Book Review: His Needs, Her Needs

Posted On: March 14, 2011

His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage – Fifteenth Anniversary Edition (2001) by Willard F. Harley, Jr.

Most of us are probably familiar with ‘The Five Languages of Love’ by Gary Chapman. These “Five Love Languages” have been useful in helping people speak and understand emotional love when it is expressed through one of five ways: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, or physical touch.

What else is there when it comes to understanding your partner’s needs? A lesser known work within Asia is Willard Harley’s ‘His Needs, Her Needs’. In it, he identifies the ten most vital needs of men and women and shows husbands and wives how to satisfy those needs of their spouses. By fulfilling the needs of your partner, you are effectively eliminating the problems that often lead to extramarital affairs, loving more creatively and sensitively and thereby making yourself irresistible to your spouse.

Willard F. Harley, Jr., Ph.D. was a clinical psychologist who did not understand why he was failing to stop a large number of the marriages of his clients from breaking up. He made it his own personal ambition to find the answer. This book is the product of his commitment. Twenty-five years on, this best-seller has helped thousands of couples revitalize their marriages – to not just fall back in love, but to stay in love. Now, with more than a million copies and twelve translations of His Needs, Her Needs in print, he shares the story behind the book and continues to offer readers a practical plan for creating and sustaining a passionate marriage.

Harley uses a concept known as the “the love bank”, in which there are both deposits and withdrawals from the each sex. The rates in which deposits and withdrawals are made are different with men than they are with women. It has to do with what the ten needs are. Harley vouched for the consistency with which these two sets of five categories have surfaced to explain marital problems.

The man’s five most basic needs in marriage tend to be:
1. Sexual fulfilment
2. Recreational companionship
3. An attractive spouse
4. Domestic support
5. Admiration

The woman’s five most basic needs in marriage tend to be:
1. Affection
2. Conversation
3. Honesty and openness
4. Financial support
5. Family commitment

The feminist might protest at why women are still after ‘financial support’ in this day and age. I certainly consider myself a feminist and yet, I had to admit that if I were truly honest, the five basic needs of a woman did very much apply to me. Before you are so quick to judge this messenger, bear in mind that a lot of what we ‘need’ in a relationship may be in our subconscious and therefore, not apparent to the obvious eye or mind. We are still by-products of the cultural and societal messages we have received.

Harley was quick to add that these categories may not apply equally to everyone. He said, “Some men and women will look at their respective lists and say, quite honestly, ‘I don’t share this or that need’. Sometimes people will see things on the list of the opposite sex that will strike them as more applicable to themselves. Long experience has taught me, however, that the vast majority of each sex do agree that the needs I have listed are their deepest ones when it comes to the marriage relationship.”

Successful marriages require skill – skill in caring for the one you promised to cherish throughout life. Marriage works only when each spouse takes the time to consider the other’s needs and strives to meet them. Good intentions are not enough. This book is definitely not only for those who are married. Anybody who has ever loved or is currently in a relationship will benefit from reading this book.

Dr. Martha Lee is Founder and Clinical Sexologist of Eros Coaching. She is a certified sexologist with a Doctorate in Human Sexuality. She provides sexuality and intimacy coaching for individuals and couples, conducts sexual education workshops and speaks at public events. For more, visit or email

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