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Articles by Dr. Greg Smalley

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Dr. Greg Smalley

Dr. Smalley also helps lead marriage seminars around the world and helps train pastors, professionals and lay leaders how to effectively work with married couples. read bio

Become a student of your husband

What are the needs of spouses in marriage? While the priority of these needs will differ between the sexes and from person to person, the basic list of needs remains constant for married couples.

Do you ever do something for your mate that you feel is loving, but he does not respond in a positive manner? One day, a well-meaning husband experienced this same frustration. The man wanted to do something special for his wife so he left work early and bought his wife some flowers, candy and a card. When he arrived home, he presented the gifts with great pride and exclaimed, "Hi honey! I love you so much!"

Immediately his wife started crying. "Everything's gone wrong today," she explained, sobbing. "The baby's grouchy, the dishwasher won't work, and now you come home drunk!"

As illustrated by the wife's reaction, sometimes we can do things for our mate to demonstrate our love, but it's not what they need. Many of us understand what we need to feel loved. However, what we need isn't necessarily what out mate requires. For example, my wife likes me to compliment her appearance. On the other hand, if she never mentioned my appearance I wouldn't give it a second thought. Therefore, since I don't need my wife to compliment my appearance to feel loved, I have a tendency not to notice her appearance. This is a common problem couples face: we have a tendency to demonstrate our love in the same manner as we like to receive it. The problem is that our mate may need something totally different from what we may provide. One important factor in marital satisfaction is discovering the specific things that your mate needs to feel loved. In other words, discovering his built-in marriage manual.

One simple way to uncover your husband's marriage manual is by making a list of what he needs to feel loved. We encourage you to set aside several hours of uninterrupted time with him and write down specific things. As you construct your list, remember not to judge, disagree, or invalidate the things that your husband says. Remember, this is what he needs to feel loved. Also, write down things that are observable. In other words, instead of writing down "I want intimacy" write, "I need you to say you love me at least once a day," "we will make love twice a week," and "I need you to ask me about my day." These behaviorally specific statements can help your husband to translate vague statements into specific behaviors. For example, the people at the Center for Marriage and Family Intimacy in Austin, Texas, have identified a list of the top ten relational needs for intimacy.

Used with permission from the book, Winning Your Husband Back Before It's Too Late by Gary Smalley and Dr. Greg Smalley.


Greg Smalley, Psy.D. is director of Marriage Ministries for the Center for Relationship Enrichment on the campus of John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. Greg is the author or co-author of eight books concerning marriages and families. Visit Greg at www.liferelationships.com.

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