His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage by Dr. Willard F. Harley, Jr. is a book I often refer to people seeking to save a wounded marriage, rebuild a broken marriage, or strengthen a existing marriage. This book doesn’t deal with some of the spiritual issues important to marriage, but it does present a very real look at why affairs happen. (Read Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas or The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller for a good perspective on the important spiritual implications of marriage.)
Dr. Harley says that people have affairs and divorce when their spouse does not intentionally seek to fulfill their spouse’s top needs. After many years of counseling, Christian and non-Christian couples, he has found that when a spouse chooses to overlook the needs of their spouse, the result is often marital infidelity.
When an affair starts, it usually begins as a friendship.
You share problems with the other person, and that person shares problems with you. 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.”
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.
To prevent this outcome, or to recover from it, Dr. Harley suggests ten “needs” that each married couples should meet for their spouse. This is a generic list. Different people have different emotional needs. The workbook Five Steps to Romantic Love is a great tool for couples to do together to discover their unique top emotional needs. You can also download a free copy of the assessment here.
Here are the top ten needs
The nonsexual expression of care through words, cards, gifts, hugs, kisses, and courtesies; creating an environment that clearly and repeatedly expresses care.
2. Sexual Fulfillment
A sexual experience that is predictably enjoyable and frequent enough for you.
3. Intimate conversation.
Talking about feelings, topics of personal interest opinions, and plans.
4. Recreational Companionship
Leisure activities with at least one other person.
5. Honesty and openness.
Truthful and frank expression of positive and negative feelings, events of the past, daily events and schedule, and plans for the future; not leaving a false impression.
6. Physical attractiveness.
Viewing physical traits of the opposite sex that are aesthetically and/or sexually pleasing.
7. Financial support.
Provision of the ﬁnancial resources to house, feed, and clothe your family at a standard of living acceptable to you.
8. Domestic support.
Management of the household tasks and care of the children—if any are at home—that create a home environment that offers you a refuge from stress.
9. Family commitment.
Provision for the moral and educational development of your children within the family unit.
Being shown respect, value, and appreciation
Meeting your spouse’s top needs maintains feelings of love. And Dr. Harley says the heart of what makes marriages work is the feeling of love. He says in his years of counseling that he’s never counseled a couple in love who wanted a divorce. Skills in marriage don’t necessary mean people won’t divorce either. He adds that he has counseled many divorcing couples with excellent communication and problem-solving skills. But unless those skills help trigger the feeling of love, spouses feel cheated in their marriages and often want out.This book provides a tried and proven plan for married couples to restore and sustain their love for each other.