Since gardening is one of the top ways I de-stress, I was especially excited to find a new variety of flower to plant this spring. It was perfect for the shady spot next to my patio door. I brought it home with the other plants, and planted it in it’s new pot, waiting for it to flower… but after several weeks, it still hadn’t. So, I fertilized it. It still didn’t flower. Then I decided it must need more water. It still didn’t flower. By this point, I was feeling frustrated and disappointed because I was giving it all of the things I thought it needed, but it still didn’t look happy in it’s new home! After doing some research, I found that it needed a little more light than what I had thought. Once I moved it to a different place that received a bit more indirect sunlight, it had what it needed to begin blooming– and it’s covered with flowers now.
Our relationships are like this, too. A clear definition of what each person needs is necessary for the relationship to thrive. I had used my own definition of “shade”, not the definition that this particular plant was needing. And it wasn’t working out! I had to change my definition to see results, despite my frustration.
How often in relationships do we unknowingly use our own definition of what our significant other is needing? Maybe they say they need more affection. To us, that might mean giving them a hug when they leave for work, but to them, it might mean spontaneous acts of affection. Likewise, we might be general in asking them for something we are needing. We might say we need more romance in the relationship, but not clearly define what that looks like to us. So when our spouse or significant other brings us flowers when we really want them to surprise us with planning a date night, we become disappointed. This can become particularly damaging when we start feeling resentment, especially when it’s our responsibility that we haven’t specifically defined what we are really needing.
If you wonder whether or not your significant other is feeling fulfilled by something, ask questions. Ask more questions– until you have a clear picture of what they are describing to you. If you are waiting for your significant other to understand more clearly what you are needing, define it for them. It doesn’t always guarantee that it will happen– after all, they are human and have limitations, too– but you might feel more empowered knowing you are being more descriptive in helping them understand. And they might just hear you and follow through, creating an improved environment for your relationship to blossom.
Joleen Watson, MS, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling. Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.