His Needs, Her Needs

We all know that marriages are in trouble. What we need to know is how to improve our own marriages, prepare for marriage, or help others who are having marital difficulty.Thankfully, many good books on marriage contain valuable insights that, if acted upon, will transform couples from enemies to friends " even lovers! " again, or at least make such a change conceivable. There is hope for your marriage! Though you may have given up already, if you will commit yourself to make a few sacrifices, alter a few habits, and learn some new skills, you can begin to see significant improvement in your marriage. If you are still single, learning these habits and skills before marriage will make a successful marriage more probable. His Needs, Her Needs One of the most popular books on marriage is His Needs, Her Needs, by Dr. Willard F. Harley, Jr. Based on several decades of study and marriage counseling, it shows how husbands and wives can strengthen " or even save " their marriages by learning how to meet a few basic needs of their marriage partner. Dr Harley begins by noting that almost all couples begin married life with high expectations, only to encounter great disappointment after a short while. Why? Because their needs are not being met by their spouse. As result, people are tempted to find someone else to meet those needs. If that person is of the other sex, an extra-marital affair often develops. Harley believes that we all have a "love bank" which "never closes." He means that we all notice how others treat us. If someone meets a need of ours, that person's "account" in our "love bank" will credit a "deposit." If that person fails to meet one of our needs, there will be a corresponding "debit." Enough "credits" in the "love bank" will create in us a strong affection for that person. Too many "debits" will cause us to dislike, and perhaps even hate, a person. Obviously, most people marry those who have accumulated a large "surplus" in their "love bank" account. Unhappily, married people often end up with a huge "deficit" in one another's accounts. Divorce often results. So, how do I build up my account in my spouse's love bank? By trying to meet her needs. But what are those needs? Dr. Harley has identified ten of these as common to all of us. As it happens, the five that most men rank as most important are the five that most women rank as least important! Thus, men and women are constantly failing to meet each other's needs. Husbands and wives are not evoking love in one another; instead, they are provoking hurt, resentment, and bitterness. What are these ten needs? I'll list them in the order that Harley does, in the order of importance to women and to men. Harley makes an IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER at the outset: All ten "needs" are common to mankind. Everyone is unique. Some men will list their "needs" differently from others, as will some women. Harley's ordering of them merely follows the most common pattern, but he knows that there will be many exceptions. [First, let me note that Harley's use of the word "needs" is not really Biblical. According to the Bible, we don't "need" anyone or anything but God! He is able to satisfy all our basic needs, especially the need for love. I wish Harley had used the word "wants" or "desires" instead. Other comments of mine will also be enclosed in brackets.] His Needs, Her Needs- Table of Contents: The First Thing She Can't Do Without - Affection The First Thing He Can't Do Without - Sexual Fulfillment She Needs Him to Talk to Her - Conversation He Needs Her to Be His Playmate - Recreational Companionship She Needs to Trust Him Totally - Honesty and Openness He Needs a Good-looking Wife - An Attractive Spouse She Needs Enough Money to Live Comfortably - Financial Support He Needs Peace and Quiet - Domestic Support She Needs Him to Be a Good Father - Family Commitment He Needs Her to Be Proud of Him - Admiration" Let's look at these one-by-one, beginning with a wife's desire for affection.

“The First Thing She Can’t Do Without – Affection”

Regardless of culture, all women (like all men) want to be treated with affection. It seems woman have a stronger desire for expressions of affection than do men. What does "affection" include? Any expression of special care, concern, and admiration which a man feels for his wife. You can express affection verbally, with words of thanks, praise, or commendation. Tell your wife she looks good in that dress; praise her for doing well as a housewife, or student, or worker. Thank her for a tasty meal and for cleaning the house or caring for the children. You can express affection in other ways too. A hug or a kiss will be appreciated IF THERE IS NO EXPECTATION OF SEX INVOLVED. Not that wives don't want sex, but they want affection first and foremost. If you show physical tenderness without any intention of sex to follow, your wife will take this as a sign that you care for her and love her. Holding hands assures your wife that you are glad to be with her. Ask her to go out for a meal with you, or a movie, or just a walk. Send a short note [even by email] when she's not expecting it. Open the door for her; help her carry heavy things; give her gifts on her birthday and other occasions; call her from work; help her with housework; kiss her goodnight - all these expressions of affection, says Harley, will be greatly appreciated. "From a woman's point of view, affection is the essential cement of her relationship with a man. Without it, a woman probably feels alienated from her mate." "Be she knows I'm not the affectionate type" - and so does Harley! Men seem to be ignorant of this desire on the part of women, and - worse - reluctant to meet their wife's desire. But Harley insists that "any man can learn to be affectionate." [From my observation, Harley is right. I have heard many wives complain that their husbands don't seem to notice that they are around, or care whether they exist, except when they want sex. A few simple changes in behavior would make a huge difference in many marriages.] Harley knows that some of these ways of showing affection will seem awkward and unnatural at first, but he insists that men can learn to do them and eventually will even enjoy being more affectionate. Finally, he offers a reward [though he notes that affection is important in its own right]: "Sex begins with affection." Any husband who desires a sexually-fulfilling life will neglect affection to his loss. If he will give affection without the expectation of sex, he will probably receive the sexual satisfaction he so earnestly desires. Why ? Because "affection is the environment of the marriage while sex is an event... Most women need affection before sex means much to them… A women's need for affection is probably her deepest emotional need." Harley concludes with what he calls his "first law: When it comes to sex and affection, you can't have one without the other."

"The first this he can't do without - SEXUAL FULFILLMENT

We have seen that woman desire affection from their husbands more than anything else. Harley believes that what men want most is sexual fulfillment. [To say that he "can't do without" sexual fulfillment is not right, however. Many - perhaps most - men have lived lives devoid of sexual satisfaction in marriage. They survive, somehow. It is true that a desire for sexual fulfillment seems to be the main reason men get married (though there are other motives, too). But, just as we don't "need" anyone or anything but God, so we can "do without" anything, as long as we have God.] As Harley says, "The typical wife doesn't understand her husband's deep need for sex any more than the typical husband understands his wife's deep need for affection." A man marries with the commitment to restrict his sex life to one woman, his wife. But then he finds that she is either unwilling or unable to satisfy his sexual desires. This produces what Harley terms "unparalleled frustration." [The Dean of a prestigious medical school told me once that few people realize just how powerful the male hormone testosterone is. It drives men with an almost irresistible force, so that it takes immense will-power and self-control not to seek sexual release outside of marital intercourse.] The problem lies not only in the vastly different levels of sex drive in most newly-married men and women, but also in the ignorance most people have of what it takes to help a woman enjoy sex. Harley shows how vital it is for the husband to show genuine affection in order for his wife to be sexually interested in him. He can't just start pawing her and expect her to receive his advances willingly. He must respect her feminine makeup and go slowly, tenderly telling and showing her how much he loves and values her. [Other authors point out that men express affection and find intimacy through sex, while women tend to want other expressions of affection and a feeling of intimacy before sex. This also produces great conflict and misunderstanding, for the woman thinks that all he wants is her body, when in fact he wants her.] Furthermore, most men need to be educated in how to make love to their wives in such a way that the wife will enjoy the experience. Only then will he have a wife who will seek to fulfill his sexual desires. As a remedy for sexual frustration in marriage, Harley strongly recommends sex education and frank communication between husbands and wives.

“She Needs Him To Talk To Her" - CONVERSATION

Although husbands rarely complain that their wives don't talk to them enough, wives often say they wish their husbands would talk to them more. "Men do not seem to have as great a need for conversation with their wives as women do with their husbands" Women… seem to enjoy conversation for its own sake," whereas men seem to talk in order to get things done or to tell jokes or stories. Lest we think that wives want their husbands to spend a lot of time talking about themselves, Harley emphasizes that "conversation that satisfies a woman's need must focus on the events of her day, the people she may have encountered and" most of all "how she feels about them." "Most important, a woman wants to be with someone who" in her perception "cares deeply about her and for her "She feels bonded to that person as long as the affection and conversations continue on a daily basis." From this, we can see that travel or extended time away from each other will place a heavy strain upon a wife's ability to feel close to her husband. "Many" perhaps most " of the couples " counsel have problems that are job related. Jobs that require a lot of travel "wreak havoc on marriages." "It takes time to communicate," says Harley. He tells men that they must plan to spend about fifteen hours a week in meaningful conversation with their wives. When the husbands respond that this is impossible, Harley reminds them of how much time they spent talking with, and listening to, their wives before marriage, when they were courting. He notes that men, being goal oriented, will happily communicate with a girl in order to please her, so that he may win her affection and thus her hand in marriage. Sad to note, after marriage most husbands, having attained their goal, move on to other things and neglect to spend adequate time with their wives. To have a loving relationship, couples need to continue after marriage the patterns of intimate conversation in which they engaged during courtship. "Primarily for the sake of the woman, they must set aside time to have dates with each other." Harley decided upon fifteen hours a week because the women who came to him for counseling said that was about the amount of time "they need with their husbands before they feel close and comfortable enough to enjoy sexual intimacy. [We see once again that if a man wants a fulfilling sexual relationship with his wife, he must seek to fulfill her desires first] What type of activity "counts" towards the fifteen-hour quota? Anything that will enable a couple to focus entirely on each other, without distractions. Watching TV or movies, or playing team sports, do not allow intimate conversation. On the other hand, taking walks or eating out together do. At this point, Harley brings up the major obstacle to intimate conversation: Busyness with work. People who "spend extra hours on the job " to make money to increase their material standard of living " may be writing the death certificate for their marriage." They end up with a bigger house but with a shrunken relationship. Though men tend to see conversation as primarily "a means to an end," women tend to enjoy conversation for its own sake. More than that, however, conversation can help a couple "(1) communicate their needs to each other, and (2) learn how to meet each other's needs." Both of these are essential to building a solid relationship. Harley notes that, after marriage, couples tend to drift apart. Eventually, they may "drift" into an extra-marital affair or even into divorce. To prevent this, he urges couples to do all they can to develop shared interests, things which will give them more to talk about with each other. In a very practical section of this chapter, Harley points out some "Enemies of Good Conversation." These include "Using conversation to get your way at your spouse's expense." That is, making demand upon your partner to give you what you want. You may succeed, but this will only cause friction later. Other "enemies" include: • "Using conversation to punish each other" by saying things you know will annoy the other. • "Using conversation to force agreement to your way of thinking." • "Dwelling on mistakes, past or present." We may tell our partner what upsets us, and we should receive such comments as useful information, so that we may learn how to please each other. But we should not keep bringing up past injuries What about "Friends of Good Conversation"? Harley lists a few: • "Developing interest in each other's favorite topics of conversation." • "Balancing the conversation" by allowing each partner adequate time to speak • "Using conversation to inform, investigate, and understand your spouse." As we get to know each other better, we shall feel more affectionate towards each other. Of course, we must do this without criticizing or trying to change the other person • Giving each other undivided attention [This appears to me to be the most important chapter in the entire book.]


Surprisingly, Harley has discovered that, for most men, the most important thing in marriage (after sex) is recreational companionship. Before marriage, most couples spend a lot of time having fun together. During that time, women will often join men in activities that men enjoy, such as sports. Afterwards, however, most wives stop participating in recreational activities with their husbands. One reason is that men and women tend to like different types of play. The husband is surprised by this sudden change in his wife's behavior. He thought she liked playing with him. In fact, she was only trying to be with him, and for that purpose she made sacrifices. Having "gained" her man, she feels no need to engage in activities that aren't fun to her. In fact, she begins to ask him to do things that she likes to do. At this point, says Harley, many couples make a big mistake. They compromise by letting each one do what he or she wants, even if it means spending time with a different group of people. Although this avoids conflict, it does not draw them together. In fact, it can easily lead them into an extra-marital affair. Here's why: As we enjoy doing things together, we make "deposits" in each other's "love bank." That makes us feel good about each other, which is what took place during courtship. But if those "deposits" are made by someone other than our spouse, we will begin to feel good about someone else. After a while, that other person may have so many "deposits" in our "love bank" that we decide to leave our spouse and marry the person with whom we feel good more often. That doesn't work, of course, for the same reason that we ran into trouble in the first place. After marriage, most women will stop joining their husbands in recreational activities, and ask them to do things they like to do. Thus, the husband who left his first wife ends up just as frustrated as we was before! What's the solution? Simple, says Harley: Always have fun together. Find recreational activities which you both enjoy, and limit your play to those. He knows that most men will balk at this suggestion, but he offers them the choice of having fun with their wife or watching the marriage become dull. Harley doesn't want to kill our fun; he just wants us to limit it to things that both husband and wife like to do. At the end of the book, he lists more than a hundred different forms of recreation, and urges couples to identify several which both of them relish. Thus, we will begin to feel better towards each other, constantly making "deposits" in our "love banks," and the relationship will deepen. In short, Harley believes that "a husband and wife should be each other's best friend." The only exception he makes to the rule of doing things together is "some activity that helps achieve an important goals that's agreed to with mutual enthusiasm," the "key example" being "time spent with children." The father may do one thing with a child, the mother another. They thus share in child rearing, a common goal for them. Harley offers practical advice to make this principle work. We need to "take the time required to gain some skill" in any new activity we undertake. We should also make sure that we make the activity a pleasant experience for our spouse. If, for example, your wife agrees to play tennis with you, don't always win and don't criticize her serve! If your husband goes to a concert with you, don't make him feel like a fool if he doesn't know all the musical terms. Remember that Harley wants spouses to spend fifteen hours together each week. If a recreational activity allows them to give each other undivided attention, it counts. Our wise marriage counselor concludes with a good observation: "The policy that urges us to make our spouses primary recreational companions is not unbearably painful or unrealistic. In fact, it's the policy we followed when we first fell in love with them" Harley's Fourth Law of Marriage puts it this way: "The couple that plays together stays together."