By Bev and Phil Haas
Our marriage needs a boost. The honeymoon is a distant memory and we now have two young, demanding children. What advice can you give us without making us feel more overwhelmed than we already are?
First we want to pass along advice from John and Ann Betar. John and Ann weren’t supposed to get married. Her father had arranged for her to wed another man, but she and John fled Bridgeport and eloped to New York. That was more than 80 years ago. The couple is still happily hitched, a fact that has led to their being named as the “longest married couple” in the U.S. for 2013 by Worldwide Marriage Encounter, a Christian marriage group based in California.
The couple told the New York Daily News there are no secrets to a long marriage, only a few simple rules. “We just live with contentment, we don’t live beyond our means, and we just go with the flow.” John’s now 101 years old and Ann is 97, and they’re still living in their home along the Fairfield shore. They have five children, 14 grandchildren, and 16 great-grandchildren. And yes, they’re still “content” and “going with the flow!”
Look to the Needs of Your Spouse
Bev and I teach marriage classes and lead weekend marriage getaways. Typically we teach on what we call the essentials to a great marriage. Rather than lay out our eight essentials, we decided to keep it simple and share the one essential that has helped us the most in our marriage of 36 years. This essential is about meeting one another’s needs.
Paul stated this biblical principle in Philippians 2:4: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests (needs), but also to the interests (needs) of others” (English Standard Version). God designed marriage to be we focused, not me focused.
Top Needs of Men and Women
Clinical psychologist Dr. Williard Harley wrote a best-selling book about marriage titled, His Needs, Her Needs (Baker, 2011). Bev says this is the most helpful book she has ever read about marriage. In his book Harley identifies the most common needs of men and women.
Dr. Harley asked couples what they wanted most, then he classified their desires into emotional need categories. Almost all those he interviewed described one or more of only 10 emotional needs as being most important (admiration, affection, conversation, domestic support, family commitment, financial support, honesty and openness, physical attractiveness, recreational companionship, and sexual fulfillment). Few ever named an important emotional need that was not included in this list of 10.
Dr. Harley made a revolutionary discovery that helps in understanding why husbands and wives tend not to meet each other’s most important emotional needs. Whenever couples list their needs, men list them one way and women the opposite way. Of the 10 emotional needs, the five listed as most important by men were usually the five least important for women, and vice-versa. It’s no wonder husbands and wives have so much difficulty meeting each other’s needs. They are willing to do for each other what they appreciate the most, but it turns out their efforts are misdirected. What they appreciate the most, their spouses appreciate the least.
The Love Bank
You fell in love with each other because you made each other happy, and you made each other happy because you met each other’s emotional needs. The only way you and your spouse will stay in love is to keep meeting those needs. Even when the feeling of love begins to fade, it can be recovered when you both go back to meeting one another’s needs.
Inside all of us is a love bank with accounts in the names of everyone we know. When these people are associated with good feelings, deposits are made into their accounts, and when they are associated with bad feelings, withdrawals are made. In almost every marriage, a man and woman make a life commitment because they are in love, and they are in love because the balance in their love bank is high.
Once you’ve identified your and your spouse’s most important needs, the next step is to figure out how you can meet those needs by making regular deposits.
As most married couples have discovered, the feeling of romantic love is much more fragile than originally thought. And if the love bank balances drop below the romantic love threshold, couples not only lose their feeling of passion for each other, they lose their motivation to make each other happy. What was once effortless becomes a drag. However, when you meet your spouse’s deepest needs, your spouse will find you irresistible!
Send your questions about family life to Phil and Bev Haas in care of The Lookout, 8805 Governor’s Hill Drive, Suite 400, Cincinnati, OH 45249, firstname.lastname@example.org.We regret that personal replies are not always possible. Phil and Bev Haas are involved in education and family ministry in Cincinnati, Ohio. They are the parents of two children and they have one grandson.