Dear Tzippora,

My husband is not very emotionally complex. His own emotional needs are limited, and therefore he expects mine to be similar. Whereas I am more giving and expressive than him, I am also more emotionally complicated and demanding. I find that he gives to me in a way that would probably satisfy his emotional needs, but leaves me feeling frustrated. How can I explain to him that my needs for intimacy and closeness are much stronger than his, and that I expect him to give to me on my terms and not his?

Feeling Shortchanged

Dear Feeling Shortchanged,

As far as explaining the difference between your needs and your husband's needs, I feel that you did so very successfully in your letter. However, to address your different needs within the relationship, you need more than just explanations.

To truly address the problem, you need a deep level of mutual respect, and an honest understanding. Each of your different relating styles has both strengths and weaknesses. Your complex emotional nature allows you to give generously, but it also requires you to have a more intense and interdependent style of connection in order to feel satisfied. But your husband is satisfied with less, and as a result, he is also prepared to give less.

The Torah teaches us that the mitzah of chessed (loving kindness) means learning to relate to others according to their requirements rather than our own.

However, to successfully enter another person's mindset in order to tailor our behavior to their needs is not an easy task. It requires concerted effort on our part. And it is only realistic to expect that initially our marriage partner will give to us according to their own nature and internal history. If we are wise, we will use this opportunity to study their behavior in order to learn to understand them better. As a marital connection deepens over time, husbands and wives develop a more nuanced understanding of each other, and their capacity to give to each other increases. Only then does it become possible for people to give in new and different ways, according to the needs of the other.

When a specific occasion arises where you feel that you need something different from your husband, approach him calmly, without implying that he should have known without being asked. Then express your needs in a detailed manner, using specific examples to explain your wishes, e.g., "I would really appreciate both receiving flowers from you and going out to dinner together for my birthday. Having just one doesn't feel as festive to me. That's how we always did it in my family."

It is typical for men and women to have different emotional natures, and both men and women grow by relating to others who are different. Respect your spouse, and recognize that his way of functioning is equally legitimate, and not inferior to your own. Be patient, and trust that your marriage will naturally deepen over time if you respect your spouse and consider yourself his partner in a growing process.

Thanks for writing,

Tzippora Price, M.Sc.