On February 14, 2019, my husband and I will be married 10 years. 10… it marks a decade, it’s a spiritual completion number, and the number 10 is also built into our anatomy (fingers, toes). 10 is a good number. I’ve been told that 10 marital years signifies a change in the way people love their partners.
I often think back on a scene between Ruth and Lena Younger in Lorraine Hansberry’s play, A Raisin in the Sun. There’s a key moment between Ruth and her mother-in-law—they are having a conversation about Walter Lee and Ruth says,
“Mama, something is happening between Walter and me. I don’t know what it is, but he needs something—something I can’t give him…”
In the play, Walter has started to drift due to his deferred dreams. Arguments between the couple have become more frequent and all that Ruth knows to do is be consistent (i.e. fix breakfast, see her child off to school, see her husband off to work). They are both moving through time and space with differing life needs.
One thing my theatre degree taught me is that we are never without need.
Married folks have their couple-needs, but they also have individual need.
Back in the 1940s, a psychologist named Abraham Maslow broke down our basic human needs:
(He) used the terms physiological, safety, belonging and love, esteem, and self-actualization to describe the pattern through which human motivations generally move. (Wikipedia)
According to Google:
“Maslow’s hierarchy of needs fall into five categories that can be broadly divided into deficiency needs and growth needs. … Deficiency needs include physiological needs, safety needs, social needs and esteem needs. Growth needs are self-actualization needs, which is the highest level need.”
Back to A Raisin in the Sun… Ruth has deficiency needs and Walter Lee has growth needs. They have been married 11 years…
When it all boils down, growth (self-actualization) cannot be fulfilled by our partners. They are personal and often urgent. Here are three things I am starting to understand about needs, change and growth as it relates to marital relationships:
- Falling in love is what we do before we get married. It usually stems from pure affection, adoration, and the idea that what you have is unbreakable. As years pass by, you slowly realize that learning to love one another is the real and sometimes heartbreaking work. You also learn that imperfect people are the only kind of people we’ll ever be. Be open to the needs of your spouse, those you can satisfy and those you cannot. Be willing to change your ideal of love. Be willing to put the other person’s needs ahead of your own.
- If you do not exercise patience with your spouse, frustration could easily become your default. Marriage requires prayer, introspection, and a whole lot of patience. You can’t quick boil a change in your relationship or your mate; and even if you could, would the change be in the best interest of him/her or you? The timing in which a person chooses change is not up to us. Waiting until that person is genuinely compelled to embrace change is a challenge, but a true act of patient love. Let it slow boil.
- Change is a choice. Try to force or coax someone into changing and resistance may be what you get. You could also get change that is short-lived or change that comes with resentment. I have caught myself demanding it. I’d catch myself walking around coldly thinking what all could be better if only something were different. One day not too long ago, I decided to take more responsibility for myself. My words and my actions were things I could control; so I aimed to focus on myself. I began to realize the things about me that were change-worthy. That newfound awareness and willingness brought about personal growth; and a positive transcendence happened as a result.
It is that transcendence and constant commitment to reaching new levels of growth (changeability) that I hope will continue to improve my relationship and propel me into the next 10 years with my life partner.
On another note, A Raisin in the Sun is both classic and relevant. Watch this short excerpt from the play and see how marital conflict can infuse because of differing needs and change resistance. Remember, Ruth, for the most part, has deficiency needs and her husband, Walter, has growth needs…
Did you watch?
What was interesting about it?
Clinnesha is a writer, wife, mom, meta-artist, and social entrepreneur who feels most accountable to southern, black citizen-artists, elders, children, and families. Her work is at the intersection of arts, culture, innovation, and community.