The books The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman and His Needs Her Needs by Willard Harley have been very helpful to a lot of couples. I’ve read them both, they’ve both been very helpful to my wife’s and my marriage, and I recommend them both as helpful tools for you.
There is a subtle message communicated in these books, or at least a message the reader creates, and that is that if my needs aren’t met, I’m now entitled to pursue an affair.
The premise of The Five Love Languages is that there are 5 primary “languages” in which each of us give and receive love (Acts of Service, Quality Time, Gifts, Physical Touch, and Words of Affirmation). You need to learn the language of your spouse (as it typically isn’t your natural language), then show them love in that language, and in doing so, their “Love Tank” will be full. (You can do a quick online assessment to discover your love languages here) So what happens when your spouse refuses or is unable to show you love in your language?
In His Needs Her Needs, there are 5 primary needs (that’s a strong word) for men and 5 primary needs for women. The premise of the book is based on years of marital counseling research. Individuals in marriages who don’t get these needs met go look for them elsewhere in affairs. The 5 needs for men are Sexual Fulfillment, Recreational Companionship, Physical Attractiveness, Domestic Support, and Admiration. The 5 needs for women are Affection, Intimate Conversation, Honesty and Openness, Financial Support, and Family Commitment. Mirroring The Five Love Languages, His Needs Her Needs has a “Love Bank” that couples must keep full for their partner. So what happens when this bank goes dry? When your needs aren’t being met? They are needs after all. Like air, water, and food, you will die without them (being “needs” and all), so of course you’re entitled to go seek these needs elsewhere in an affair.
It’s the opposite intention of the books, and The Five Love Languages even dedicates great chapters titled “What happens to love after the wedding?”, “Falling in Love” (which gives statistics that the “in love” feeling only lasts 2 years), “Love is a Choice” (Amen!), and one that is similar to this blog post entitled, “Loving the Unlovely”, all meant to combat this entitlement feeling.
His Needs Her Needs doesn’t give any such effort. Instead, it says this on page 33: “Should I be concerned that my spouse will have an affair if I don’t meet her needs? Should my spouse fear that I might have an affair if my needs are not being met? In reference to the needs described in this book, the answer is yes.”
If you think you need love from your spouse, you are wrong. If you think lack of love from your spouse gives you a license to have an affair, which is almost what it feels like Harley is saying, you are incredibly wrong.
If you build a marriage around the His Needs Her Needs concept, you’ve built it around selfishness, which is the opposite of love. Think about it: Love is sacrificial. I’m reminded of Ephesians 5:25, Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Makes me wonder how full Jesus’ “love tank” or “love bank” was when he hung bloodied and beaten from the cross out of love for me.
The answer is, it was very full. But it was full from the proper source, our Heavenly Father, not from his bride, the Church. Hear me: Your spouse will always let you down. They aren’t God. They are a broken, sinful, selfish human. Just like you. And just like me.
Are His Needs Her Needs and The Five Love Languages helpful tools to give us handles on learning how to “give ourselves up” for our spouse more effectively? Yes they are. But we often don’t read them (and Harley doesn’t even write his) as a guide for how we can love better, we typically read them as what we can expect to get from our spouse.
If you and your spouse have both read His Needs Her Needs and The Five Love Languages, you now have barrels full of ammunition to fire against each other when your “needs” aren’t being met. You can simply appeal to the authority of these books that if your spouse isn’t doing these things, they are a bad spouse. And if they are a bad spouse, you even have permission from Harley to seek out these needs elsewhere.
There’s now a scoreboard.
There’s now a kickback system. I will speak in my spouse’s love language, because it’s the only way I can get them to speak back to me in mine. My intent is not their benefit, it is my own.
This mindset teaches us that we can create the perfect spouse for ourselves. But at its core level, it’s a sick and twisted definition of perfection. If we are really honest, we are looking for the perfect servant/slave to serve us and fulfill our desires and pleasures.
I’ve never watched the award-winning FX show Nip/Tuck as it is graphically sexual (pornographic), but an ad I saw for it a few years ago really stuck in mind. It was of the two plastic surgeons literally stitching a nude woman together with thread, according to their exact specifications, as they gaze at her lustfully. This photo can teach us a lot about the objectification of women and how pornography conditions us to look at real women in subhuman ways.
But the deeper thing that stuck out to me was how we try to do this exact thing to our spouses time and time again. Be the perfect pleasure bringer for me. Fill my love tank in the way I need it. Fill my love bank in the way I need it. Make me happy. Bring me pleasure.
And if you don’t, I’ll find someone who will.
If my love tank and love bank were already filled by the only one who can truly fill it, Jesus Christ, I wouldn’t so desperately look to my spouse to fulfill this need. A need they cannot never truly meet.
So throw away the scoreboard.
Throw away the kickback system.
Throw away your expectation that your spouse is meant to cater to your every want, desire, and need.
Even in the best marriages, there are going to be dry seasons.
Pour love into your spouse because Jesus poured it in to you.
Use books like the The Five Love Languages and His Needs Her Needs to help you learn how to pour this love more accurately and effectively. But don’t use them as an entitlement license that your spouse will “pour back” on the bulls-eye of your sweet spot. And if they don’t, look out.
Is your marriage easier when your spouse is pouring love back? Heck yes. But it’s not an excuse to stop when they’re not. Whoever said love was easy? I’m pretty sure the bloodied, spat on, beaten, humiliated, broken, beard-ripped-out Jesus never said that.
Here’s what he did say though: (John 13:34) “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
And here’s what his buddy Paul said about him: (Ephesians 4:32) Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.