Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Book Review: His Needs Her Needs

Title:  His Needs Her Needs: Building An Affair-Proof Marriage

Author: Willard F. Harley, Jr.

Synopsis: Harley begins by explaining what he calls the "Love Bank" concept.  He explains that every person has a love bank account for each of their friends, family, co-workers, etc...  Each day, the people in our various relationships either deposit or debit (withdraw) from the love bank.  The primary relationship that the book focuses on is that between a husband and wife and how that relationship can result in deposits and debits from the love bank.

Harley believes that there are ten emotional needs that can typically, but not always, be divided into "his needs" and "her needs".  A woman's top five emotional needs include (in no specific order): (1)  affection, (2) conversation, (3) honesty and openness, (4) financial support, and (5) family commitment.   A husband's top five emotional needs include (again, in no specific order): (1) sexual fulfillment, (2) recreational companionship, (3) an attractive spouse, (4) domestic support, and (5) admiration.  Harley believes that when either spouse's emotional needs are unmet, the marriage is susceptible to divorce and/or infidelity. 

Each chapter of the book alternates between discussing his needs and her needs.  While each chapter deals with what may be considered a "his" or "her" need, Harley addresses both the husband and wife in each chapter.  Harley continues to discuss the love bank concept, explaining that when a husband or wife meets their spouses emotional needs, he or she deposits high currency into their spouse's love bank, thereby preventing someone else from meeting that emotional need as well or as much as the spouse.   Some needs, such as sexual fulfillment, are needs that can only be met by the spouse.  As such, Harley emphasizes the importance of each spouse working to identify and meet their spouses emotional needs.

Harley writes that fulfilling those needs "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."

My thoughts:  What I liked: First, I appreciated that Harley spoke to/addressed both the husband and wife in each chapter.  He did not choose to just address the husband in the "her needs" chapters and vice versa.  As such, I think a woman will be able to read the "her needs" chapters and still learn and even be able to identify things that she can do to better assist her husband in meeting the so-called "her needs."   Harley also includes questions at the conclusion of each chapter--"him" questions, "her" questions, and "consider together" questions which I think could be helpful in sparking insightful conversation!

Second, what I really enjoyed was the ever-important theme of selflessness and the give & take of the marriage relationship.   Harley begins the book by making sure that it is understood that your spouse is different from you.  Sure, you may share similarities and have tons of things in common, but men and women are different.  Men and women do, at times, have different needs.  Even if we don't realize it.  So I really enjoyed the overall discussion about being selfless enough to remember that your spouse's needs may be different from your needs.  The key is to identify his/her needs and then work to meet them without being phony, false, mechanical, etc...  I particularly enjoyed the chapters on affection, conversation, and admiration.  As for the affection & conversation chapters, I think they spoke to two of my important emotional needs and the admiration chapter was informative because Troy's PLL (primary love language) is words of affirmation!  So the admiration chapter helped me to understand even more why words of admiration meet a husband's emotional need!  (at least in my case)
Shifting gears--What I did not like/agree with: In the recreational companionship chapter, Harley goes too far in his assessment of how the need for recreational companionship  must be fulfilled.  Harley concludes that a wife should develop an interest in the recreational activities that her husband enjoys and if she cannot enjoy them, she should "encourage[] him to consider other activities that they can enjoy together."  The husband should consider giving up those activities that his wife really does not like to do.  An example he gives--giving up watching "Monday Night Football."

The rationale behind Harley's conclusion is that married couples should be each other's best friend and "playmate."  If you allow another person to become your spouse's recreational buddy, that allows someone else to deposit large amounts into your spouse's love bank and thus will make the spouse susceptible to an affair.  In the case of same-sex friendships, Harley believes a spouse should not want someone else to fill up their spouse's love bank through spending time together doing recreational activities. 

Overall, I. do. not. agree.  My primary problem with Harley's thought is that he forgets and omits the importance of same-sex friendships.  I believe that men need other men to hang out with, talk to about "men things," and occasionally enjoy certain recreational activities together.  The same is true for women.  These things do not take away from a marriage; in fact, I believe they can enhance and add to a healthy marriage.  Troy and I enjoy time spent with young married couples.  We find ourselves spending a great deal of time with our friends Eric & Sonja.  Whenever we get together there is always some point where Troy and Eric go off and talk about something and Sonja and I do the same (or we leave and go to the mall!).  It's actually never planned that way, it just happens!  The same is true even if we're with other couples.  The women break off for a while and the men do the same!     

I like shopping. A LOT.  And while I enjoy when Troy & I go shopping together (i.e. he brings along a book and says he likes pretty much everything I try on), it's a different type of shopping than when me and a friend pull a 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. shopping extravaganza!  So, should I give up my time when I spend the majority of the day with a friend doing something that, hey, just might fill up my "love bank"?  I say, Heavens no!

Troy loves talking to Aaron, one of his closest friends, about books or about any and everything related to the church & the Bible.  As long as I've known Troy, he has valued that aspect of his friendship with Aaron.  You should see the two of them when they get together! Closer than brothers! Should I now demand that that time be taken from Aaron and given to me?  I think not.  As a matter of fact, that type of selfish behavior in a marriage will give birth to resentment, lying, and anger.  Among other things!

The key that Harley omits is this nugget--All things are done in moderation!!!   What I think Harley should have addressed is the need to make sure that your time spent with your close same-sex friends does not severely outweigh and have greater significance than your time spent enjoying your spouse.  That's where problems lie.  I would definitely recommend that he consider adding more discussion about balancing relationships and ensuring that other relationships do not consume a husband or wife to the point of neglecting their spouse.  But, the tone of the book is definitely that no other relationship can be meaningful except for the husband & wife relationship.  I think that's very very sad. and wrong!

Recommend?  Despite the areas that I disagreed with Harley, I would recommend the book! But with a qualifier!  I would not recommend this book to an engaged or newly married couple.  I would, however, recommend the book to those who have been married for at least one year.  I think it helps to have marital experience before reading this book because it will allow a couple to better use this book as a tool as opposed to a potentially false guide.  Certain things that Harley writes, for example he advises a husband to make at least 15 hours a week for undivided attention for his wife, I think would freak out newlyweds or engaged couples.   While it's great to identify emotional needs, I think a book more like the Five Love Languages, which is a little more big picture, is better for an engaged or newly married couple.  I found the book insightful but I was able to draw on my experiences from the past two years in better understanding certain parts of the book and in being able to disagree with some of Harley's conclusions. 

Small note: There is a chapter entitled "How to Survive An Affair" that I did not read and therefore have no comment on.  There was no need to read that chapter!

Rating: B+

If you've read or find yourself reading His Needs Her Needs please leave a comment or email me! I'd love to hear your thoughts!



  1. I was trying to find reviews of this book by Christian people online. . . and you're one o the few! Our pastor hosted a Valentines event this past Sunday evening where he and wife held a "conversation" (based on this book) with 120 couples over a "marriage conference" dinner. And then they handed out copies of this book which he said is required reading for any couples he is doing premarital counseling with. During the "conversation", he talked to the men about the average wife's top 5 needs while the pastor's wife addressed us ladies on the average husband's top 5 needs (in mixed company, of course).

    I do not recommend the book to ANYONE, newlywed or not. It is not Christian in its tone, and no God-glorifying marriage should settle for less. The book leaves too much room to operate the Top 10s very humanistically. The Top 10s can be perfectly applied to a marriage by the couple, but if the couple applies it in absentia of Biblical standards concerning love, marriage, sex, beauty, integrity, finances, forgiveness, etc., this book can be devastating still.

    Face it, a marriage without both partners understanding clearly God's Word on these topics AND submitting themselves to God before submitting themselves to each other and paying too much attention to their own "needs" is just not a God-glorifying marriage.

    As a Christian, why would you want anything less?

    I don't recommend this book. I also have issues with books like The Five Love Languages as they only present "quick fixes" that can be practiced with artificiality instead of making sure Biblical principles are controlling the needs and responses of the husband and wife.

    If your in marital counseling, you're a Christian and your counselor/spiritual leader recommends this book, tell him or her you prefer something that is clearly and first/foremost about God's principles for marriage. Not something created by someone who claims to be a Christian but "looked inside himself for realistic needs" of married peoples (as Harley does around about page 22/23 of his book).

    Don't settle for anything less.

    I also have questions for Harley concerning physical attractiveness which I feel was a subject dealt with quite coarsely towards women. What are God's ideas about beauty? And why doesn't Christian author Harley address this? What will a man do if his young wife on birth control pills suffers a debilitating stroke due to the pill usage and is no longer meeting his sexual and attractiveness needs? (This does happen. Ask my sister who has a background in physical and speech therapy. . . she sees many, many deserted women who have suffered unpreventable diseases and afflictions. Men leave this women in a snap. Is that godly? Harley doesn't address this from God's POV.)

    Then what about people aging? Face it, women age, and they may not resemble the woman that walked towards a man down the aisle. God says in Proverbs that gray hair is a crown of splendor. So why does my pastor insist his wife dye her hair blond? What's wrong with gray hair, and why are they setting this kind of shallow, materialistic example?

    I don't wear make up for numerous reasons. But it's not because I am lazy as Dr. Harley says in his book.

    My husband was as unsettled by this book as I was. We have been married for 14 years and have 5 children, ages 10 and under. He and I decided to return it respectfully to our pastor.

  2. It's junk unless you have the Biblical understanding to filter what you are reading through God's eyes.

    A spiritual leader, such as a pastor, ought to know better. The sex section was quite dismaying. I am far from a prude, but it's nobody's business but God's and my spouse's what I do in the bedroom (or wherever I do it). Ahem. I am a believer in guarding one's eyes and mind from impurity, and I don't see how Dr. Harley's encouragement of couples to peruse sex manuals together is guarding them from worldly ideas of sex. Also, I wonder how this is in keeping with the New Testament's very clear command to husbands to love their wives and "PURIFY" them through the scripture, presenting them pure and blameless. Asking your wife to take on worldly beauty and perform degrading sex acts (or even looking at what others do) is not following that command.

    Stay away from this book - is my recommendation.


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