Dr. Williard Harley (Author of His Needs, Her Needs, Building an Affair-Proof Marriage)
In therapy working with couples, I have found using principals based on Dr. Harley’s work to be very practical and effective in helping partners understand what each other’s emotional needs are. It has been my experience that couples married over 30 years often do not truly know what the other’s emotional needs are. We often believe that our emotional needs are the same as our spouse. Believing that our partner’s needs are the same as ours without confirmation often leads us to relationship trouble. We typically try to love our partner in the way we want to be loved. This is not always the best way to show our partner how we feel. It is important to “know thy partner” and know what their needs are so they can feel fulfilled in the relationship just as we want to be fulfilled. Each partner has a love bank. When deposits are made, or when emotional needs are met, that love bank receives a deposit. The goal of a relationship is to fill each other’s love banks. When love banks are filled, conflict is reduced, and satisfaction is greatly increased.
Below is a list of emotional needs and examples of each.
Affection: hugs, kisses, compliments….
Sexual Fulfillment: sexual acts, flirtation, sexting, fantasy….
Conversation: talking about each other, the children, work, and family….
Recreational Companionship: preferring to be with your partner while engaging in a favorite activity….
Honesty and Openness: truth, trust, and sharing….
An Attractive Spouse: physical beauty, intellectual attraction….
Financial Support: maintaining the budget, providing income….
Domestic Support: caring for children, doing laundry, washing dishes, maintaining the home…
Family Commitment: preferring to be with the family over others…
Admiration: being seen as the hero or someone special by your partner….
Spend 30 minutes as a couple and discuss the following:
(printable handout available: EMOTIONAL NEEDS)
I would like each of you to rank your emotional needs (above) in terms of what you see as most important to least important in order to be happy and satisfied in your marriage or relationship. Please rank your emotional needs individually and confidentially. Once you each have ranked them (in order from 1 to 10, with 1 being most important and 10 being least important for your happiness), go back and forth and try to guess how the other ranked each need. Once you have completed the exercise, list your top five with two concrete examples of each of those five needs for your partner. If you are able to meet your partner’s top five needs each day, your partner will report greater satisfaction in the relationship.