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What do you need?

My wife and I got into a huge fight last week. Broken down to a very simplistic, childish level, it could best be summated like this: WIFE: You are not meeting my needs! ME: Well, you didn’t meet my needs first. Butthead. A house with kids is a house full of needs. And I’m not...

Conley1025My wife and I got into a huge fight last week. Broken down to a very simplistic, childish level, it could best be summated like this:
WIFE: You are not meeting my needs!
ME: Well, you didn’t meet my needs first. Butthead.
A house with kids is a house full of needs. And I’m not talking about fuzzy nurturing needs, playing This Little Piggy and unsolicited zerberts after bath time.
No, I’m talking about the nitty gritty ones. The very real ones, like Vaseline-d privates and nasal aspirations. Ever seen an infant clip her own finger nails? Me either.
Human babies are some of the most helpless creatures on the planet. Utterly dependent, they simply could not make it without us. There’s pride to be found in that, sure. But also a lot of needs. Needs on top of needs, on a bed of fresh needs, served with a side of need sauce.
Independent though Bub touts himself, flashing his shiny new I’M THREE badge all over town, there are everyday tasks that he simply cannot perform. He can’t button buttons. Or blow his own nose. Or zip his coat or tie his shoes or even reach the light switch in his room. Ziploc bags might as well be long division. He does plenty, and the list keeps growing. But he’s not quite ready for Survivor yet.
And then there’s HP. It might be shorter to list the things she CAN do still at this point. She can sit up, crawl around, use a spoon, at least in the academic sense. She can also drink from a straw, put magnets on the fridge, wave hello and put those pesky monkeys back into the barrel from whence they came. And…that’s about it. You can see a few gaps, surely.
But the needs don’t stop there. After we’ve had our daily feast of the impressive spread of needs our kids have laid out, my wife and I show up with our own needs, like a dessert nobody has room for. Maybe you remember that need at three in the morning, when you’re up and looking in the fridge in your underwear. Maybe.
I’ve said before that we only fight about time. Not true. We negotiate about time, like spice hawkers at the Grand Bazaar. When we actually fight, it’s usually about needs not being met. Physically, emotionally, or the combo pack.
One thing I’ve always loved about my wife is her directness. She can also usually identify and name her emotions with a high degree of accuracy, whereas I usually find myself moping around, or pacing, or nitpicking with her instead of trying to figure out what is bothering me. Being direct has its advantages, especially with kids. She doesn’t have the time or energy to sit around and try to guess that maybe I am irritated because I overheard so-and-so liken me to a malodorous farm animal.
Be direct. Get it out there. This is how I feel. Discuss. Actually, my wife has told me on numerous occasions that she doesn’t want my unsolicited advice when she airs her grievances, especially about work. She just needs to voice them, to be heard; simply sharing them strips them of their power. I’m still trying to remember that.
Hey, it’s not easy. Sometimes you have to fight off that instinct of ‘Uhhh, now what do YOU want?’ With so much demanded of us, it’s easy to marginalize our own needs, put them off, bury or deny them. This is a recipe for disaster for you and your partner. Check in. Listen. Even if you talk about nothing, make the time, avoid the fight above. And don’t call your wife ‘butthead.’