Get a grasp on this topic to understand how different people do what they do and why.
And the key here is that when we understand this crucial concept it does not create an obstacle for people but gives us the opportunity for clarity. Having a sense for when somebody is looking for satisfaction as opposed to searching for fulfillment can help to avoid lots of problems that get in the way of getting what you want.
Satisfaction means getting something done so you can get to the next thing.
Fulfillment is living the experience of realizing the accomplishment of something.
They are not competing concepts though that can be the experience a lot of us have in our relationship and professional lives. In taking a look at a real life example what better place to look at than marriage. We don’t all get married but we all have experience with marriage in its broad range of expressions whether from living with our parents or observing friends’ parents.
Often, for men the wedding fulfills the desire be in a relationship that makes both of you happy. The years of marriage that follow , again for the man, can be a series of satisfactions. Basically a decreasing degree of fulfillment as time goes by.
The woman takes the courting of being boyfriend-girlfriend as a romantic connection fulfilling her vision she has built in her mind of being fiancees, walking down the aisle and going on the honeymoon . The man uses the same steps into marriage to fulfill his desire to get the girl – before someone else does. So they are both finding fulfillment together but not for the same reason. They end up married to each other with same anniversary and wedding photos but their concept and feelings about the marriage are ongoingly divergent.
So when the first, second, … fifth anniversary comes around the wife rekindles the romance of the wedding and courtship. For those same moments the man is checking things off his list: dinner reservation, flowers. It feels good to him that his wife approves of his thinking in advance of the details – and getting them right. So he is investing satisfaction level emotion into the anniversary and she is investing fulfillment level emotion. It’s not that fulfillment is any better that satisfaction because it is not. The problem is they are different and if she is expecting fulfillment emotion in return from him on their anniversary and she can feel he is in it for satisfaction then there is conflict. She doesn’t understand why he isn’t more in their moment, more reminiscent, more romantic. He doesn’t know what the big deal is!
What happened?! The love is gone!!! Not necessarily. He may love that she gets so excited about their anniversary night getting all dressed up and telling her friends where they are going for dinner. Being an agent of her happiness may be fulfilling for him but their anniversary is just part of the whole marriage package – therefore it falls into the satisfaction category.
The night is not relegated to satisfaction out of malice but by nature of what it means to him. Of course there are men who cannot overcome their relationship issues with their partner and things do get personal and minimizing the importance of their anniversary could be a revenge tactic by him.
At the beginning of the relationship/marriage they are using each other to make themselves happy. A by product of them achieving happiness is it makes their partner happy too. Win – win.
They are both fulfilled.
There is a breakdown in the relationship when he using his partner to get happy does not make her happy. Regardless if he is seeking satisfaction or fulfillment, if it does not reciprocate in either of those two categories then we have an imbalance. This will negatively impact the possibility of either person finding satisfaction or fulfillment in their marriage. They might find it elsewhere and likely will be it work, hobbies, friends or an affair.
How can we be proactive?
We can open up the topic with our partner, give examples of what satisfies and fulfills us. Then find a way to recognize, manage, prioritize, change and grow. Find satisfaction in their fulfillment. Love their satisfaction of cooking from scratch, gardening, organizing the garage, talking with their mother every day. Love their fulfillment in fixing the broken window themselves, helping her sister, their annual reunion …