Needs overrule the golden rule

Very often when talking to couples preparing for marriage, or those struggling through it, I recommend a book called ‘His Needs, Her Needsby Willard F Harley. Dr Harley lists the emotional needs of men and women. He writes about the invisible ‘love bank’ inside all of us which needs to keep on being filled up – because life is making withdrawals all the time. I don’t agree with his lists, but the concept of emotional needs is undeniable. It’s not wrong to have needs, in fact we were all made with physical needs, spiritual needs, relational intimacy needs.

If you were to stop the average person in the street, “What was the first thing that was bad in the Bible?” most who even had pub quiz knowledge of the story would say, “It was the snake. That snake who got them to eat the forbidden fruit.”

Wrong. Phone a friend. Or use a lifeline, or better still, read Genesis 2:18

God said, “It’s not good for the man to be alone.”

So God invented marriage, where Husband and wife vow to be the primary person on earth who meets the other’s needs – for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer…. till death us do part. These public pledges are so important. Did you know it’s illegal to be married in a locked church? The idea is that anyone could walk in off the street and join in the service and hear these words being publicly proclaimed (I’ve had that on one or two occasions in conducting weddings where we were joined by gentlemen of the road!). But we prove the reality of the words in daily action and thoughts, not just on the big day – but on lots of little days.

I’d been married many years before I even discovered this concept of meeting Zoe’s needs. Until then, I’d just tried to follow the golden rule – treat her as I’d like to be treated. However that only works to a point, because she actually wanted to be treated different to me! Then we went on a marriage retreat put on by Intimate Life Ministries, as part of which we looked at our own relational needs, and compared them with each others. Guess what- we were different.

In fact in a room of over 100 people, not one couple had the same top three emotional needs!I think this list is actually a lot more helpful than Harley’s. Have a look on this link, it’s an eye-opener! Which one would you most need to have met? That’s your number 1 emotional need. If you’re married, which one would your spouse most need? If you don’t even know, how are you going to meet it?

The problems start when I try to ‘fix’ my wife with what ‘fixes’ me. For instance, my number one need might be for words of Approval (okay it is – and thanks for the positive blog comments by the way, keep them coming!). So if Zoe was feeling down I’d ‘help’ by expressing how great she is. Problem? That would make me feel better but doesn’t ring her bell at all. She’s waiting for Attention – for me to make the time it takes to enter her world and find out what’s really happening – as I fly out the door telling her she’s wonderful.

I have to go beyond the golden rule and not just treat her the way I’d want to be treated, I have to discover and then treat her the way she needs to be treated!