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Dr David Christian Marriage Advice

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Why You Need to Know Your Own Personal Needs

Why You Need to Know Your Own Personal Needs

It sounds easy enough. Sit back, consider what you need and ask for it. This is far more difficult than it sounds. 

To know what you need, you must first and foremost know yourself and be keenly tuned into your emotional condition. Amidst the clamor of daily life you must have the time and energy to reflect and know who you are and what is important to you. Again, this is far more difficult than it sounds. 

Consider my beginning definition of an emotionally balanced individual: 

  • One who knows what they feel 
  • One who knows their preferences, likes, and dislikes 
  • One who is able to positively impact key elements of their world (not control it!) and accept one’s limitations
  • One who is able to set and maintain healthy boundaries
  • One who is able to understand how they best move about in their world 
  • One who is able to make healthy decisions
  • One who is sensitive to and attuned to the needs of others in their world
  • One who is able to effectively care for themselves and others
  • One who is able to listen to, be impacted by, and respond to God

I can only hope that the above list is a starting place for you to determine if you are on the right path for creating a healthy life. The above list is certainly not meant to be comprehensive, but rather a beginning place that you can add to as you work on a personal definition of your emotional needs. 

I just finished an incredible Marriage Intensive that drove the above points home. As is often the case, the couple working with me for three days taught me as much as I could ever teach them. While I could share many important aspects of their work, I want to emphasize the closing remarks of the woman. 

MaryEllen and Peter had been struggling in the past several years. This was a second marriage for both and the thought of “another failure” was incredibly daunting for them. 

“We just can’t stand the thought of this marriage not making it,” MaryEllen said. “We fell in deeply in love with each other after our first long-term marriages failed. We can’t let this fall apart.” 

Peter echoed her words: “She didn’t have to twist my arm to be here. This is too important,” he said. “I know I’m a huge part of the problem and if I don’t change she is done. I just can’t let that happen.” 

I was encouraged by their humility and ready to roll up my sleeves to help them. MaryEllen made it clear from the onset that she had “lost part of myself.” 

I asked her to explain more of what she meant. 

“I have never been a confused person, but I feel confused all the time now. My needs clash with Peter’s needs and the outcome is horrible.” 

“I agree,” Peter said. “I can see her starting to wither. She isn’t the person I married five years ago. I hate to think I’m the culprit here, but I think there is something I’m doing that is creating chaos for her.” 

“I believe we can figure this out folks,” I said. “You are coming with humility and ready to bring truth to bear on your marriage. When we follow the Biblical principle of allowing God to speak into our lives, He will bring truth and that truth will set you free. So, let’s get to work.” 

With that we explored their five-year marriage. They shared how the first few years were wonderful, with each going to great lengths to meet each other’s needs and make generous expressions of love. However, in time, as the “honeymoon” wore off, each voiced more criticisms of the other. Feeling wounded, each retreated more frequently after firing barbs at the other. By the time they arrived they were both severely wounded. 

They began their work by emphasizing they were here to heal their marriage, and that both were wounded. They committed to listening carefully to each other and sharing their needs in clear and honest ways. In this way they would help the other to help them. They agreed to the following principles: 

First, become clear about your needs. We will never have our needs met if we can’t articulate and know them. You are not being selfish to consider your needs and how you might meet them. As long as you have a balanced perspective, considering other’s needs as well, it is important to know yourself and what is important to you. 

The Apostle John shares these words: “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” (III John 1:2

Second, become clear about how you feel wounded. When our boundaries are violated we feel wounded. You will likely feel hurt when others are insensitive to what you value. You must be clear, however, in the ways you feel violated. You must know where, when and how you are being wounded and cultivate a relationship with your mate where these issues are discussed. 

Third, become clear about your feelings. It is very important to share wounded feelings. Many share opinions or judgments and then are surprised at the reaction they receive from their mate. Many are accusatory and don’t realize they are wounding the one who wounded them. Sharing feelings is a far safer and more vulnerable way of sharing concerns. 

Fourth, become clear about your mate’s needs and feelings. It is not enough to know your feelings and needs. You must also be aware of and concerned about the needs and feelings of your mate. Your mate will learn to trust you as you express that you are watching out for them. 

Finally, become committed to working together. Couples committed to growing together share a powerful intimacy. Couples who share, “I’ve got your back!” feel a sense of safety. Commit today to know and share your emotional needs and to know and protect the emotional needs of your mate.  


Do you know what you are feeling? Do you know the ways in which your emotional boundaries are violated? If not, we can help. Please send responses to me at and also read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website and learn about our Personal and Marriage Intensives. 

Publication date: August 23, 2016