I think we all have a deep need to be esteemed by someone – to have him or her think highly of us. Additionally, I think not feeling from a spouse is a common cause of marriage problems and bad behaviour by spouses. I’m not talking about being loved; they are two distinct things, and we can have either one without the other.
I need my wife to value me, to see me as important to her life. I also need her to think I am intelligent rather than stupid, reasonable as opposed to silly, and usually right rather than often wrong.
As with any deeply felt need, it]s easy to start doing things to get or protect what I need. I don’t want my wife to think I’m stupid, so I might hide from her something I did I think is stupid. I don’t want her to think I’m wrong, so I may argue I’m right even when I know in my heart I am not right. If I feel being esteemed is in jeopardy, there’s a temptation to skew the facts, withhold some of the truth, or make things up. Of course, all of this is wrong, and any esteem based on these things is false. If I feel I can get esteem with the truth, I am likely to go that route. However, if I fear I cannot have esteem with the truth, the need for esteem might motivate me to do whatever it takes.
Does this resonate with you? Have you ever done something less than honest to get or protect esteem? Now think about your wife – she has the same need you have to feel esteemed, and being esteemed by you is particularly important to her. Imagine how bad it would hurt her if she thought you see her as irrelevant or silly. What might she do to try to regain your esteem? What would happen if she lost all hope of having your esteem? What might she do, and stop doing, if that were her reality?
Notice I said thinks what your wife thinks and about her reality. We act on what we think and feel, even when our thoughts and feelings don’t line up with the facts. If she thinks you don’t esteem her, she will act as if you don’t. She might feel wrongly about you esteeming her because you’ve failed to show it in a way she understands, or she might be injured from past relationships (particularly with her parents), making it difficult for her to feel esteemed. Regardless of why, if she doesn’t feel it, she is hurting, and it’s hurting your marriage.
Spend some time thinking on this. Does your wife show signs she doesn’t feel esteemed by you? I’m not asking if you esteem her, or if you show it, I am asking what she perceives. Can some of what she says and does be explained by thinking you don’t esteem her? After you think about it a while, why not ask her if she feels esteemed.