saying “This is what I think you should do”, I’m trying to ask “What do you need from me?” or “What can I do for you?” Sometimes the answer is “I need you to help me find a solution to this”, but lots of times it’s just “I need you to listen” or “I need a shower” or “I need to go grocery shopping without the kids”.
Now, chances are, if you’re a solution provider type, like me, then you’re vision of the solution is different than theirs. That’s not to say one is right and one is wrong, both might accomplish what needs to be done, or each a part of what needs to be done. That’s not the point. Even if your spouse’ solution happens to be ultimately incorrect, as long as it’s not harmful, you should try their solution first. Why? Because they’re the one in crisis at the moment, and simply being heard is going to help.
Otherwise you end up adding yet another stressor onto an already tense situation by battling with them about what the solution is. So, even if they’re wrong, so long as it’s not detrimental, it will help to try and meet their need.
And sometimes, they will want your input. They will ask what you think. Or, if they say “I don’t know what I need”, then you can offer “Can I make a suggestion?” and then wait for them to say yes. If you just ask and then start in on the solution, then you really didn’t ask.
Sex counts as an emotional need
Now, for some of the wives out there, you might ask this question of your spouse, and they might answer with something sexual. That might seem crude, or inappropriate at first glance, and your gut reaction might be to pull away, to turn them down, or just brush it off. But, I want you to consider what’s going on. Think of it this way: women tend to want hugs, or to talk, because it makes them feel loved, emotionally connected, secure. It helps them feel closer to their husband. It helps them feel bonded. For women, feeling bonded, secure and connected is relatively easy, because, on average, women have many times the level of oxytocin (the hormone responsible for those feelings) in their system.
But for men, it’s not quite as easy. Men get a huge raise in oxytocin when they have an orgasm. That’s when they can most easily feel connected, bonded, and secure. So, if you ask your husband “what do you need from me?” and he answers with something sexual, what he’s asking for is to feel connected. He’s asking for security. He’s asking to feel bonded to you in the way that works best for him. It’s the equivalent of asking for a hug.
And to turn it down, laugh it off, or ignore that request (especially after you asked what you could do), is the equivalent of him laughing off a request for a hug, or to talk. It’s going to hurt and put even more strain on a stressful situation.
Asking comes with the risk of a commitment
Be aware, if you ask and then don’t follow through with the request, you may damage the relationship. You may make the situation worse than it was. This is where you start getting into a real, authentic relationship, where your interactions involve risk. They involve vulnerability. But, if both spouses are invested, the reward is real intimacy.
So, if you’re brave enough, try this out next time there’s a tense situation at home. Ask your spouse what they need from you, and then be willing to do it. You might be surprised how much just being willing to serve them in the way they feel they need to be served can help.