This revised and expanded edition has been updated throughout and includes new writing that highlights the special significance of intimate emotional needs in marriage.
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About the Author
www.marriagebuilders.com, offers practical solutions to almost any marital problem. Dr. Harley and his wife, Joyce, host a three-hour live radio call-in show called Marriage Builders Radio and Marriage Builders Weekends across the country. They live in Minnesota.
Dr. Willard F. Harley, Jr. is a nationally acclaimed clinical psychologist, a marriage counselor, and the bestselling author of numerous books, including His Needs, Her Needs; Five Steps to Romantic Love; Surviving an Affair; Draw Close; and He Wins, She Wins. Harley's much-loved book, His Needs, Her Needs, is also available with a video curriculum for churches and small groups. His popular website, www.marriagebuilders.com, offers practical solutions to almost any marital problem.
Read an Excerpt
HIS NEEDS HER NEEDSBuilding an Affair-Proof Marriage
By Willard F. Harley, Jr.
Fleming H. RevellCopyright © 2001 Willard F. Harley, Jr.
All right reserved.
I've written this book for those who want to be happily married. Whether you have just started your life together, have had a mediocre marriage for a number of years, or have had a horrible marriage, you can have a happy marriage if you learn to:
of each other's emotional needs
This is a simple statement, but applying this principle to the complexities of marriage requires some careful thought. Let's take a look at what it really involves.
When a man and woman marry, they share high expectations. They commit themselves to meeting certain intense and intimate needs in each other on an exclusive basis. Each agrees to "forsake all others," giving each other the exclusive right to meet these intimate needs. That does not imply that all needs are to be met by a spouse, but that there are a few basic needs that most of us strictly reserve for the marriage bond. Most people expect their spouses to meet these special needs, since they have agreed not to allow anyone else to meet them.
For example, when a man agrees to an exclusive relationship with his wife, he depends on her to meet his sexual need. If she fulfills this need, he finds in her a continuing source of intense pleasure, and his love grows stronger. However, if his need goes unmet, quite the opposite happens. He begins to associate her with frustration. If the frustration continues, he may decide she "just doesn't like sex" and may try to make the best of it. But his strong need for sex remains unfulfilled. His commitment to an exclusive sexual relationship with his wife has left him with the choice of sexual frustration or infidelity. Some men never give in; they manage to make the best of it over the years. But many do succumb to the temptation of an affair. I have talked to hundreds of them in my counseling offices.
Another example is a wife who gives her husband the exclusive right to meet her need for intimate conversation. Whenever they talk together with a depth of honesty and openness not found in conversation with others, she finds him to be the source of her greatest pleasure. But when he refuses to give her the undivided attention she craves, he becomes associated with her greatest frustration. Some women simply go through their married lives frustrated, but others cannot resist the temptation to let someone else meet this important emotional need. And when they do, an affair is the likely outcome.
His Needs Are Not Hers
When a husband and wife come to me for help, my first goal is to help them identify their most important emotional needs-what each of them can do for each other to make them happiest and most content. Over the years, I have repeatedly asked the question, "What could your spouse do for you that would make you the happiest?" I've been able to classify most of their responses into ten emotional needs-admiration, affection, conversation, domestic support, family commitment, financial support, honesty and openness, physical attractiveness, recreational companionship, and sexual fulfillment.
Obviously the way to keep a husband and wife happily married is for each of them to meet the needs that are most important to the other. But when I conducted all these interviews I discovered why that is such a difficult assignment. Nearly every time I asked couples to list their needs according to their priority, men listed them one way and women the opposite way. Of the ten basic emotional needs, the five listed as most important by men were usually the five least important for women, and vice versa.
What an insight! No wonder husbands and wives have so much difficulty meeting each other's needs. They are willing to do for each other what they appreciate the most, but it turns out that their efforts are misdirected because what they appreciate most, their spouses appreciate least!
Pay careful attention to this next point I'm about to make, because it's one of the most misunderstood aspects of my program. Every person is unique. While men on the average pick a particular five emotional needs as their most important and women on the average pick another five, any individual can and does pick any combination of the basic ten. So although I have identified the most important emotional needs of the average man and woman, I don't know the emotional needs of any particular husband and wife. And since I'm in the business of saving individual marriage, not average marriages, you need to identify the combinations of needs that are unique to your marriage. I have provided a brief summary of the ten basic needs in appendix A and the Emotional Needs Questionnaire in appendix B. This will help you identify the most important emotional needs unique to you and your spouse.
Often the failure of men and women to meet each other's emotional needs is simply due to ignorance of each other's needs and not selfish unwillingness to be considerate. Fulfilling those needs does not mean you have to painfully grit your teeth, making the best of something you hate. It means preparing yourself to meet needs you may not appreciate yourself. By learning to understand your spouse as a totally different person than you, you can begin to become an expert in meeting all that person's emotional needs.
In marriages that fail to meet those needs, I have seen, strikingly and alarmingly, how married people consistently choose the same pattern to satisfy their unmet needs: the extramarital affair. People wander into affairs with astonishing regularity, in spite of whatever strong moral or religious convictions they may hold. Why? Once a spouse lacks fulfillment of any of the five needs, it creates a thirst that must be quenched. If changes do not take place within the marriage to care for that need, the individual will face the powerful temptation to fill it outside of marriage.
In order to make our marriages affair-proof, we cannot hide our heads in the sand. The spouse who believes his or her partner is "different" and, despite unmet needs, would never take part in an affair may receive a devastating shock someday. Instead, we need to understand the warning signs that an affair could happen, how such liaisons may begin, and how to strengthen the weak areas of a marriage in the face of such a relationship.
What Is an Affair?
An affair usually consists of two people who become involved in an extramarital relationship that combines sexual lovemaking with feelings of deep love. However, it is possible to have an affair with only lovemaking or with only the feeling of love towards someone outside of marriage. Although these types of affairs may also cause deep problems in marriage, my experience shows that they are more easily dealt with than the relationship that combines sex (usually very passionate sex) with very real love. That relationship threatens the marriage to its core, because the lovers experience real intimacy, and it meets at least one emotional need of the spouse outside the exclusive marital relationship. In most cases, when one spouse discovers the other has broken the commitment of faithfulness, the marriage is shattered.
Affairs Usually Start by "Just Being Friends"
An affair usually begins as a friendship. Frequently your spouse knows your lover; not uncommonly the third party is the husband or wife in a couple you both know and consider "best friends." In another common pattern the outside lover comes from your spouse's family-a sister or brother. Or you may have met your lover at work.
When an affair starts, it usually begins as a friendship. You share problems with the other person, and that person shares problems with you. Usually, for the affair to blossom, you have to see this other person quite often: every day at work or frequently through a friendship, being on a committee or board, or some other responsibility that brings you together.
As your friendship deepens, you start giving each other mutual support and encouragement, especially in regard to your unmet needs. Life is difficult. Many people become extremely disillusioned about their lives. When they find someone encouraging and supportive, the attraction toward that person acts as a powerful magnet. Sooner or later, you find yourself in bed with your encouraging and supportive friend. It just seems to "happen." You don't intend it, and neither does your friend.
Very often the friendship that grows into an affair is not based on physical attraction. A wife will get a look at her husband's lover and exclaim, "How in the world could he be interested in her?"
The answer is, "Very easily," because the attraction is emotional. It doesn't necessarily matter if the other woman is overweight, plain, or really rather ugly. What matters is that she has been able to meet an unfulfilled need. The lover in an affair often turns out to be regarded as the most caring person the wayward spouse has ever met. The straying spouse develops a reciprocal desire to care for the lover at a depth never before experienced.
When you become caught in an affair, you and your lover share a strong willingness to meet each other's needs. This willingness binds you in a mutual love that develops into a passionate sexual relationship. This mutual desire to bring each other happiness builds an affair into one of the most satisfying and intimate relationships either of you have ever known.
As the intensity of your mutual care and passion increases, you discover yourself caught in a trap of your own making. You lose all sense of judgment as you literally become addicted to each other in a relationship built upon fantasy, not reality.
Several factors contribute to making an affair so enjoyable and exciting:
• You and your lover seem to bring out the best in each other.
• You ignore each other's faults.
• You get turned on sexually as never before. You feel sure no one else could ever be as exciting a sex partner as your secret new lover.
What really turns you on, however, is not your new partner, but the fantasy. As you and your lover plan where and when to meet for passionate sessions of lovemaking you leave the realities of living behind. Your affair may go on for quite a while before anyone detects it. The longer it goes on, the more difficult you will find breaking it off.
As I've discussed affairs and how they start, I may have offended you, at least a little bit, by using the second-person pronoun. But I used you for a specific reason. While most people would deny they could ever get involved in an affair, the hard truth is that, under the right (or wrong) conditions, any of us can fall victim, if our basic needs are not being met.
It doesn't take something different or special to fall into an affair. On the contrary, sometimes very normal men and women get involved in one through a deceptively simple process. When your basic needs go unmet, you start thinking, This isn't right. It isn't fair.
Next you start looking for support and find yourself saying, If only I had someone to talk to.
From there it can only be a short step to looking for support outside your exclusive marriage bond. You don't necessarily go hunting for this person; he or she just turns up, and you find yourself saying, "Isn't it great how we can just talk and share together?"
In some cases the above process may take only a few months; in other cases it will take many years. But it can happen. I have seen it happening in the lives of my clients for the last twenty-five years. Sadly enough, it seems to make little difference what a person professes by way of religious commitment or moral values.
Early in my career as a counselor I often felt dismayed to see people with strong religious and moral commitments becoming involved in extramarital affairs. I am a church member myself, with strong convictions about the Christian faith. How could people who claim to have the same commitments go astray? Did their faith lack power?
The more I dealt with Christian clients and other people with deep moral convictions, the more I understood the power of our basic emotional needs. I came to see my own weaknesses and the strength of my own needs. When I married my wife, Joyce, I determined to be totally committed to her and to my marriage. I have remained true to my vows for the thirty-eight years of our marriage, but not because I am some kind of iron-willed paragon of virtue. It's because Joyce and I have been realistic about meeting each other's important emotional needs.
In short, your needs keep score. To help you understand how this works, I'd like to introduce you to the Love Bank-an inner scoring device you probably never realized you had.
Marriage is a complex relationship, perhaps the most intricate of them all. Unfortunately, most of us don't realize what we're getting into when we say, "I do." We think the dynamics of a good marriage depend on some mysterious blend of the "right" people. Or if a marriage turns out badly, we call the two people "wrong" for each other. While it's true that two inherently incompatible people might marry, it's unusual. More frequently, marital breakups occur when one or both partners lack the skills or awareness to meet each other's needs. More often than not, being right or wrong for someone depends not on some mysterious compatibility quotient, but on how willing and able you are to meet that someone's needs.
What, then, if you are willing but unable or unskilled? Good news! You can do something about it. Retraining is possible at any time. For that reason I believe marriages that have been torpedoed by affairs need not sink. They can be towed into drydock, repaired, and refitted. Once refitted, they will sail farther and faster than at any previous time.
But my goal is not limited to salvaging marriages that have gone on the rocks of an affair. I reach well beyond that. I want to show you how to affair-proof your marriage by building a relationship that sustains romance and increases intimacy and closeness year after year. In order to make your marriage affair-proof, you need to know each other's basic needs and how to meet them. But first I want to help you understand how needs become so powerful and all-consuming. As I said in the first chapter, needs keep score with relentless precision. To help my clients understand how this scorekeeping works, I have invented a concept that I call the Love Bank.
Everyone Has a Love Bank
Figuratively speaking, I believe each of us has a Love Bank. It contains many different accounts, one for each person we know.
Excerpted from HIS NEEDS HER NEEDS by Willard F. Harley, Jr. Copyright © 2001 by Willard F. Harley, Jr.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1 How Affair-Proof Is Your Marriage? 17
2 Why Your Love Bank Never Closes 23
3 The First Thing She Can't Do Without-Affection 35
4 The First Thing He Can't Do Without-Sexual Fulfillment 49
5 The Second Thing She Can't Do Without-Intimate Conversation 67
6 The Second Thing He Can't Do Without-Recreational Companionship 87
7 She Needs to Trust Him Totally-Honesty and Openness 101
8 He Needs a Good-Looking Wife-Physical Attractiveness 117
9 She Needs Enough Money to Live Comfortably-Financial Support 131
10 He Needs Peace and Quiet-Domestic Support 143
11 She Needs Him to Be a Good Father-Family Commitment 157
12 He Needs Her to Be Proud of Him-Admiration 171
13 How to Survive an Affair 183
14 From Incompatible to Irresistible 197
Appendix A The Most Important Emotional Needs 205
Appendix B Emotional Needs Questionnaire 213
Appendix C Recreational Enjoyment Inventory 225
Appendix D Financial Support Inventory 230
My husband recently admitted to having two-year long affair. After a two month seperation we have decided to reconcile. I just read the book and have passed it onto him. I wish we had read this book years ago and perhaps avoided this whole mess. However, it has already shed some light into what happened, how we can start to heal our marriage, and how we can prevent this from ever happening again. We are about a month into the reconcilliation process and still not sure if we can make it. But, this book provides hope and guidance that is practical and applicable from the very first chapter. A must read BEFORE you even get married, after you've been married a while, if your marriage is in trouble, or if you just want to improve what you have.
My husband and I had to read this book during our premarital counseling. Thanks to this book and a few others, people always comment on how great our marriage is. It's so important that we know what we need. So many times, we don't know what we need or we think we know what our spouse needs but we don't. This book clearly defines our needs. My husband and I read the book together and were able to talk about all the things we thought and felt. It is a must read for any engaged or married couple.
I had no idea of how to be a good sponse. And this book really opened my eyes and turned me completely around after I found out my partner had had an affair. Luckly for me, we were able to apply what I had learned and save our marriage. Our relationship has never been better. An awesome way to make a new chapter for any mid-life crisis.
This book affers insight into what women and men find important in relationships and the needs they look to have met in those relationships. although I didn't match up 100% with the author's categories, nor did my wife, it provided us plenty of points for discussion. I highly recommend it.
I read this book because a friend of mine was reading it as a part of her pre-marital counseling. It was hard to read stories of affairs in each anecdote and made me take the idea of marriage as a fairy-tale off the fantasy pedestal and it demonstrates the true work required of a marriage. I can't imagine using this book after the affair has happened because I think I would be too angry. However, it provided an impetus to truly affair-proof your marriage before the wedding happens. It also makes me realize that pre-marial counseling should be much more than a few hours. It needs to take place early - almost as soon as you are engaged - and that it should probably be completed before a wedding date is set. Because you might change your mind after the counseling. And it should be a resource available for times when you hit a road block in your relationship. I enjoyed it, even though much of it was hard to hear, and I think it is a good resource fort managing a marriage
This book shows how much better loving your spouse can be when you know how they want to receive love. By teaching the reader what the 5 crucial needs are of both men and women, the author helps the reader understand how to love their spouse in a way that is meaningful to the one receiving the love. It is a book that both spouses can read and work on the techniques together. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to show their spouse on a daily basis that they are loved.
As a cynic and a PhD psychologist, I was skeptical about its content, but reading it was enjoyable and thought-provoking. Essentially, the jist is that men and women both have needs--we try as we might to meet those needs, but without the right information, we're not meeting our PARTNER's needs, and this book gives guidance in that direction. If you believe that the world revolves around you or that you lazy enough to delude yourself that everything you do is PERFECT (i.e., my partner should just accept me as I am--why should I have to change or even try?), then you won't be interested in this book, and you'll likely protest when asked to read it (after all, why should YOU have to do ANYTHING?). If you really want to work at making your partner happy, and are humble enough to make efforts, you will GREATLY benefit from this book! No talk of plastic surgery to please your husband (I read some review that said that--that's not in there), and nothing negative--just try to figure out what your partner's innate needs are and seek to fulfill them better than you currently are!
It is our typical wedding gift (along with Love For A Lifetime). Although it is far more valuable to those who have been married a few years, we have been thanked more profusely for this wedding gift than we have for any other.
This book is well written! It is an easy read and has great advice! I will be recommending it to all my friends and family.
My husband had moved in with another woman; I was living alone and our children were being shuffled back and forth. Thank God we came across this book. In one Saturday afternoon we realized that we still loved eachother very deeply, but that we had become incompatible and our love had become stale due to the failure on both our parts to meet the other's needs. Fortunately, this book showed us that the other woman could only meet the one or two needs I was not presently meeting for my husband and that I could easily meet them once he started meeting mine. The book also teaches that the other woman would never be able to meet the three or four needs I was already meeting. My husband left the other woman; I moved back home and our children have a family once again.....From the husband's perspective: I was able to realize why I succumbed so easily to the other woman. Before reading the book, I thought I was in love with her. Man was I wrong! I realized that it was not real love that I felt. Thanks to this book I was able to fulfill the needs of my real love, my wife, and begin rebuilding our life together. Meeting my wife's needs is not as difficult as I thought. The response that I got from her was remarkable and inspiring. Guys, you need this book!
I absolutely loved this book. My Pastor is having me read this book before getting married and I can say this book is so helpful. It outs so many things into perspective.
My husband and I read this for a marriage group. It was a great base for discussion. All ages, all stages of marriage can find this informative. We all had several moments when we would realize "so that is why they do that!"
This book is very thought provoking. It gave me a whole new perspective on the needs of men. I also thought his description of women's needs was very apt. If I could get men to understand that, my relationships really would be better.
If you apply the suggestions in this book to your daily life with modifications needed to interact with everyone you come in contact with your life can be transformed.
My now-husband and I read this when we were dating. It was recommended to us by friends and thank goodness! It has been a useful tool for us throughout our short dating time line and our marriage (currently 3 yrs). We referenced this book a lot and it was a great conversation starter and provider for us. It made us think about and discuss things (topics, expectations, our rankings of emotional needs) we might not have come up with on our own. His Needs, Her Needs was an eye opener for both of us and the talks we had because of this book were priceless.
This is a book that is safe to give as a gift. It's not necessarily a fix-all but it gets you talking and thinking about yourself and gives both you and your partner the chance to voice needs and ranking of those needs as well.
It is an easy read and won't take you any time to finish. Take a chance, I dare you.
This book is excellent! I do not only recommend it for newlyweds but for anyone in a relationship who truly wants to understand their partner and make them happy. It is also important that your significant other is willing to read it as well in order to understand you. It is great and inexpensive advice from a doctor who has learned to, through years of marital counceling, understand the way men and women think and want they need from their spouse in order to keep things hot! It is a quick read so please pick this one up!!
This program (The Love Busters, His needs her needs, 5 Steps to Romantic love) is rock solid. It saved my wife and i from continuing the pattern of divorce, fighting and bitterness. We are the 2 most in love and happy people you would ever meet. We have shared this with more couples than you could count. Don't delay. Check out the marriage builders web site for the home study course if you need more direction. For the cost of one (yep only 1) counseling session, you can have Dr. Harley in your home helping through the steps necessary to have the best marriage ever!! (Really, I don't work for them - I just belieive in them!)
How could anyone say this is anything but the best couples self-help book out there?!? I was given this book by a friend who gave it to him, who gave it to her; long line of owners. Once you read this book you will see why its worth passing on! I know the title of this book states building an affair proof marriage, but its for everyone. I am not married and got great tips on relationships in general. He book is very easy to read, the author puts everything in Layman's terms. I like the analogy that the author uses, 'LOVE BANK' Every person you meet adds credits to your love bank. If your married (or in a relationship) the other person adds credits. Obviously in the beginning, that person will acquire a pretty high balance. But once the newness wears off, its a constant withdraw and deposit. He buys you flowers for no reason, add 4 points, he yells at you for leaving your shoes in the middle on the room, withdraw 2 points. So forth and so on. Pretty soon, there are more withdraws than deposits. Then one day you meet the sexy new guy in the office at work. Guess whos making deposits? Yep, the sexy new guy! He listens when your husband won't. He tells you your beautiful when your husband hasn't said that in years. The new guy makes you feel the same way your husband made you feel years ago. And guess what happens; the onset of an affair. The sexy new guy is making huge deposits and lately your husband is only making withdraws. The author obviously explains a little better than I just did, but you get the point. The whole time I was reading this book (which only took 2 days, I couldn't put it down) I kept thinking, wow, he's so right! Some people might think that he's a little gender biased. But things are the way they are and he's upfront about that. Women want a caring, funny, stable man. A man wants a beautiful, non-needy, sex-pot. The author gives you a list of 10 traits that you put in order of importance. He does this to prove that a women's list and a man's list will be totally different in order of importance. No wonder we aren't getting what we need. Chances are whatwe give and what the other wants are different. And of course, that's going to withdraw points out of that love bank. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants insight into building a better relationship. If your in a marriage or not, this is a great book!
My marriage almost succomed to an emotional affair because of the lack of communication in our marriage. This wonderful book told the story of my life and helped us blossom into how we were when we met. A MUST read!!
Although I am not married I was given this book by my boyfriend. He has read it and suggested that I do. Okay, whatever. I hate these self help books. They are normally so dry and boring I get through the first few chapters and just can't read anymore. THIS BOOK IS DIFFERENT!! I couldn't put it down. I read it in one day. I had scratch paper handy and a highlighter. Although we are happy, I didn't realize some of the things that I do and don't do would make a huge difference in the relationship! At first I thought, you want me to do what, we don't need that?!? He is a great author who breaks it down in 'Layman's Terms' for all to read and understand!!
As a woman, this book answers questions I had as to why I have certain feelings. It was a relief to find out that these feelings are a normal part of womanhood. Also, the concept of building love points helps me to be a better wife. Our marriage has been GREATLY enhanced utilizing what we have learned.
I wish I would have read this before I said 'I do!'. It would have helped prevent 8 years of not understanding the woman I loved and why she kept me at arms length. Now we communicate and that has helped us to start healing.
An excellent book. It covered the real reasons why marriages break up, and did so from the perspective of how to keep them together. As a Christian, this is very important to me. He covers 10 basic needs of men and women, what they are, and how to meet them. His claim is that when basic needs are not met, husbands and/or wives look elsewhere. He makes a lot of plain sense.
Good info and good book!