His Needs, Her Needs: Building An Affair-Proof Marriage, by Willard F. Harley, Jr.
In reading this book, which is part of a fairly large set of books about marriage for someone in my own state , I was struck by what would seem to be a few fairly obvious retorts that could be made to the author’s claims, along with some of the short answers to those retorts from the book. How is it possible to build an affair-proof marriage? It’s a lot harder than it looks. What kind of needs do men and women have? Don’t ask unless you want to know and are prepared to meet them? Doesn’t the author recognize that not all men and women are the same? Yes, he does, but the approach the author takes is a good one and a sound one, looking at what can be judged as a pareto analysis of the most important needs people have in marriages. The result is not the sort of book that is likely to please every reader, but there is little denying that this book is the sort to be of great value to those who may realize their marriages are not going as well as they could and who want to improve matters and who are committed to vows they have made. This is not always as common as one might wish.
The contents of this book are even more frightening than I thought them to be at the outset, and they may be as well for many other readers. This version of the book, published in 2001, is marked as the fifteenth anniversary version, showing that the book was originally published in the middle of the 1980’s as divorce rapidly began to become an epidemic in Christian as well as non-Christian worlds. The author begins with an introduction about his own career as a marriage counselor and the immense failure of that field, provocatively asks the reader how affair proof his or her marriage is, and introduces the concept of a love bank, with good experiences serving as credits and bad experiences serving as debits in this account. Then, over the next ten chapters the author discusses various needs that women and men have, in general, alternating between her needs and his needs in the following order: affection, sexual fulfillment, conversation, recreational companionship, honesty and openness, attractiveness, financial support, domestic support, family commitment, and admiration. Then the author gives some painful advice on how a marriage can survive an affair, and how couples with the will and commitment can move from incompatible to irresistible. The rest of the slightly more than 200 pages of the book’s material is made up of the most important emotional needs, the emotional needs questionnaire, and some additional forms as well as information about the author and some of his other books.
There are some aspects of about this book that I found deeply troubling. For one, the author’s insight that the love bank never closes gives a strong edge to my own interactions with many women over the course of my life. It is probably only my native shyness and timidity when it comes to matters at the heart that have kept me single so far, as well as being single have kept me from having a fairly disastrous role as the “other man” in the troubled marriages of people I have known personally, aside from any sort of claims to virtuous character that I occasionally protest . I was also somewhat terrified by how easily my own deepest needs from an intimate relationship could be so baldly and clinically stated in this volume, which would be a deeply awkward and uncomfortable read for many people. Ultimately, this is a book that reminds us that if we want a good marriage, we have to work very hard at it, and we have to be aware of our own needs and those of our partner, and work very hard and intentionally to remain, as best as we are able, the sort of charming and attentive people who managed to fool someone into making a lifelong vow to, if we have been so fortunate as to fool others in such a fashion.
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