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Ethics & Religion
Column #2,028
June 25, 2020
"His Needs, Her Needs"
By Mike McManus

Half of America's marriages have failed for five decades. Therapists and counselors saved less than 25% of marriages in crisis. Dr. Willard Harley, a psychologist, concluded, "We did not understand what made marriages work."

Harley writes, "I thought if I could simply get them to communicate more clearly, resolve their conflicts more effectively and stop fighting with each other so much, that their marriage could be saved."

That strategy did not work. When he asked couples "What would it take for you to be happily married again?" Finally one couple said, "for us to be in love again." Harley concluded, "I would have to learn how to restore love."

He encouraged "each spouse to try to do whatever it took to make each other happy and avoid doing what made each other unhappy. The feeling of love was restored with the next couple I counseled. Their marriage was saved."

Harley recalls, "Before long I was helping almost every couple fall in love and thereby avoid divorce."

Harley recounts this history in the opening pages of his classic book, His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage that was initially published in 1986. Fifteen years later in 2001, when his second edition was published, over one million copies had been sold and it was translated into 11 languages.

Many have called it "the best book on marriage ever written. "That may be true," he concedes, "because as far as I know it is still the only book written that provides a tried and proven plan for married couples to restore and sustain their love for each other."

He writes that "Successful marriages require skill - skill in caring for the one you promised to cherish throughout life...Once you have learned the lessons, your spouse will find you irresistible - a condition that is essential for a happy and successful marriage."

What are some key lessons Harley teaches?

  1. "Become aware of each other's emotional needs and learn to meet them." For example, a man depends on his wife 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."
  2. "His Needs Are Not Hers." When asked to list their needs according to their priority," men listed them one way and women the opposite way. "The five most important to men were the least important to women, and vice versa.
  3. "Everyone Has a Love Bank." It contains many different accounts - one for each person we know. "Each person either makes deposits or withdrawals whenever we interact with him or her." Pleasurable interactions cause deposits, and painful interactions cause withdrawals. Two Love Banks constantly operate in marriage - his and hers.

After six months of dating, Mary's balance in John's account is 500 love units, an all-time high for any woman in his life. He feels he has never loved anyone as much as he loves Mary. "Vivid thoughts of marriage form in his mind."

Meanwhile, John's account in Mary's Love Boat has grown steadily, but not at quite the same pace." She is fond of him, but suggests they suspend their dating for a month. John is devastated but decides to leave her alone for a month.

Mary tells him after that time that she missed him terribly. They begin dating again and Mary's balance in John's Love Bank hits 1,000 units, and he, 925 in hers. They become engaged and marry.

"When it comes to sex and affection, you can't have one without the other." For women, however, affection is the higher priority. Harley says that if holding his wife's hand in a shopping center "makes her feel loved and cherished, I would be a fool to refuse to do it."

Many men fail to show such affection. He offers additional suggestions for husbands: "Hug and kiss your wife every morning. Tell her you love her while you're having breakfast. Call her during the day to see how she is doing. Hug and kiss every night before you go to sleep."

She needs him to talk to her. When Jill and Harry dated, it was one long conversation. But after marriage, their conversations declined sharply. Harley urges husbands to give their wives 15 hours a week of undivided attention.

His Needs, Her Needs is a book to give your spouse that you can read together to fall back in love again.


Copyright (c) 2020 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. To read past columns, go to Hit Search for any topic.


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