I’ve never really believed in giving flowers.
Confession. I can count on less than one hand the number of times I’ve given flowers to my wife since we first got together about 16 years ago. Somehow I just can’t bring myself to spend on something so transient; something that may be beautiful, but will not last beyond the season they were bought. Honestly, my wife does wish that I would buy her flowers sometimes, but it’s not a dealbreaker in our relationship.
I know what my wife really needs is affection, by creating an environment that allows me to express my love frequently and unconditionally. I know that she also needs me to provide the financial support for our family, as well as to ensure I have sufficient time and energy to care for the children.
These three needs – affection, financial support, and family commitment, are among the top five needs listed by psychologist Dr. Willard Harley Jr. in his seminal book His Needs, Her Needs. Harley’s premise is that by discovering and meeting each other’s basic needs, a couple can strengthen the bonds in their marriage.
Her Top 5 Emotional Needs
According to Harley, a wife’s top emotional needs are as follows:
- Honesty & Openness
- Financial Support
- Family Commitment
Creating an environment of love can be through words, cards, gifts, hugs, kisses, and acts of service. For example, I know my wife appreciates it when I tell her I love her and when I help out around the house by washing dishes or packing up, as well as surprising her with an occasional cup of bubble tea.
It’s the little things that we do as husbands that communicate our care for our spouse. And when we do this often, we create a culture of love that strengthens our marriage.
It’s the little things that we do as husbands that communicate our care for our spouse.
This refers to talking about the events of the day, about our feelings, plans or dreams. When we engage in meaningful conversation, we choose to listen to what is important to our spouse, giving her our complete and undivided attention.
We should also strive toward healthy conversational habits, one that avoids angry or judgmental statements, and that does not dwell on past mistakes. Such habits strengthen the connection between the couple, and this helps to build a positive relationship based on shared understanding and mutual affirmation.
Honesty & Openness
We need to be real and open to talk about both our positive as well as our negative feelings. Being open also means being honest about our past hurts and pains, or our failings and weaknesses. It also means sharing transparently about our dreams for our future.
When we are honest and open with our spouse, we become vulnerable with each other, deepening the bonds between each other. Honesty and openness have the power to build trust, dispel doubts, and strengthen the marriage.
Honesty and openness have the power to build trust, dispel doubts, and strengthen the marriage.
Financial stressors can make or break a marriage. There needs to be a sense of security, and this is when the family has the financial resources necessary to maintain a standard of living acceptable to them. This also includes a working arrangement that does not include prolonged periods of overseas travel as well as working hours that are acceptable to the spouse.
When we are committed towards providing a level of financial security, we allow family members to operate within a measure of financial freedom, relieving them from the emotional stressors associated with uncertainty.
Wives appreciate husbands who consistently set aside time and energy for the moral and educational development of their children. This includes family activities like reading to kids, taking them on outings, as well as discussing important aspects of parenting.
Raising children can be a stressor for the couple if they differ significantly on fundamental parenting principles. Everyone has a different parenting approach, but what is crucial in a healthy marriage is for the husband and wife to discuss the way each person approaches key parenting issues, and to pursue a path that respects both persons, one that is congruent so that the children know that both parents are on the same page.
His Top 5 Emotional Needs
Now, we all know that it is not only wives who have needs; husbands do too. Willard Harley listed the top emotional needs of the husband as follows:
- Sexual Fulfilment
- Recreational Companionship
- Attractiveness of Spouse
- Domestic Support
For a marriage to work, it is crucial for both spouses to meet the needs of the other. As such, a strong marriage is one in which both husband and wife understand each other’s needs, and work hard to fulfil these needs, even on our more challenging days.
This Mothers’ Day, even as we seek to do something special to appreciate the mother of our children, let’s remember what her greatest needs are, and to make an effort to fulfil them.
And maybe, just maybe, I might decide to get some flowers for my wife sometime in the future.
© 2022 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
Mark Lim is Consultant & Counsellor at The Social Factor, a consultancy and counselling agency which conducts training on life skills such as parenting, mentoring, mental wellness and special needs. He and his wife Sue co-write a parenting blog Parenting on Purpose, where they chronicle the life lessons from parenting two almost-tween boys aged almost 12 and 10.
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