“If my mate loved me, he/she would just know what I need. I shouldn’t have to ask.”

Every person longs to be loved unconditionally and to matter. These two longings drive almost every belief and conversation in marriage. We long for our mate to know us intimately and to desire to move toward us in a way that is deeply affirming and satisfying. We know at our core that we have parts to ourselves that are not so lovely, but we crave the kind of love that can know us thoroughly and remain steady. To be unconditionally loved is the core longing of our created being.

We also want to feel important, to matter, to have impact on the world around us. We want to be noticed and valued. We have a sense that we are here on this earth for a reason and we desire for that reason to be embraced by ourselves and others. This longing for significance is universal and legitimate. We were made for a purpose.

When we marry, we have an expectation, usually unspoken, that our mate will meet our needs for unconditional love and significance. We look to them for affirmation that we are worthy of being loved and noticed. The idea that our mate should be so attuned that they would intuitively know our needs, thoughts and wishes comes out of these deep longings. The problem is that these longings can never be fully met by our mate. God planted these longings in our hearts not so that we can have them met by another human being, but so they would drive us to Him as our source of unconditional love and purpose. The minute we turn to our spouse to provide these God-sized needs we will feel slighted and wounded. In their humanness, our mate can certainly provide love and support, but cannot meet our deepest needs. Only God can do that.

Often we want to be known without having to be vulnerable. The expectation that our mate should be able to read our mind and know our needs without having to ask is like presuming they know the cards in your hand without you having to lay them down. Having been a marital therapist for 28 years, I have spent innumerable hours working with couples to help them rid themselves of the myth that their spouse can, or should, be able to read their mind. Often spouses interpret their mates inability to do so as a lack of love. It’s true, when you’ve known someone a really long time, you can guess what they would prefer or what would annoy them. But most often, it’s because of numerous conversations or arguments that have shed some light on the preference. It would be nice not to have to communicate our needs, but as adults, it’s necessary. Assuming your spouse can read your mind absolves you of the responsibility of communicating your needs effectively. Though tempting, this assumption has caused much unnecessary resentment and marital pain.

In what ways have you been expecting your mate to read your mind? In what way have you been turning to your mate to provide you with the significance you long for? Can you ask for something you need today, assuming your mate has your best interest at heart? A good way to start is “I would appreciate it if you could…”