Sunday, October 27, 2013

Critique of His Needs, Her Needs

His Needs, Her Needs is a book about affair proofing your marriage written by a psychologist named Willard F. Harley Jr. This is not an extremely lengthy work, weighing in at 204 pages of reading material not including the appendices. Within the pages Harley gives a concise report on the things both husbands and wives are looking for in marriage. He makes sure to emphasize that this work is not a one size fits all type of work, that what he generalizes for men and women may not necessarily be true of the reader and their spouse.
His work contains fourteen chapters, you may ask yourself why when there are only supposed to be ten emotional needs that each of us has. Harley makes the point to say while there are ten emotional needs, men and women often have different needs that fill out their top five requirements in order to be happy and have a successful marriage.  As he goes through the book, he does not break it up into a section merely for each sex; he chooses rather to alternate chapters between the needs of each spouse beginning with the wife’s need for affection, followed by the husbands need for sexual fulfillment. This pattern continues with intimate conversation, recreational companionship, honesty and openness, physical attractiveness, financial support, domestic support, family commitment, and lastly admiration. While all of those are the needs he feels we need to have met he also concludes his book on a note for those marriages that have suffered infidelity, by offering a plan of attack on how to get your marriage back and making it even better than before.

            Harley’s book is good in the manner that it gives a list of things to live by, but it tends to lack gospel grace. However, in the very first chapter he makes a statement that carries a lot of weight and should help carry the reader through the majority of the book. He says, “Often the failure of husbands and wives to meet the emotional needs is simply due to ignorance of each other’s needs and not selfish unwillingness to be considerate.”[1] Something that stood out is that Harley focused mainly on affairs that were formed as relationships because he makes the statement that “ An affair usually begins as a friendship.”[2]
            In the chapter dealing with sexual fulfillment he says, “I sit and listen to these pathetic and bewildered men so motivated by their need for sex that their reasoning capacities have turned to mush. Ordinarily I would tend to admire these intelligent, successful and otherwise responsible individuals. But their misdirected sex drive has them completely unraveled.”[3] When reading this comment the first thing that came to mind was it seemed a bit harsh and would he be willing to speak of women in similar fashion? Harley asserts, “The first emotional need met in most affairs is intimate conversation.”[4] Then how could he earlier argue about men’s need for sex being such a major factor for adultery? I would argue that the way this book is laid out could possibly be changed in an effort to make the arguments being made a little more coherent.  
            Reading through the chapter on domestic support felt more like it should have been written about her than him; it also could have been put into a different book because it felt completely disjointed from the rest of the material that had been discussed until that point. One of the best statements he made before the chapter took a turn for the worse was, “My point is that most men would have a very difficult time living with a wife who does little or no child care or housework.”[5] One of the best statements he makes comes near the end of the book, in the last section on his needs. Harley says, “A woman needs to appreciate her husband for what he already is, not for what he could be if he lived up to her standards.”[6]
            While this book has its pluses it also has it minuses. It lays out a lot of good areas for anyone whose going into ministry, and even those who are not, it still gives them things to watch out for. However, as a book that is supposed to be used in a Christian setting, I personally would like to have seen more interaction with biblical principals and the Bible itself. This work feels very heavy almost to the point of being “law” like in its presentation. I say that because of the expectations that have been expressed. say for example,0 he mentions the need for couples to have fifteen hours of undivided attention with each other. I appreciate what he is trying to convey, and he points back to when a couple was dating how much easier it was for us to spend that time, there also were not the same demands on us then as there are now. I would recommend this book to someone who is going in to ministry with the caveat that it should be subsidized with another work possibly Mark and Grace Driscoll’s book Real Marriage. 


Harley Jr., Willard F. His Needs, Her Needs. Grand Rapids: Revell, 2011.

[1] Willard F. Harley Jr., His Needs, Her Needs. (Grand Rapids: Revell, 2011)19.
[2] Ibid., 20.
[3] Ibid., 51.
[4] Ibid., 72.
[5] Ibid., 146.
[6] Ibid.,172.

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