His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair Proof Marriage is a book written by Willard F. Harley Jr. that focuses on helping married couples create an environment in their relationship that will be impervious to an affair. Harley states that the purpose of the book is for couples to discover and meet each other’s emotional needs. As Harley discusses that shortly after he graduated from college, he noticed that there was an epidemic in the home when it came to divorce. And to make matters worse, Harley points to a 1965 study that stated that less than twenty-five percent of couples that went through marriage counseling felt that it did them any good, and many viewed that it caused more harm than good. This caused Harley to investigate to see what were the root reasons for why people fall in love and get married. Harley discovered that if he was going to save a marriage, he was going to have to restore their love for each other.
At the beginning of the book, Harley points out that the formation of the book was a result of a thirteen-week seminar that he had put together on marriage for the church that he attended. From this standpoint, Harley implies to the reader that the book is primarily a compilation of the material taught over the thirteen weeks in a more detailed format. Harley starts the work by asking the question of how an affair happens in a marriage. Harley points out that the leading causes to affairs in marriage are the lack of each other meeting their spouse’s needs. Harley then points out that the reason why spouses tend to not meet each other’s needs is because men and women’s needs are different. Harley points to a survey that he has done with married couples that he has counseled in the past, where he has asked them both what their five most important emotional needs and without fail, those needs picked by each couple tend to be the exact opposite. As the length of the marriage progresses and the lack of the emotional needs tends to progress, the possibility for an affair becomes more prevalent.
As Harley progresses in his explanation of this problem, he finds his solution in what he calls the “Love Bank.” According to Harley, every individual has “a love bank—an inner scoring device” that gives and receives credits from the actions and responses of the interactions with others in their lives. Harley’s uses of the “Love Bank” is a foundational point of the book and is used throughout to illustrate how a couple falls in and out of love. Harley surmises that a couple will only come to the conclusion of marriage when they have both reached a high enough deposit in each other’s account. This is realized by the emotional commitment that happens when a couple feels “in love” with each other. However, Harley concludes that many couples that fall prey to an affair do so not over night, but through a long process of debits from their Love Bank from their spouse and deposits from a presumable friend of the opposite sex. As a result, Harley suggests that the solution to solving the problem is for spouses to identify and meet each other’s emotional and physical needs.
Throughout the remainder of the book, Harley addresses the emotional and physical needs that both husbands and wives cannot go without. Harley starts by pointing out the most important need women have in the marriage, which is affection and then he moves towards the men’s most important need, which is sexual fulfillment. Then, Harley spends the remainder of the work going back and forth dealing with the five essential emotional needs that husband and wives have and how couples can meet those needs. Towards the end of the book, Harley devotes a chapter on how married couples can survive an affair and then finishes the work by summarizing the need for husbands and wives to cultivate a relationship that causes them to become irresistible to one another.
Harley’s His Needs Her Needs can provide some helpful insights into the complexities of marriage; however, it
is not necessarily an exact biblically sound reinforcement to the marriage that God intended. For example, the foundational premise of Harley’s book is purely based off of a speculative argument that all individuals have a “Love Bank” that are being constantly filled by members of the either sex and after a certain amount is deposited, it will eventually lead to individual’s falling in love. Personally, this is one of the grandest examples of psychology trying to answer the complexities of the human nature by bringing it down to a level in which it is easily understood and digested by the average person.
At any rate, at least Harley makes an attempt at trying to solve the problem. At the same time, some may say, “How could anyone fault a man that has been so successful at saving marriages? The answer is, it is not that the fault can be found in the end result that his process provides, for a saved marriage, but rather the his analysis of complexities of marriage and why affairs happen. Throughout the book, Harley gives illustrations of couples and gives the summary of events, which lead up to an affair. Each event appears to be something straight out of a modern-day affair novel. This may lead the reader to question the genuineness of the author and whether or not the characters are just straw men created just to prove the authors point.
However, for every fault found in Harley’s process of conclusion, one could draw out many other useful points that could help in any marriage. First, the point of meeting each other’s emotional need in a marriage should be common sense to all, but sadly it is not. Harley illustrates this point throughout the book and backs his point up with much emphasis. For example, Harley sheds light on a situation where John and Mary, a couple that has been married for several years, goes from being a happily married couple to being a couple faced with a possible divorce because of infidelities that the husband John had committed. Harley points out that the unfaithfulness of John could have been avoided if his wife Mary would have fulfilled his emotional need for sex in the marriage. This makes logical sense and can be easily understood.
However, one area that appears to be completely untouched in the discussion by Harley is how the Christian stand on marriage. It appears that Harley’s stand on marriage is from a very rational and humanistic standpoint. Though Harley gives many implications of his Christian background and eludes the religious background of many of his clients, it should be obvious to any reader of his work that he writes from a purely, natural and sociological premise. Much of what he has to say is based from the very human side of the argument of why affairs happen, which is completely rational and understandable for a man of his credential to come from. However, from a Christian standpoint, Harley’s work appears to put precedence on a pragmatic approach to marriage and appears to shed no light on a biblical approach to marriage. And it is from this stance that work may leave a Christian couple wanting in their search for help in their marriage.
Looking at this work from a personal point of reference, the first point that the author of this critique took away from Harley’s work was the necessity of meeting the needs of his spouse. It is easy to understand that every individual has needs and those that work in full-time Christian service especially understand this. As a pastor, after counseling with couples that are facing the potential divorce, it can be easy to assume that only “certain” people are faced with the potential horrors of adultery in marriage. What this work has taught this author is that any couple, which is put into the right predicament, could very well be faced with the earth shattering events that Harley has so beautifully illustrated in his book. Knowing this, the only logical step to take from here is to apply many of the practical principles that Harley has put forth in his book with great sincerity in marriage.
Another personal point of application to take away from this book is the importance of meeting the emotional needs of your spouse. It can be so easy to assume that all is well in any relationship, and is especially true for husbands and wives that communicate with one another on a daily basis. However, when couples stop walking the roads that led them to the wedding aisle, they will tend to walk down trails that will lead them away from the feelings that led them to the wedding altar. Knowing this, it is the author’s conclusion that in order for his marriage to continue to thrive and flourish in the years to come, he is going to have to continue to do attempt to “date” his wife. This is essentially what Harley is saying as well, through his illustrative use of the “Love Bank” and the importance of couples meeting each other’s physical and emotional needs. And in order for that to happen, one must continually endeavor to love, honor, and cherish their spouse on a daily basis, considering their spouse’s needs over their own.
Finally, the last personal point taken away from this book could be the realization of how different men and women truly are. Of course, this is common knowledge to most; however, it is truly something that husbands and wives must be reminded over and over again. And when one takes into consideration how different their spouse truly is from them and also puts into practice the first and second greatest commandment, then Harley’s practical lessons of meeting the emotional needs of your spouse will finally come to true fruition. However, the only way that this will truly come to fulfillment is if each spouse is willing to honestly and whole-heartily seek the fulfillment of their spouses needs over the fulfillment of their own needs. Then will, and only then will his and her needs be both fulfilled.
Harley, Willard F. His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2011.