Marriage Needs and Wants: Asking and Listening

Page Highlights: expanded resources section with list of top five needs of husbands & wives, and the top five love busters.

Husbands & wives need to both ask for what they want and listen to their mate ask for what they want.

We all have needs and there is nothing wrong with wanting those needs met.

But it must go both ways for a healthy relationship. Marriage is not a 50-50 proposition, rather both give 100%.

The following exercise will give you both practice in assertively asking for your marriage wants and needs and listening to what your partner wants and needs.

The Exercise:

Separately, each of you look over the list below. Print out two copies to respond separately.

Rate from 1 to 3 how important each item is to you (“1” is of lesser importance & “3” is of greater importance).

There is a blank at the end for “other” if there is something else you think of that’s important to you.

When both are finished, discuss your 3’s & then others as you wish.

NOTICE! As you share your responses:

  • Listen carefully to your partner as they express their needs and why these are so important to them.
  • This is not meant as an opportunity to make selfish demands.
  • Be realistic in your expectations and be willing to compromise in some areas.

Ask and Listen

___ Spend most of your free time with me
___ Let me make my own decisions
___ Change a personal habit if it bothers me
___ Always tell me what you are thinking
___ Discuss with me before spending money
___ Join in with me in things I like to do
___ Go shopping with me
___ Have sex with me whenever I want
___ Kiss me every day
___ Show / don’t show affection to me in public
___ You take care of birth control
___ Have no contact with former girl/boyfriends
___ I’d like to spend regular time with my parents
___ Both of us be involved in religious activities
___ Speak about me & to me with respect in public
___ Remember special days with presents
___ Call if you are running late
___ Clean up your own messes
___ Throw away old love letters
___ Have good personal hygiene
___ Talk to me face to face daily
___ Always tell me what’s bothering you
___ Compliment me often
___ Keep the house clean
___ Keep yourself attractive
___ Be home in the evenings
___ Help with dinner
___ Make me feel better when I’m down
___ Take care of me when I’m sick
___ Support me in my dreams
___ Plan fun dates for us
___ Be nice to my family
___ Other: ______________________


His Needs, Her Needs by Willard Harley is a good resource for exploring the specific needs of men and women. Harley has identified from his research and practice the top five needs that most men have and the top five needs that most women have.

Here are the needs of husbands and wives found in the book.

Would you like to guess which are his needs and which are her needs?



An attractive spouse


Domestic support

Family commitment

Financial support

Honesty and openness

Recreational companionship

Sexual fulfillment

My wife and I received specialized training years ago to conduct seminars created by Joe Beam with Family Dynamics at that time.

Rather than teaching-type seminars, these were very interactive where married and some engaged couples did exercises during the week and then came to the sessions each week and related what they had learned.

We can verify that Harley’s list of his needs and her needs is pretty accurate. There are exceptions. Sometimes we found that the wife had a need that the husband had and vise a versa.

You don’t have to agree with Harley’s categorizations, but his work does provide a good tool to delve into your needs and understanding each other’s highest needs.

A companion volume by Haley is his Love Busters book. He recommends that a couple looks at any of their love busters even before they look at meeting each other’s needs.


Because if your mate is love-busting (doing things that destroy love), you aren’t interested in having your needs met.

The Love Bank

The whole concept is based Harley’s love bank. We understand how bank accounts work. Make deposits and you can make some withdrawals along the way and all is good.

So in relationships, you will make withdrawals at times (love-busters) but as along as the deposits are there (meeting needs) you won’t deplete your love bank account.

But as Harley points out, if there are too many love-busters and too frequent, the love bank can become empty very quickly. And as mentioned earlier, if there are a lot of love busters going on, the spouse experiencing the love busters isn’t reception to having their needs met.

It’s like the husband who is misbehaving, and brings his wife flowers to apologize. She doesn’t’ want flowers, she wants him to stop love busting.

The love busting session in the seminar my wife and I did was always the most difficult, and I was always glad when it was over. It is difficult to tell you partner that they are doing something you don’t like. And it’s hard to hear it! But it is necessary to be able to move on.

The Love Busters Are:

selfish demands

disrespectful judgments


annoying behaviors

angry outbursts

There are workbooks available too for both His Needs, Her Needs and Love Busters so that a couple can work methodically through the materials.

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18 comments to Marriage Needs and Wants: Asking and Listening

  • Connie Noward and Barry Thiessen

    This activity did teach us a few things about each other that we did not realize. Even though we might have thought we knew that it was important to the other we did not know that it was a priority to our significant other.

  • Michael and Terry

    This was a great exercise, believe it or not Michael had more 3’s than I did! Great discussion piece!

  • Brad and Kim

    This activity was really interesting. It helped show us the differences in the two of us and how we view the relationship and what is important to us. Going over ther numbers, we saw what each of us thought was more important and agreed to try and help each other out in those areas.

  • Jessica and Andrew

    This is an area we are continually working on. We have read the Love Bank concept before and it’s helped a great deal. It’s so important to remember that negative comments erase many positives – they carry so much more emotional weight.

  • Katie and John

    This taught us things we didnt know about each other. It was very interesting to see a diffrent side of each other.

  • Dustin and Katie

    We have heard of the love bank approach before and agree that it is very helpful in our relationship. We both ensure that we make continual deposits, not just on special occasions. It makes us both feel more appreciated and you never know when you might need to make an unplanned withdrawal. We use it as a reminder to ensure we are contributing to the relationship and not demanding too much of the other person.

  • Lindsey and Rhett

    This was a good little exercise and Rhett had more three’s than I would have guessed. It helps remind us of the things that are important to each of us and gives us motivation to work harder to improve the areas most important to one another.

  • Kelly and Larry

    This was an awesome exercise. It showed us what each other values and what we need to place the most emphasis on. We will use it to remind us what is important to each other and as a couple.

  • John and Meg

    We found this exercise very informative. There were a few ratings each of us had that surprised the other, and it really sparked some great conversations. This was so helpful!

  • Raychel and Peter

    We found this exercise extremely helpful. We both find some of the most important things we value include our physical and verbal showing of love and appreciation for each other. We also found out certain things that each of us might need to work on in order to keep each other happy such as cleanliness.

  • Brooke & Lucas

    This was a great exercise. Both of us agreed on the things that were most important to each of us. We also agreed that certain needs should be obvious and expected and come with the territory of getting married.

  • D & S

    This exercise actually helped us clarify some of our needs. We were easily able to pick out most of not only our own needs, but each others.

  • Amanda & Nate

    Amanda and I enjoyed the game-style of this exercise. I guess we’re at an advantage, having been together for quite a while, in that we have a pretty good understanding of each other’s expectations, and what we each must do to maintain happiness in our relationship. There really weren’t any “gotchas!” in the exercise, and some scenarios were just not relevant – we love spending as much time together as possible, it’s not a chore to do so, and there’s no need to encourage it because it just happens naturally. Nevertheless, it’s always nice to go back and discuss these issues, and some of them we maybe haven’t addressed for a while. As usual, the exercise was enjoyable and helpful overall!

  • Lauren & Bryan

    This module was fun and we learned alot about each others needs/wants.

  • Thomas & Tiffany

    We actually had quite a bit of fun with this one. We had the exact same answers for all but 7 of them. Funnily enough, for all 7 of those Thomas thought they were more important than I did. However, we noticed that for the ones we had different answers for, we interpreted them in different ways. So, really, we actually pretty much agreed on all of them. We just saw them in different perspectives. We agreed that it was VERY good that we agreed on most of them. It has made us more confident and comfortable for the future we are about to share together.

  • Aaron & Chelsey

    We enjoyed discussing each other’s needs in the relationship. We found that we both had several things in common, but we also identified some areas that we need to focus on as our relationship progresses.

  • Tony & Tierra

    Most of these we expected each others answers. Very few caught us off guard because we’ve been together so long. It was nice to have the subjects brought up and just be open giving examples of certain things we expect or why our numbers don’t necessarily match each other.

    A lot of our 3’s were the same and then we noticed that we had some 3s that we don’t currently give 3s. Ex: Kiss every day, right now we work different work schedules for a few more days so its usually a kiss while the other was asleep. But does that really count? We both obviously want them, but were just going with the flow because of our schedules. It’ll be nice to have this start ramping up and we will both benefit/enjoy it!

  • Maelee and Jake

    Many of our answers were the same regarding our needs, which was reassuring. Also, Jake hadn’t heard of the love bank theory and he really enjoyed the illustration.

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