Two weeks ago and last week I mentioned the four books (The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, Love & Respect by Emerson Eggerichs, His Needs, Her Needs by Willard Harley and The Gift of Sex by Clifford and Joyce Penner) that most influence my thinking on love and marriage, but each has lessons that are applicable to other relationships in life. In fact, last week my elder sister, who never married, and I were discussing these blogs and her comment was that she grew a lot in her understanding by reading a couple of books on love and marriage. They helped her in her association with our Father in Heaven, in communication with others and in talking with married friends about their relationships.
Today’s review of His Needs, Her Needs is perhaps the most focused on marriage so far, in that his subtitle is “Building an Affair-Proof Marriage.” In fact, pages 21-34 and the entire chapter 13 (How to Survive an Affair) concerns the assumption that an affair has already occurred. We will focus our attention on issues he addresses to avoid this scenario, which in turn, can have applications to other relationships.
Dr. Harley has found in interviews with thousands of couples over twenty-five years that most “marital experts” fail terribly at helping couples save or enjoy their marriages. The common thread he discovered (and what Chapman and Eggerichs allude to) is that people get married because they find each other irresistible; the common problem is that somewhere in their life together, they “fall out of love,” i.e. they need to restore the feeling of love that drew them to each other in the first place. However well they may communicate and problem-solve, “unless this helps trigger the feeling of romantic love, spouses feel cheated in their marriage… If you’re in love, you are caring for each other the right way. If you’re not in love, you should learn the right way to show you care… to create and sustain romantic love.”
In answer to the question, “What could your spouse do for you that would make you happier?,” Harley classifies almost all the responses into “ten emotional needs”: (alphabetized) 1.Admiration, 2.Affection, 3.Conversation, 4.Domestic Support, 5.Family Commitment, 6.Financial Support, 7.Honesty/Openness, 8.Physical Attractiveness, 9.Recreational Companionship and 10.Sexual Fulfillment.
He provides a very helpful Emotional Needs Questionnaire in Appendix B to help the reader determine and evaluate their spouse’s effectiveness in meeting those needs. (The questionnaire is attached here, and permission is granted by the publisher to photocopy or print for use in your marriage.) At the conclusion of the questions, he challenges each to rank the five most important of the ten. This should not be just in terms of most desperate need. For example, a woman whose husband does not take care of himself, maybe smells bad and is generally a slob, may think that Physical Attractiveness that drew her to him in their dating life is her most important need, where it may be simply the most felt need. But as he begins to work on meeting her needs, this may slide into the background as she recognizes this simply interfered with their conversation or letting him show affection.
“Often the failure of [spouses] to meet each other’s emotional needs is simply due to ignorance or each other’s needs and not to selfish unwillingness to be considerate.” From his surveys and research, he has found that while no “one-size-fits-all,” there is some commonality to how most men and women answer the questionnaire and rank their most important emotional needs.
The First Thing She Can’t Do Without is most often Affection, the “cement of a relationship.” And he guides us guys on how any man can learn to be affectionate without sex; yet he affirms that within a marriage, “when it come to sex and affection, you can’t have one without the other.” He suggests asking one’s wife to write up a list of “Affectionate Habits to Create” and another of “Affectionate Habits to Avoid.” Knowing what your spouse needs never meets that need; we must learn new habits that change that knowledge into action! Just as James says, “Faith without works is dead,” so good information and intentions are worthless if we do not follow through. A woman’s need for Affection is one of the most common and deepest emotional needs.
The First Thing He Can’t Do Without is most often Sexual Fulfillment. “The typical wife does not understand her husband’s need for sex any more than the typical husband does not understand his wife’s deep need for affection.” And so begins an excellent examination of the differences men and women experience when approaching this intimacy that takes a marriage into the picture of Christ and the Church. He even notes counseling couples in their 70s who discover sexual incompatibility was simply a matter of not understanding each other’s needs.
He applies the Golden Rule as Jesus taught, “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” Affection and sexual expression must be mutual, demonstrated in a husband’s care and sensitivity to his wife’s needs and if one meets the other’s needs as they would want their needs met, they will usually find a spouse willing to meet theirs. If either spouse is unwilling to meet ‘your’ needs, the first place to look is at oneself: Am I meeting his/her needs?
The second most common needs found in women and men are Conversation and Recreational Companionship, respectively. Both of these areas take specific and determined effort on the part of the companion lacking that need to learn how to converse and how to enjoy recreatonal times together. But Harley does not leave us hanging with a guy wondering, what does she want to talk about and why 🤯; nor the gal thinking of the horror of every Monday night having to watch TV football! 😱
With perceptive questions at the end of each chapter, the readers are guided into discussing how to meet each other’s needs within a framework that will prove satisfying to both; Questions for Her; Questions for Him; To Consider Together.
Remember how we talked when we were dating; we could spend whole nights chatting and wonder where the time went? Remember the fun we had together as a couple learning what pleased each other? Each of the ten emotional needs is dealt with per chapter with practical proposals to work out in ways that will enliven each other’s spirits and take a couple “from incompatible to irresistable.” “Couples start out irresistable and only become incompatible as they leave each other’s basic needs unmet.” You’ll enjoy reading his description of The Irresistable Man and The Irresistable Woman. 😉
His helpful appendices include a detail on each of the ten emotional needs (Appendix A), the Emotional Needs Questionnaire (B), and a Recreational Enjoyment Inventory (attached here) to help couples explore how they can renew the pleasures of leisure activities they enjoyed while dating. His hope for couples reading his books or visiting his website: “Learn to become an expert in making your marriage the best it can be.”