On Meeting Your Partner's Needs
by Peggy Vaughan
The desire to "meet each other's needs" is one of the most important features of a good relationship. But to be of real benefit, this effort (by both parties) will spring freely from love—not from fear that a failure to do so will "cause" our partner to have an affair. The fact is that we can't control another person's behavior by our actions; each of us is responsible for our own behavior.
However, most of us (including myself, initially) tend to think that a partner's affair has to be due to some failure on our part to "meet their needs." By thinking an affair is due to "unmet needs," we set ourselves up to take the "blame" when our partner has an affair—and to take the "responsibility" for keeping it from happening again.
Since ALL marriages have problems from time to time, it's easy to point a finger "after-the-fact" to whatever identifiable problem existed in the relationship—and say THAT'S why the affair happened. However, if that particular problem hadn't existed, there would have been some other problem—and THAT one would have been identified as THE reason.
Here's an example of how this works:
One woman blamed herself for her husband's affair, saying, "I was a 'career woman' who wasn't paying enough attention to him—and he needed a 'homebody' who devoted herself to him in a way I failed to do." Another woman blamed herself saying, "I was a 'full-time homemaker' who was boring to him because I wasn't 'out in the world'—and he needed a 'career woman' who brought the excitement that I failed to provide."
In my own situation, I tried to meet every possible need I could imagine. I tried to be the 'perfect' wife, mother, hostess, sex partner, cook, intellectual partner……etc.—everything aimed at "meeting his needs." When we finally talked about all his affairs, I asked, "Didn't it make any difference that I was trying so hard?" And he said, "Well, I just thought I was the luckiest guy in the world. I had this great wife who doing all these terrific things—and I had my affairs too!"
I FINALLY came to understand that no one person can meet all of another person's need all the time. So while "unmet needs" may be a quick and easy "excuse," it's not the reason people have affairs. It's just one of the many factors that can "push" people into affairs. (Unfortunately, we've tended to think that these "push" factors are the ONLY reasons for affairs.) In fact, there is no ONE reason why someone has an affair; affairs are the result of a combination of factors, including:
1. Factors that "push" people into affairs (problems/faults/shortcomings, etc.)
2. Factors that "pull" people into affairs (excitement, novelty, curiosity, etc.)
3. Societal factors (fascination/glamorization of affairs, "selling" of sex, secrecy, etc.)