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Marriage Workbook

By Craig Caster

APPENDIX L

WORKING TOGETHER ON COMPANIONSHIP NEEDS GUIDELINES

Remember this important fact: Men and women perceive situations differently, and also respond differently to the same words or actions. This means that a husband and wife will approach mutual problems from a different perspective, and opportunities will arise requiring them to cooperate and compromise.

God created human beings, male and female, and placed unique companionship needs within each. Unique can mean special, or wonderful, but it also means different. A man does not instinctively know or understand the needs of a woman, and vice versa. To have a fulfilling marriage, each spouse needs to be willing to learn how to meet the unique needs of the other.

Since all marriages involve people, and all people are selfish, there is a 100 percent chance that frustrations and disappointments will surface in the relationship. This leads to coping patterns such as anger, insults, bitterness, defensiveness, pouting, stuffing, stewing, and, you get the picture. These become habits that must be broken and replaced with appropriate attitudes and actions.

Getting back to the discussion of perspective, and problems that may arise; this is an opportunity for every man and woman to use the trials of life to both grow personally and learn how to meet the needs of another. To succeed, we must use God’s Word as a resource, and be committed to listening and communicating properly.

James 1:2-4 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

God says to count it all joy when you experience trials. Why? Because responding in the right spirit will lead to patience, which leads to a state of being that God calls “lacking nothing”. God works in us, but the time it takes to learn depends upon our cooperation. Growth comes when you put your faith in Him by learning His will, following it, and having a deep desire to become holy as He is holy.

So the Bible says that God is allowing our faith to be tested by trials. It also tells us that God is our Father, if we are in Christ, and that He never condemns us but that he disciplines us for our good. We must view difficulties as God-ordained opportunities to seek instruction, grow in the image of Christ, learn more about our spouse’s needs, and become the husband or wife that God intends. The word discipline simply means to train.

Hebrews 12:9-11 says, “Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for ourprofit, thatwe may be partakers of His holiness Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

Have you ever been angry with your spouse? Ever wished that your marriage were better, different? Ever blamed your spouse as the primary offender? When you accept the truth that you need to change, and that you need to apply yourself to meeting your spouse’s needs, a surprising thing will happen. Your marriage will improve and so will your spouse’s attitude. This is not about who does more, but about who does right. And God will bless obedience. God is always at work, but we must cooperate or the growth that God desires won’t happen.

Philippians 1:6 says, “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

This verse includes becoming the husband or wife God desires you to be.

So, we have discussed the term “companionship needs”, and learned that these are gender specific. For example: one of man’s basic needs is affirmation, and a woman’s is to be nurtured and cherished. We also have stated that awareness of these needs comes through study and communication. If a need is violated, and an offense taken, there is a proper way to bring it into discussion. A husband and wife sincerely desiring to stop bad behavior patterns must agree to use a process something like this:

Acknowledge the offense:

Husband: If your wife says or does something that is un-affirming to you, respond by saying, “That was un-affirming”. But say it in a kind way.

Wife: If your husband says or does something in a non-cherishing or non-nurturing way toward you, your response is to say, “That hurts.” But say it in a kind way. 

Apply the response:

Confirm: When one spouse alerts the other with “that was un-affirming” or “that hurt”, your response needs to be “I am sorry”, or “help me understand what I did”, stated kindly. 

Cooperate: Try and understand your spouse’s perspective. Learning how to better meet their needs requires listening, NOT arguing, accusing, or debating. 

Clarify the need: In a loving way, explain to your spouse what they said or did, and offer positive suggestions or alternatives. Remember, this is an opportunity for both partners to learn and change.

Examples:

A husband makes a negative comment about his wife’s cooking to the children, or a friend, in her presence. His wife takes the earliest opportunity to say to him, in private, “that remark really hurt”. Clarify the need: this might include asking him not to joke about her cooking to anyone, and then finding out if there is something she might do to improve. Note to husband: if something is bothering you, approach it privately and sincerely. Cherish your wife and you will discover she really wants to please you.

A wife sarcastically disagrees with her husband’s perspective on a political issue in front of friends. Later, when no one else is present, he tells her that what she did was not affirming to him. Clarify the need: this might include the honest truth that her opinion was argumentative and embarrassed him in public. He could offer an alternative as, “If you have a different opinion on a subject, I am willing to discuss it with you privately, but when you disagree or challenge me in front of others, it is un-affirming to me.”

Everyone is different; plug in the issues that push your buttons, and come up with your own suggestions. And remember; this is not an opportunity to bring up past things your spouse has done to upset you. In Philippians 2:3, it says that we not to act out of selfish ambition or conceit, but we are to consider others as more important than ourselves; this means your primary concern is learning your spouse’s needs and how to meet them.

“Preference” and “Truth” are Different

A preference indicates what one prefers before or above another. It is neither right nor wrong, but personal preference. Can personal preferences be wrong? Yes! If your personal preference is contrary to the Word and will of God, it is sin and wrong!

Examples of simple preference include, but are not limited to, cuisine, cars, homes, decorating, pets, clothing, music, entertainment, vacation destinations, and much more. What about the up and down drama of the toilet seat? Preference. Preference requires compromise, which is the difference between preference and truth. Where truth is concerned, there is cooperation, but no compromise. Compromise means to settle differences by mutual concessions. What we know to be God’s Word, or will, is truth, and no concessions apply, only obedience.

Truth is what the Word of God says to do or not do, what is right and wrong behavior.

Deuteronomy 4:2 says, “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.”

Preferences that may violate God’s truth can include entertainment (movies, TV, music), selfish sexual desires, manner of dress, friendships, child rearing methods, church attendance, and more. For example, a wife or husband may choose a friend that is inappropriate, or is dragging them into sinful activities; one partner may desire sexually explicit films; a man may desire sex weekly but his wife sticks to her once-a-month preference; or a mother may insist on taking the lead in child discipline and ignore her husband’s input. When these types of conflicts arise, a married couple needs to look into God’s Word and/or seek godly counsel. 

Two Wrongs Never Make A Right

We have talked of working together, cooperating, and being mutually kind and considerate, but what if you find that all or most of the effort is coming from you? So be it. Is it right for you to enter into sin and disobedience because the situation seems unfair? God forbid. If we put conditions on our obedience to God, can we expect Him to intercede, help and bless us? The motive behind blessing your spouse and learning how to meet their companionship needs is your love for Jesus, and desire to glorify and please Him. As Christians, our power, comfort, significance, security, joy, peace and hope come from God, as we walk in obedience. 

We all have failed each other, and will fail again, sometimes by choice and sometimes in ignorance. This is precisely why forgiveness is essential; every person is called by God to practice forgiveness, both by giving it and asking for it.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 says, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

When an opportunity arises, follow these 5 simple steps:

  1. Self-examination: When you feel pain that you believe was caused by your spouse, take a moment and examine your own heart. Ask yourself: is this truly a failure to meet my companionship need, or do I just want my own way? (Use our information on companionship needs for men and women as your self-examination guide.)
  2. Identification: Be able to communicate exactly what was said or done by your spouse that was un-loving, un-affirming, or not cherishing or nurturing.
  3. Communication: Pick a good time to lovingly bring the offense to your spouse’s attention, then say, “I do not feel affirmed when you…” (men), or “I do not feel cherished when you…” (women). Be completely open, at this point, for communication and clarification, not denial or debate.
  4. Clarification: Propose a clear action plan so that your spouse knows what hurt you, and what they can do differently to meet your companionship need in this particular area, or situation.
  5. Forgiveness: Showing grace and forgiveness toward one another in these learning opportunities is so important. It is our sin nature and the devil’s desire that we focus on the other person’s sin, not our own, and justify an agitated, harsh or sinful response to them when they blow it. Remember, two sins never make anything right.
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