Fact-Finding Feeling-Finding And Tell-Me-More Are Not Questioning Formats Divorce Recovery and Your Next Committed Relationship: To Want or To Require? That Is the Question

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Divorce Recovery and Your Next Committed Relationship: To Want or To Require? That Is the Question

The Track Record for “Listening to Your Heart” Is Terrible

We are told to “just listen to your heart” to find “true love.” However, no matter how carefully we “listen,” 42% of first marriages, 66% of second marriages, and 75% of third marriages end in divorce.

Logically, we would expect divorce rates to go down rather than up with each successive marriage. However, the percentages will go up, not down. Why is this? The most likely reason is that we have not learned from our past experience of divorce, and choose a new relationship using the same criteria that we used before in our failed relationships.

Needs: What People Reasonably Need for Their Relationships to Succeed

Any successful relationship must meet the specific needs of both partners if it is to survive and thrive over time. This is the main goal of the Pre-Commitment1 stage of relationship development.

If listening to our heart is not complete, what should we listen to in addition to our heart? Our head! You should choose a partner who not only stirs your heart but also gives you what you need. Therefore, it is your responsibility to (1) think logically about what you need in a relationship, and (2) have the courage and discipline to follow through on your needs when looking for a new partner.

As David Steele explains, a Requirement2 is a “non-negotiable event or thing that is necessary for a relationship to work for you.” It is a characteristic of a relationship that is very necessary for the relationship to survive. By definition, the relationship dies without it.

Steele uses the metaphor of air and water to describe the essentials of a relationship. People need air and water to live. Having one but not the other leads to certain death. Relationship needs have the same quality as need all your needs are met if the relationship is to last. In other words, if you have five requirements for a relationship and only four are fulfilled, the relationship will die, sooner or later, one way or another, if it is a requirement.

Problems arise when we confuse what we “need” with what we “want.”

Wants: Nice to Have but Not Necessary for Relationship Safety

Wants3 is “things and activities that provide motivation, entertainment, and pleasure.” These are characteristics of a relationship that are desirable, but not necessary for the relationship to last and be successful.

A wish is like a dessert after a meal. It’s delicious and makes eating fun, but you won’t die without it. I want, as well, to add fun and happiness to our relationship, but not to threaten the relationship if we don’t see each other.

Needs vs. Wants: Why Does the Difference Matter?

Many relationship problems can be traced to the confusion of wants and needs.

So why is the difference important? The answer has to do with avoiding two types of mistakes:

1. Ending a good relationship you should have maintained by treating an unfulfilled want as an unfulfilled need, or

2. Keeping a relationship prone to disaster that needs to be ended by treating an unmet need as an unmet want.

A Girl’s Close Call

A client of mine has been dating a man for nine years. He wants to get married, but he hesitates. He wanted to have an emotionally intimate relationship with his partner where they could freely reveal their deepest feelings to each other, but he refused. From time to time, he asked her to talk about her feelings. He refused. Many times during the nine years they were together, she begged him to express his feelings to her. She admits that her father doesn’t talk about her emotions and neither does she.

Everything about her and their relationship was wonderful. Eventually he was exhausted to the point where he concluded, even if he had a partner to open up about his feelings to, he could live without it because everything about the relationship was so good. She chalked it up to “that’s what boys are” and began planning their wedding.

Then six weeks before the ceremony, while on an innocent night out with her girlfriends, she met a man playing pool. They struck up a conversation and it hit him like a bolt out of the blue. He really talks about his feelings! Not only is he willing to share his feelings, but he truly enjoys revealing his emotions to her. They talked for hours until closing time.

Out the window went her reasoning that “that’s just the way men are” and into her life came the dilemma of what do I do now that there’s a wedding looming on the horizon?

Two weeks before her wedding, she realizes that wanting to marry someone who shares her feelings isn’t just a good thing. wantbut in fact an absolute, non-negotiable need. Fortunately, she had the courage to end the relationship before it became a legal as well as more emotional mess.

What is the key to her knowing that her desire for a partner who will talk about her feelings is a necessity not a want? He asked himself the question, “Now that I know those guys potential Talking about their feelings, will the relationship die if he continues to refuse to do this?” He reluctantly answered “Yes.” It was a necessity for him, and not just a wish.”

So, What’s the Point?

Finding a good relationship requires chemistry and brains.

While chemistry speaks from the heart, imperatives rule from the head. Both must be considered if the relationship is to stand the test of time.

A continuing problem is that our culture gives us bad advice. This tells us that “true love” is necessary not require any brain power. Such thinking has sunk into 66% of all remarriages.

So, your challenge is to listen to your heart, think with your head, and ignore your friends and family who tell you that you are “overthinking” it and risk losing a good partner.

________________

1 David Steele, Mindful Dating (Campbell, CA: RCN Press, 2008), p. 301-320.

2 Ibid., p 337.

3 Ibid., p. 301-320.

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