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  • joeywenning

Asking and Receiving

Anyone who has a baby or toddler knows how hard it can be to figure out their needs. Parents often try the obvious things first - food, nap, their favorite toy. When the child starts to become verbal, we may even ask them - do you want grapes? Are you sleepy? A parent is happy to oblige to a request, if only they know what it is their child is needing. Eventually, a child learns how to identify their needs on their own and is able to verbally and directly ask for them (this is a good thing, I promise 😉). Like scripture tells us in Matthew 7:7, “Ask and it will be given to you”. It really can be that simple. Our Heavenly Father gives us this clear message of how He wants us to ask Him and our loved ones for our needs to be met, and how He and our loved ones are then able to happily do so.

In some circumstances, as children begin to grow, they may learn the opposite message - “ask and it won’t be given”. Or maybe, “ask and it will be given, but with conditions”. Sometimes even our culture sends messages about how asking is a sign of weakness (I.e., “learning to meet your own needs and not rely on others is a sign of success”).

These learned messages, both good and bad, are brought into our adult relationships. If we grew up feeling secure in asking for our needs to be met, we are more readily able to take risks doing the same in our spousal relationship. And when one partner can meet the other partner’s needs, oftentimes they’re both happier for it. They feel close, connected, and secure. Unfortunately though, when one or both partners are not willing or able to take the risk of asking for their needs to be met, the opposite can happen - distance, disconnection, and insecurity. Whether this message was learned in your childhood as a result of a neglecting caregiver, or in your own marriage, the end result is the same. So what does a couple do in this situation?

Unlearning negative messages like these takes time, effort, and intentionality. It probably was a series of experiences that created these messages over time, and therefore it is likely to take a series of positive and corrective emotional experiences to counter them. The level of hurt, how deep these messages are ingrained, and a partner’s attunement to their own needs all play a role. We can’t ask for our needs to be met if we don’t even know what they are! If these messages were learned early on in a child’s life, they likely weren’t given the language or the example to even know how to identify and label their needs. This becomes a starting point, and sometimes requires therapy to help.

Once a partner is able to identify their needs, the next part is the risky one - asking for them to be met. Again, this should take place as part of a process of rebuilding safety and addressing any negative cycle or triggers that get in the way. When a partner can start with a small risk - asking for a small need to be met, and their spouse is able to meet it, this starts to change the message to one of trust and security (I.e., if I ask, my needs can be met”). Similar to how a child grows into knowing and being able to communicate their needs, keep in mind an adult too may get stuck sometimes and need help. If you notice your spouse is stuck, you can “try the obvious things first”. In the addiction/recovery community, there’s an acronym that’s used to help quickly identify common needs - HALT, which stands for hungry, angry, lonely, tired. Maybe your spouse needs a hug to feel connected, maybe they need some quiet alone time to decompress from a stressful day. You can work together to figure it out, which is not only helpful practically, but also helps increase connection and send the message that you’re a team. The more positive experiences a partner has of their needs being met, the more their confidence and trust increases, and the more able and willing they become in asking in the future.

We all have needs, and asking for those needs to be met doesn’t make you “needy”, it makes you human. I encourage you to reflect on what needs you have that are or aren’t being met. Are you asking your spouse, your loved ones, God, to meet these needs? What stops you from asking?

I pray you all experience the security of your needs being met in your marriages and the connection that follows.



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