One of the better books I have read on marriage is His Needs, Her Needs by Willard F. Harley. Harley’s text deals with the major emotional needs that are typical of husbands and wives. He argues that one of the major causes of extramarital affairs is unmet needs in the relationship. Spouses cheat because they are looking to have their needs met. The books operates on the premise that meeting each other’s needs is a way of affair-proofing your marriage. Aside from affair-proofing, meeting the needs of your spouse is a good way of helping to ensure happiness in the marriage. Further, knowing the needs of your spouse is important for selflessly serving her or him.
- Affection– Affection is the expression of care and attention. Acts of affection include hugs, touching (generally non-sexual), holding hands, giving flowers, going for walks, writing love notes, thoughtful gestures, etc. Women largely experience love through shows of affection. During the courting and early stages of the relationship, this need is usually well met. However, as time passes, men often shift out of courting mode and affection wanes.
- Conversation- From an early age women are more verbal. They learn to talk earlier and tend to be much more expressive. In relationships, women need communication. They feel connected when talking takes place because it involves sharing openly of themselves. It involves attentiveness, balance, and sharing. One of the challenges that takes place in marriage involves the tendency of men to talk less. They are typically less verbal and tend to see less value in conversation.
- Honesty and Openness- Wives tend to feel more secure in their relationship when their husband shares his thoughts, feelings, wants, and needs with them. The connection created by openness builds trust. Many women feel more fulfilled when their husbands are open with them.
- Financial Support- This need can be misunderstood. It is easy to misperceive this need as a wife wanting her husband to work while she fulfills the 1950s housewife role. The reality behind this need involves a sense that men ought to work and provide. At a minimum, they ought to contribute to the family’s financial security. Expectations in this area are often difficult to express and deal with because there is a sense that it is a shallow expectation or counter to romantic love. In the real world, a working/providing husband is important.
- Family Commitment- The need for family support is the need for commitment to family. Wives have an emotional need for their husbands to be committed to caring for and raising the family. Family commitment goes beyond just sticking around to help take care of the family, though that is certainly a part of the need. It also includes mentoring and loving the children. Wives need husbands to be committed to being fathers to their children.