Twenty years ago psychologist Willard Harley’s book His Needs, Her Needs became very popular. His research found men to need primarily the following five things from their wives, in this order: sexual fulfillment, recreational companionship, an attractive spouse, domestic support, and admiration. Women on the other hand, he found reported needing the following from their husbands: affection, conversation, honesty and openness, financial support, and family commitment.
My own experience would change these lists somewhat. The man’s list would have less importance on the wife’s looks and more on her being financially faithful and emotionally stable. The woman’s list I have less problems with, but they need kindness (forgiveness, acceptance, gentleness during conflict, etc.) and fidelity right up there too.
Every marriage needs a check-up from time to time, to insure that each understands what the other is needing more of. Consider the following seventeen needs, which ones you need more of in your marriage or love relationship. List your top five needs (what’s most important to you personally), and the top five you want more of from your partner. Then ask your partner to do the same. Finally, exchange lists and talk about it.
Admiration: knowing your mate is proud of you
Affection: physical and verbal warmth, "I’ve missed you"; compliments
Attractive Spouse: good looks, health, energy
Conversation: spending time talking and sharing with each other
Domestic Support: keeping a comfortable home; cooking, cleaning, restocking, picking up
Family Commitment: Child care, spending time together as a family
Fidelity and Loyalty: with sex, affection, information, time, and money
Financial Support: faithfully, earning, saving, spending, sharing, and appreciating money
God: God is loved through worship, prayer, service, and fellowship with other believers
Honesty and Openness: sharing thoughts, feelings, events, life stories
Kindness: forgiveness, acceptance, "I’m sorry", making amends in conflicts
Recreational Companionship: having fun together
Sense of Humor: Good-natured teasing and light-heartedness
Sexual Fulfillment: including romance, tenderness, flirting, and seduction, as you might like
Socializing Together: Enjoying get-togethers with friends
Stress Tolerance: optimism, emotional stability, ability to handle frustration
Other: Describe one other thing you feel you need more of
If you’re not into math or written homework, you might just want to take two or three of these a week, and discuss them over a dinner date (oops, is that another need?). Be prepared to say how you feel you’re doing at fulfilling this need in your partner, and how well your partner is doing at giving to you. Just talking about a need is a great start toward fulfilling it. Even if all is well, showing appreciation helps to strengthen your relationship even further.
If one of you resists both writing and talking about it, that’s a pretty big problem. That would be sending this message: "Not only am I unwilling to meet that need, I don’t even consider it important. That part of you doesn’t matter to me." In this society of so much infidelity and divorce, it won’t take long for that I-don’t-care attitude to kill a relationship.
Dr. Paul Schmidt is a psychologist life coach you can reach at [email protected], (502) 633-2860.