Did you hear the one about the guy who was fabulously successful in business, turned over millions, travelled the world, was famous through the media, drove a prestige car, wore the finest suits, stayed at magnificent hotels, ate at the best restaurants. Then one day he returned home to discover his wife had left him, taking their kids. Not a very funny punch line is it?
Highly successful business people can make the mistake of focusing solely on their work while neglecting their most precious asset – their partner in life. And the result of neglect is often a broken marriage and shattered family which can be catastrophic. No amount of success, wealth and acclaim can compensate for such a devastating loss.
Divorce is a tragedy. Full Stop. And rushing out and finding a substitute wife or dating a string of younger girlfriends is no solution to the heartbreak. As anyone in a second or third marriage will tell you, blended families are fraught with complications. And dragging a truckload of emotional baggage into a new relationship doesn’t heal the pain. The bitterness, insecurity, guilt and grief over the past failure will be compounded when it is not dealt with. A flesh wound left untreated will fester, same with emotional wounds.
Have I got your attention? All smart business people will recognise the clue. Prevention is better than allowing a crisis to happen. It is possible to keep your marriage healthy and thriving. In fact, it is possible to stay in a state of intimacy and enjoy that exquisite state of being in love.
Sure, the giddy infatuation we experience when we “fall in love” is temporary euphoria induced by a rush of hormones and wears off after a few months. However the deep fulfilment, which comes from receiving love and giving love, can be sustained for a lifetime when we understand how.
So how does a couple do this? Commitment is the first step. It requires a commitment to a permanent, exclusive partnership and a willingness to meet your partner’s emotional needs and a willingness to allow them to meet your emotional needs. And maybe it helps to know just what his needs and her needs really are!
According to marital therapist, Dr Willard F. Harley, Jr, author of His Needs, Her Needs, there are ten core needs in marriage, which are roughly divided into five each for the husband and wife. Men need sexual fulfilment, admiration, recreational companionship, an attractive spouse and domestic support. Women need affection, conversation, honesty and openness, financial support and family commitment.
The ten emotional needs can cross over gender lines according to individual personality differences. For example, some men are big talkers and need lots of conversation. Some women are sporty and thrive on recreational time together. Some women have a high sex drive. Some men require loads of affectionate touch.
Men need admiration. This is something most women just don’t get. If he didn’t receive enough admiration growing up, the need will be acute. If he doesn’t get it from his wife, the unmet need will become a craving he seeks to meet through career success, an adoring public, fawning staff or worst of all, female flattery which ends in the painful outcome of an affair.
Admiration is expressed through recognition for his achievements, lashings of praise and encouragement with a taboo on criticism. What women consider helpful observations about his faults, he receives as savage attacks and reacts with defensiveness. The male definition of “love” is really “respect”. He wants his woman to look up to him and like him just as he is.
A woman’s innate need for affection encompasses a longing for empathy and understanding, a need for tenderness and comfort when she is upset, and most husbands will say, she is “upset” quite often! Affection means soothing words as much as loving touch.
Most women need copious conversation to feel close. She has a quota of a squillion words per day, he uses 500 words or something like that! Women need to vent and ventilate, offload and unburden, debrief and dissect and talk and talk and talk. Say no more.
She expects honesty and openness; total transparency. She wants her husband to bare his soul: to lay down his defences and share his vulnerability. Women want the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
For him, sex is the way he experiences intimacy with his wife. He will try to use it to overcome an argument while she will be appalled and need to make up before they can make love. Most men have a strong sex drive and feel frustration and resentment when their wife’s desire for sex doesn’t match his. And yet a man cannot experience sexual fulfilment unless his wife is sexually fulfilled as well.
Men want to do stuff together. They are action-orientated and need their wife to be their best buddy too. The couple that shares common interests and recreational companionship forge a bond of mutual pleasure.
The need for financial support encompasses old-fashioned notions of the man being the provider and protector, which despite feminist cynicism, resonates deep in the female soul. A wife wants her husband to provide leadership and guidance, even though it is hard to admit in a culture that promotes female toughness. And she requires hands-on family commitment. She wants him to be a devoted dad.
It is just as politically incorrect for a husband to admit he longs for a domestic sanctuary of tranquillity; what Dr Phil calls a “soft place to fall”. How can he admit he also needs an attractive partner? She doesn’t have to be an airbrushed super model however he wants his wife to remain spunky and desirable even with the added curves and laughter lines that come with a lifetime together.
He longs to stay in love with the bride of his youth and she longs to remain beautiful in his eyes and cherished forever.
This article was published in January 2007 in XL Extraordinary Lives, an international magazine for entrepreneurs and business people.
For more information, read His Needs, Her Needs, Building an Affair-Proof Marriage by Dr Willard Harley, Jr or visit www.marriagebuilders.com