At the 2015 North Star Conference, I was asked to present on Supporting the Needs of Your SSA Spouse. I was a little bit taken aback. This was the first time I was asked to present at a conference of this magnitude by my self. I have been on panels and presented at WoW Conferences, but this was was a first for me. Every once in a while (including as I was falling asleep the night before), I would panic that I wasn’t the right person for the job or that I had not prepared the right material. Pret would gently reassure me by asking, “Do you have a happy and “healthy” SSA spouse?”
I answered, “I believe so,” to which he would reply, “Then you are pretty much an expert!” This made me laugh and helped me feel at peace. I feel that my presentation went well and I hope that others benefited from it. I want to share some parts of it here, as well. The presentation as a whole will be available to download at some point, so I won’t do it all to respect North Star’s revenue-building opportunities.
I broke my presentation up into two parts: The ABCCDEs and 12345 of helping Understand the Needs of Your SSA Spouse. That is the first thing that I want to emphasize here, as well. You will never be able to completely meet the needs of your SSA spouse–that will only be done through interactions with those of the same gender and working with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. But you can definitely support your spouse in getting his/her needs met.
Elder Henry B. Eyring
“If Ye Are Not One Ye Are Not Mine”
“All of us have felt something of both union and separation. Sometimes in families and perhaps in other settings we have glimpsed life when one person put the interests of another above his or her own, in love and with sacrifice. And all of us know something of the sadness and loneliness of being separate and alone. We don’t need to be told which we should choose. We know. But we need hope that we can experience unity in this life and qualify to have it forever in the world to come. And we need to know how that great blessing will come so that we can know what we must do.” (emphasis added)
Your marriage is not atypical. Every marriage has problems. Yours might be a little bit different than the marriage of others you may know, but in the end, everyone is working on something. And, out of the 10 marriages in the immediate families of my husband and me, I would take our “problem” over anyone else’s. Additionally, you may have found out about the SSA before or after you were married; regardless, you can choose NOW to work together with it.
Become YOUR Best Self
“Our happiness is not necessarily a function of meeting our needs first, or at the expense of others. In fact, to address our needs in such a way is to foster unhappiness. The reality of life is that happiness depends on how I am with others. I am most happy when I am alive to other’s needs” (The Arbinger Institute, April 16, 2015).
Before you can help meet someone else’s needs, your needs must first be met (“Oxygen Mask” analogy). To help with this, do a little check: have lost yourself in his/her problems? Are you jealous? Are you sad? Are you mad? Who are YOU? What do you need (?friends, therapy, a weekend/conference)? What do YOU need to grow?
Complement Your Spouse
“Husbands and wives should allow their individual characteristics and abilities to complement one another” (Marriage and Family Relations, Participant’s Manual, Lesson 2).
Elder Scott: “In the Lord’s plan, it takes two—a man and a woman—to form a whole. … For the greatest happiness and productivity in life, both husband and wife are needed. Their efforts interlock and are complementary. Each has individual traits that best fit the role the Lord has defined for happiness as a man or woman. When used as the Lord intends, those capacities allow a married couple to think, act, and rejoice as one—to face challenges together and overcome them as one, to grow in love and understanding, and through temple ordinances to be bound together as one whole, eternally. That is the plan” (Ensign, Nov. 1996, 73–74). (emphasis added)
Complement, for clarification from compliment, means “a thing that completes or brings to perfection; having all the necessary or appropriate parts; finish making or doing; make (something) whole or perfect” (Apple’s Dictionary application). There is a MAN and a WOMAN in each marriage. You each have characteristics imperative to your gender. Find ways to enhance those characteristics and allow and even encourage your spouse to be different from what you are.
(If I could have gone out of ABC order, I would have put this one second!)
“Discuss with your spouse the demands the two of you have on your time, including social, occupational, community, and Church commitments. Take time to understand each other’s needs, and ensure that your other commitments do not interfere with your loyalty to one another” (Marriage and Family relations, Participant’s Manual, Lesson 2).
It is so important to communicate your needs. You cannot meet an unspoken need. To do this, though, requires VULNERABILITY and openness: ?to share the need and to hear the need. Be comfortable discussing SSA in your marriage, but do not make it everything you talk about or blame unrelated things on the SSA.
*Here was a contradiction to my earlier topic of “atypical.”*
Your marriage is different than others; it will have challenges and events that may require different approaches to meeting needs. Each person in this world is unique, so each person will have his/her own set of needs. And for every need, there are many ways to meet that need (different ages/life stages, times of day, days of year, etc.)
DO NOT COMPARE! If I compare the way that my husband meets his needs to his best friend or even brother, it will leave me, my husband, and anyone else feeling bad about it all (not enough, too much, etc.) Have fun finding ways to meet those needs–variety is in fact the spice of life!
*A similar contradiction to “atypical-ness.”*
Your marriage is different from others and may have some expectations that are different from others. Needs cannot be met when backed by resentment and confinement. Similarl to “diversity,” these will change with time and stages of life (?This may especially apply to the physical and sexual aspects of your relationship.)
As with communication, expectations must be stated or they will never be met/fulfilled to the fullest potential. If you know what the expectation is, find ways to go beyond the expected (sometimes it is the little and big things that mean the most!)
“Marriage provides an ideal setting for overcoming any tendency to be selfish or self-centered” (Elder Scott, The Eternal Blessings of Marriage, April 2011).
I hope this has given at least a start to some things you can do to help guide having the needs of your SSA spouse met. Our marriage of nine years has not been perfect, in fact there have been some really low points. But overall, we have been willing to work together to make sure that one another’s needs are met. I am a happy and fulfilled spouse and so is my husband.
The last thing I shared, that I am not going to make you wait until part 2 to enjoy, is a song I heard on my way down to the conference on the first day. As I was listening to the song again this morning, I got the chills, AGAIN! What an amazing concept, that we can be BROKEN TOGETHER (by Casting Crowns). *PLEASE take the time to listen to this song, it truly is amazing!*