Lessons Learned: The Secrets of a Happy marriage (Needs & Service)

#5- Needs and Service: Filling one-another’s buckets

My wife, Margo, taught me a great and simple lesson once. I was in charge of tending Dustin, our eighteen month old son,  one afternoon while Margo worked on a project in another part of the house. I was becoming frustrated as Dustin was fussy and crying and I couldn’t “make” him stop. All my empty platitudes of “It’s all right, don’t cry,” and demands that he stop fussing were leading to higher levels of frustration for both of us.

Margo heard my rising voice and came to investigate. It is often the wisest thing for me to shut up and observe an expert at work. Margo carefully evaluated Dustin from a standpoint of needs. Was his diaper wet? Was he hungry or thirsty? Was something hurting him? With that information she quickly helped him fulfill his needs and left him happy and playing and returned to her project as I scratched my head and wondered at the miracle of mothers.

It has been said that all behavior that we might perceive as negative flows from deep and unmet needs. Don’t skip over this truth too quickly. Roll it around in your mouth a little and see if it “tastes right,” as truth usually does. Dustin crying because his diaper was wet had nothing to do with being bad and everything to do with asking for some help in meeting his needs.

We grownups will also sometimes irritate one another as we clumsily try to get our needs met, whether physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. We usually don’t even recognize our unmet needs, but feel the emptiness that it represents. Rather than patiently trying to discover our partner’s needs we instead often label them as bad, selfish, thoughtless, mean, and a hundred other negative labels.

We certainly need not condone or excuse negative behavior from our loved ones, but if we use that behavior as a signal of opportunity to lovingly explore and serve, we will turn what could be just another family fight or frustration into a growing and bonding experience.

You see, if the behavior that leads me to feel irritated or hurt is a manifestation of legitimate needs that are not being met, then just maybe I can help that person to behave in a more healthy way if I assist them to meet their needs,  and we will both be happier.

Families have the wonderful responsibility and opportunity to be like a bunch of clay pots, filling one another with the life-giving waters of service and care as we assist our loved ones to fulfill their legitimate needs in honorable ways. Too often we humans can be blind and instead of filling, we carelessly suck the water out of our “fellow pots” through judging, belittling, and simply not caring enough to give of our time and selves.

The miracle is that as we seek to fill another through our service and sacrifice, we find ourselves being filled, not only by others, but by a loving Universe that tends to reward those who discover this great truth of service.

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