His Needs, Her Needs

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In Willard F Harley, Jr.’s book entitled His Needs Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage, the reasons for divorce are discussed. Harley discovered the simplest answer for why couples were struggling and marriages were failing. People were simply not in love with each other anymore. For many years, he and the majority of other marriage counselors around the nation struggled to piece back the relationships. He discusses his own discovery of why that was happening. He felt that counselors were paying attention to the wrong side of the issue. In general, counselors thought the key was to enhance communication to solve problems. Of course, that is apart of it, but that was not the “fix” for struggling couples. Counselors were so preoccupied with what made relationships fail that they ignored what made them work.

Harley set out to learn the “triggers” of love. He wanted to know what actions were associated with love and them turn those into habits for his clients. On his endeavor, he realized the two factors that contributed to divorce. The first was failure to make the partner happy, also referred to as failure to care. The second was failure to make each other happy, also referred to as failure to protect. He learned that the first factor was often associated with a misunderstanding, the error of one partner to assume that what was important to them was important to the other. Harley then introduced his finding on what is important to the average married couple. The most needed things for women were: affection, conversation, honest and openness, financial support, and family commitment. The most needed things for men were: Sexual fulfillment, recreational companionship, an attractive spouse, domestic support, and admiration. When given the list, women generally picked the five that the men did not. Understanding that difference is the key to a successful marriage. Harley used a grouping system to compare and contrast the needs of men and women. The first grouping was the female need for affection followed by the male need for sexual fulfillment. Harley discussed a vicious cycle that had a tendency to take place. Men and women failed to accept the other’s need as legitimate. So, men that quickly initiated sex and skipped the romance could not understand why their wives were unresponsive to their advances. Women that sought affection were generally disappointed when their affectionate advances quickly led to the bedroom. Women need nonsexual affection. Men need sex. However, the cycle began when one of those needs went unfulfilled. Men wanted their wives to have sex without the initial affection, but women did not want the sex without it. Men needed to understand that their wives’ need for affection was just as real as their need for sex and vise versa. This is where understanding the difference between partners is key. Each partner would shower the other in what they perceived to be important. So women would give men affection because it is what they desired most. Men would make many sexual advances because it is what they most desired. It was hard for the couples Harley worked with to realize that they must step outside of their needs to meet the needs of the other. This meant that men needed to be affectionate to make the women want sex and women needed to be sexually responsive to their spouses to make them want to give affection. Harley states it best in his first law: When it comes to sex and affection, you can’t have one without the other. Harley’s next grouping was the female need for conversation versus the male need for recreational companionship. The source of frustration in regards to conversation lies in the fact that the initial conversation that courting partners share dwindles over time. The two primary goals for the conversation in courting relationships are: to learn about each other and to prove that they care for one another. Couples that struggle with conversation issues would be instructed by...
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