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Guess What Three Words Are the Most Difficult in Marriage?

By Dennis Rainey

I used to think the most difficult words to utter were, “I love you.”


As a typically ungrateful, unexpressive teenager, I remember the first time I told my mom and dad, “I love you.” The difficulty of looking my parents in the eyes and saying those three words was excruciating.


And then there was the first time I told Barbara I loved her—my heart jumped wildly and my adrenaline was the only thing flowing faster than the beads of sweat on my forehead. Whew! I remember wondering how young couples in love could survive the experience!


Telling another person “I love you” represents commitment, risk and vulnerability. Yet, however difficult those words of love may be, there are three other words that are even more arduous to express: “I need you.”


Consider the number of people you have expressed your love to—your spouse, children, parents, extended family, and possibly a few select friends. Now think: How many people have you told, “I need you”? A much smaller number, most likely. But why?


Admitting our need


Lets be honest … some  of us have difficulty admitting that we truly do need another person.


It means we are dependent upon others. It means we are less than complete by ourselves. It can even be a pride problem.


We also may feel that our spouse is burdened enough already … we reason inwardly, “Why should I weigh down my spouse further with my needs?”

It’s interesting that in Genesis 2:18 Adam had to be told he had a need. God told him, “It is not good for man to be alone.” And even after that authoritative statement, Adam had to name a few million creatures to finally get the point—He needed something … someone!


Today is no different—it still takes God to show us how we need our spouse.


I’ll never forget how I felt as my puppy love for Barbara made the turn toward commitment. I started waking up at night acutely aware that a part of me was missing. That I truly did need her! So much so, that I called her at 2 a.m. and asked her to marry me! Six weeks later we were married!!


True partnerships are cemented by couples who frequently and specifically verbalize their need for each other. And for those of us who are married, somewhere between the wedding aisle and the grocery aisle we lose sight of our need for one another.


Think back to those early days of romance and intrigue. She made you laugh. He made you feel secure and stable. She brought warmth into a room. Her touch transformed a drab apartment instantly and mystically into a home. His sensitivity made you realize how others feel and think.


You needed your spouse because he or she:


  • Stopped to smell the roses that you didn’t even notice were growing.

  • Made art and museums come alive. Earlier, you nearly flunked fourth-grade finger painting and you believed people died daily of boredom in those cold, dank, sterile, marble buildings, but now it is different.

  • Was organized and you weren’t.

  • Shared openly and honestly about emotions while you had locked up and imprisoned your feelings for years.

  • Listened when you really needed someone to listen to you.


But perhaps most importantly, you needed to feel valued and important. You needed to be needed. And here was another person who authentically admitted he or she needed to spend the rest of his or her life with you.


Jogging your memory


Maybe today your spouse acts like he doesn’t need you. Worse yet, he has lost sight of how he needs you. He’s heading down an alley that ends in the dark despair of loneliness of a life shared with no one. But be patient, there’s hope.


Let me jog your memory … You need your spouse:


  • For a balanced and truthful viewpoint of yourself. Who else knows you so well and can give you an honest perspective when you need it most? And who else can give you that perspective while continuing to offer you acceptance?·     

  • For a full-color view of life. For me, life without Barbara would be at best a foggy black-and-white experience … colorless. She adds intense splashes of rich colors, lively and contrasting tints to life. She brings a different way to view and experience the panorama of life. I need her! Your spouse undoubtedly looks at life through a different set of lenses than you do. You are a broader person because of those differences.

  • To believe in you when others don’t and you can’t. You need another person who is a mirror of positive acceptance, expectancy, praise, and belief that you are indeed significant.

  • To multiply your joys, divide your sorrows, and help you subtract your haunting past from your life.

  • To put the brakes on when you are trying to accelerate too fast. Or to encourage you to risk it when you’d rather not release the emergency brake.

  • To raise healthy and balanced children. Two people temper each other’s weaknesses, complement their blind spots, and help reinforce their strong points as they raise children together.

  • To draw you out when you need to talk, but don’t want to. You need a spouse who will force you to be authentic and honest with your emotions, and not let you retreat to solitary confinement and bury your fears, anger, disappointment, or hurt.

  • To be an unpredictable romanticist, even when you prefer the routines of the ruts.

  • To help when times are rugged. God meant burdens to be shared—carried together, not single-handedly. By asking for help you may get more than just a pair of hands, you may get an understanding, compassionate heart.


Beware of living independently of one another. Sure, you’re both busy. Yet sometimes busy people build their lives around activities only to find years later that they are alone. Imprisoned by selfishness and a failure to take risks, they are living independently of the person God has sovereignly given them to share life with.


A recommended project


So what can you do today? Well, how about a project for you and your spouse to complete after dinner tonight?


On a sheet of paper, list 5-10 specific ways you need your spouse. And go beyond the vanilla stuff like laundry, paycheck, meals, and, oh yes, sex (unless that would really surprise him or her!). Put some thought into this.


Now I’ll give you two ways (unless you have a more creative one) to express your need for your husband or wife. Using your list, compose a letter expressing how you need your spouse. Or take a long walk and use the time to share the ways you need him or her.


Above all, do it right—don’t just read your list. A tender touch and eye-to-eye expression of this will make it more meaningful.


You really do need your spouse.


Copyright © by FamilyLife. Used with permission. 

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