John Coblentz

(Chapter 5 of Christian Family Living, pages 141-178.  Online version of the chaper includes only pages 152-165.  Copyright 1992, Christian Light Publications)

Basic Needs and How to Meet Them

When God created man and woman, He created them to complement each other. He indicated this when He said “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him” (Genesis 2:18). God formed woman to round out man’s incompleteness, so that physically, socially, emotionally, intellectually, and even spiritually, male and female would not be rivals, but mates.

Much of the tension and conflict in marriage today, as well as in other relationships, comes directly from an emphasis on rights and a de-emphasis on responsibilities. When the two are reversed, however, and marriage partners focus on personal responsibilities, they are less apt to fight and more free to serve. Instead of each being concerned with getting his way, each will be concerned about meeting the needs of the other.

This section focuses on some of the basic needs of husbands and wives. It is for those who wish to take seriously their responsibilities in the marriage relationship.

Basic Needs of A Wife

The understanding of a wife’s needs as opposed to her husband’s will admittedly rest in the understanding of womanhood and manhood and the differences between the sexes. Cultural ideas about men and women have fluctuated over the years. At the present, equality has so carried the day that to suggest differences between male and female is rather unpopular. But to ignore differences is both unrealistic and unscriptural.

Not all the cultural ideas about male and female, of course, were correct before the twentieth century either. God made male and female, however, and they are not the same. Furthermore, their differences are not matters of worth or importance. To say that men tend to look at a project as a way of getting something done and that women tend to look at the same project as a way of building a relationship is not to say that one is better than the other. Rather, it is to recognize that men and women are different.

What then are the needs of a wife?

1. A wife needs someone who understands her. “Likewise ye husbands dwell with them according to knowledge…” (1 Peter 3:7). This Scripture speaks to the tendency of a husband to be preoccupied with interests outside of his home and marriage and to ignore things about his wife which are important to her. Every woman has habits, fears, tendencies, likes, and dislikes. In marriage, she feels the need to be understood, and the husband demonstrates his understanding of her by living with consideration toward her. Notice the Scripture does not say simply that a husband should know his wife, but that he should live with her according to his knowledge of her.

2. A wife needs someone who accepts her as she is. This is but an extension of the need to be understood. The Scriptures speak of the intimacy of marriage as “knowing” one another. Marriage is disclosure, letting each other know the heart and mind — “the real you.” Such disclosure can be either painful or wonderful, depending on acceptance. A husband sends clear messages of rejection to his wife by such actions as comparing her negatively with other women, ridiculing her personality, and overloading her with responsibility and then criticizing her for failure. Acceptance does not mean approving of everything a wife does or is, but it recognizes a wife’s unique personhood and gives her the support to become all that God intended her to be.

3. A wife needs someone who cherishes her. This is again a step beyond accepting. Both accepting a wife and cherishing her depend upon understanding her. Cherishing is but another way of saying a wife needs to be loved. Love is probably the most basic need of a wife in marriage. And certainly it is no accident that repeatedly in the New Testament the instruction to the husband is “Love your wife.” Paul wrote, “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies . . . for no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church” (Ephesians 5:28, 29). The word cherish here means literally “to warm, as a bird warms its young.” A wife needs to be understood. She needs to be accepted as a person. But she needs also to experience the tender affection of her husband. She needs the security of being held close to the heart of her husband, not as a mere plaything, but because she is counted dear and priceless.

We should note here that meeting these first three needs is a cumulative process. Each depends on the former. A husband cannot accept his wife if he does not understand her, and he cannot cherish her if he does not understand and accept her.

4. A wife needs someone who demonstrates strength and wisdom in leadership. “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). When the Bible refers to a woman as the “weaker vessel” it does not necessarily mean weaker in every way. And as noted earlier, it does not mean she is inferior. It does reflect, however, that women are drawn to strength in men, provided it is a considerate strength. The tendency of men is to flaunt their strength in ways that dominate women, and thus to exploit women’s weakness. Such “strength” loses its attractiveness fast. A husband uses his strength as God intended by working for the protection of his wife and children, by shielding them from hardship and harm whether physical, emotional or spiritual, and overall by guiding the home with consideration for them.

5. A wife needs someone who is faithful. “Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame” (Song of Solomon 8:6). Intimate love calls for the exclusion of all others. Thus, there is a very proper jealousy in love which says, “I belong to you, and you belong to me.” A wife needs the security not only that her husband loves her, but that he loves no one else in the same way. Of course, there is an improper jealousy rooted in selfishness. This jealousy demonstrates itself in suspicion and fear, and in effect, puts a stranglehold on a husband. But nonetheless, a wife needs a faithful husband, and a husband who understands this need in his wife carefully guards her trust. He does not flirt with other women nor look at raunchy magazines. He guards his eyes, his humor, his heart. And he focuses his love faithfully upon the ONE woman in the world who is his wife.

Basic Needs of A Husband

In many ways, the needs of a husband are the counterpart to the needs of his wife. God made the woman with a view to male needs (Genesis 2:18), and thus He equipped her with just the proper resources for meeting those needs. So just what are the needs of a husband?

1. A husband needs someone who depends on him. God has given to the man the responsibility of leadership in the home. There is something about the dependence of a wife which calls to the manliness of her husband. His very malehood wants to provide, to nurture, to care for, and to protect; and he finds satisfaction and fulfillment in meeting the needs of his wife. Even as the husband can misuse his strength to dominate, so the woman can misuse her weakness and dependence to manipulate. Many are the women who have used their tears, their headaches, and their whining to play upon the malehood of their husbands in order to get their own way. Such “weakness” gets old fast. A wise wife allows her husband to be her provider, but does not control him from beneath.

2. A husband needs someone who accepts him as he is. Everyone has a basic need for acceptance, and inasmuch as marriage is the deepest level of human friendship, it has the most potential for meeting that need. It likewise has the greatest potential for rejection. Nagging criticism and discussing a husband’s failures with others are probably the two most common ways a wife signals rejection of her husband. Acceptance, as noted earlier, does not necessarily mean complete approval. It does mean recognizing a person for who he is, as opposed to fighting that reality, and supporting him in becoming all that God intends him to be.

3. A husband needs someone who encourages and supports him. In describing His intentions in making a wife for Adam, God said, “I will make him an help meet for him” (Genesis 2:18). The woman is a “help.” This does not mean she is a tagalong, someone who comes in handy at times, but that she was designed to fill a necessary role as man’s mainstay. Her mind, her will, her energies are hers to use, not in competition with him, but in union with him to complement his mind, his will, and his energies. Certainly, much of the wife’s potential to encourage and support depends upon the husband’s willingness to talk and work together. But a wise wife will recognize that every husband has weaknesses, and she will not allow her support and encouragement to mope continually at the foot of his failures. She will instead clearly ally herself with him so that both his strengths and his weaknesses are improved by her presence in his life. A very practical way in which a wife can encourage her husband is by her gratitude. Her smile, her expressions of thanks, her willingness to find joy even in difficult circumstances will fill one of the most basic needs in his life.

4. A husband needs his wife’s womanhood in the home atmosphere. “Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands” (Proverbs 14:1). “The aged women likewise . . that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home…” (Titus 2:3-5). While the husband is responsible for leadership in the home, he is inadequate by himself to build the home. He needs the womanhood of his wife to establish an atmosphere of order, beauty, cleanliness, and care. Contrary to modern thought, homemaking is not a dull, servile work for lower-intelligence women; it is a full-time, lifetime responsibility which demands creativity, intelligence, and management skills of the highest caliber. The womanhood of a wife is in many ways the heart of the home and, as such, is the fulfillment of her husband; and the career-minded wife leaves a void both in her home and in her husband which nothing can replace.

5. A husband needs someone who is faithful. “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her” (Proverbs 31:10,11). Fidelity is imperative on both sides of the marriage relationship. Even as faithful love stirs the sweetest emotions in human relationships, so unfaithfulness stirs the bitterest emotions. There is probably nothing so devastating to a marriage as the realization that a third party has invaded the sacrosanct realm of intimacy. Wives need faithful husbands; husbands need faithful wives. A godly wife will guard her manners, her speech, and her appearance, reserving her womanly charm and beauty for her husband alone. “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works” (1 Timothy 2:9,10).

Understanding one another’s needs in marriage is the first step love takes toward meeting those needs. If we focus on our needs rather than on those of our partner, we may easily stumble in self-pity rather than move ahead in love. Much of the success in marriage depends upon the willingness to give ourselves to meeting the deepest needs of one another. This is the exercise of love, and love is the cement of marriage.

Common Errors in Marriage

The pitfalls surrounding marriage are many, and the pressures to fall into them seem to increase as life grows more mechanized and streamlined. Many are the mistakes marriage partners can make nowadays; we will consider a few of the more prevalent errors.

1. Financial bondage. The pressure is on to buy and have and consume. What is not affordable now is payable later. So we are told. All too soon, married couples find themselves neck-deep in debt and perhaps at the same time only ankle-deep in love. In the late 1980s, the average indebtedness of a 28-year-old in the U.S. was $66,000. Forty percent of Christian couples were paying at least $2,000 per year in interest, excluding mortgage interest. One survey showed that 20 percent of “Christian” couples were on the verge of divorce and that 90 percent of these couples pointed to financial problems.

What is financial bondage? It is when we cannot do what is right or proper for ourselves, for our family, or for the Lord because of overriding interests or obligations in financial matters. Bondage may come by the pressure of debt, unpaid bills, or business entanglements. It may, on the other hand, be the result of wrong financial attitudes such as desire for wealth, worry over investments (or the lack of them), or a willingness to fudge in dealing with others.

Staying out of financial bondage is possible only by a steadfast commitment to the principles of God’s Word and by using common sense. Consider the following pointers:

  • Seek God’s kingdom above all else.

  • Be honest, fair, and generous in all financial dealings.

  • Value family togetherness and upbuilding activities above financial gain.

  • Use finances as belonging to God. (You are manager, not owner.)

  • Look for opportunities to invest in eternal ventures, not earthly.

  • Avoid all material involvements which rival spiritual goals.

  • Avoid partnerships.

  • Avoid borrowing, especially for consumable or fast depreciating items.

  • Do not use credit cards unless you pay accounts off each month.

  • Never co-sign.

  • Pay bills promptly.

  • Pay taxes honestly.

  • Work hard, live simply, give liberally, save wisely.

2. Irresponsibility. According to the Bible, the husband is responsible to lead out in the home and to provide for the needs of his wife and family. The wife is responsible to support her husband in his work and to keep (literally, be a guardian of) the home. Problems are caused in marriage when responsibilities are neglected. A husband who fails to hold a steady job, for example, or racks up unpaid bills, inevitably creates insecurity in his wife and problems for the marriage. A wife who leaves the house in a perpetual mess or who spends undue time visiting, hobbying, shopping, or otherwise running here and there causes frustration for her husband and children.

Problems are also caused in marriage by either partner attempting to fill the other’s role. Some husbands attempt to dictate household procedures in a way that makes the wife feel her territory is invaded. A wife at times may try to control her husband, or take charge of his incompetence in such things as financial management and family worship. The problems in the long run always multiply by this role shifting, because at heart it becomes a working against rather then a working together. Many a child, when grown, will testify to the struggle of honoring a father or mother who is out of place.

Following are a few pointers:

  • Talk about responsibilities. Ask each other to describe any areas of neglect. Listen. Ask for pointers in filling personal responsibilities.

  • If there is disagreement about responsibilities, talk together with a minister about the problem.

  • Pray about your responsibilities.

  • If there has been a pattern of irresponsibility, start with improvement on one thing at a time. Make yourself accountable to someone for regular checkup and encouragement sessions.

  • Write out your commitment to your responsibilities. Be reasonable, but be specific.

  • Where your partner is weak or neglectful, consider how you can be supportive without stepping into that responsibility. Make a list of suggestions.

3. Lack of communication. This problem is compounded by the hurried pace of the modern age. Husbands and wives rush in the morning, rush through the day, rush through supper, rush away for the evening rush home, and rush to bed. Hurry always increases the possibility of misunderstandings and decreases the possibility of discussing them. It is unfair to any marriage to regularly let the problems of the day accumulate until bedtime and then try to resolve them. Unfortunately, some couples don’t even try to resolve their problems. Married life becomes an existence in the same quarters, a place where communication is seldom deeper than hello and good-bye.

While lack of communication is harmful to the total marriage, the wife generally notices it first and minds it most. A wife needs to hear the sound of her husband’s voice; she needs to have the assurance of her husband’s full attention. When a husband is uncommunicative, his wife feels insecure and left out. When he does not give her his full attention, she feels unimportant. The husband tends to respond to these feelings with reason–his wife is assuming things unfairly, she needs to relax and quit getting emotional. He is often right that she is assuming wrongly, but he is far from right in believing this is simply her problem. A wife’s communication needs are often different from her husband’s and he is responsible for meeting her needs. Sometimes this means setting a slower pace, sometimes it means missing the evening newspaper, and sometimes it means consciously taking time to talk about things.

On the other hand, a wife needs to consider her husband and his needs as well. Sometimes pressing duties mean a husband cannot talk immediately. Sometimes a husband is under the weight of a decision or responsibility in which he needs thinking time, and he may find it hard to keep his mind on his immediate surroundings. If talk time is needed in a full schedule, setting a time limit may be helpful. A husband’s anxiety level may rocket out of control if his wife says, “Let’s talk,” and he knows he has only ten minutes.

Consider these pointers for bettering husband/wife communication:

  • Keep work schedules trim. (Avoid jobs which demand prolonged absences.)

  • Arrange for times when you can be alone other than nighttime (eating out on occasion, gardening, walking, etc.). Frequency of these activities should be mutually agreed upon.

  • Refuse to harbor resentment toward one another.

  • Commit yourselves to working through misunderstandings and disagreements.

  • Be honest and open. Avoid communicating negative feelings indirectly.

  • Do not make important decisions without openly discussing them.

  • Postpone decisions where there is strong disagreement. (A husband should avoid overriding his wife’s objections in decisions, even when she has trouble stating her reasons. Many godly husbands have testified to God protecting them from a wrong decision through a wife’s intuitive objections.)

  • Never share information with others which betrays trust.

  • Never belittle, rail, ridicule, or nag.

  • Regularly express gratitude, commendation, and encouragement.

  • Be polite and courteous. Say “please,” “thank you,” “pardon me,” etc.

4. Improper ties with the past. One of the most painful problems in marriage is the problem of past relationships interfering with present loyalties. The most common example is where either husband or wife has parental ties which override loyalty to the marriage. The Bible describes marriage as “leaving” and “cleaving.” For a husband and wife to join properly to one another, they must properly leave their parents. This does not mean forsaking parents in a hostile sort of way. It does mean that a husband finds in his wife what once he found in his mother, and that she gives to him the loyalty which she once gave to her parents.

In giving sons and daughters in marriage, parents must learn to release their children. While giving advice is proper, particularly when it is requested, interference in decisions violates God’s order. The interference may come through emotional pressure, bribery, or visiting too frequently. Whatever the distance in miles between the two families, a proper distance must exist in loyalties so that there is freedom in decision making.

The following pointers may help:

  • Separate living quarters should be maintained and respected.

  • A wife should avoid regularly testing her husband’s ideas with her father’s.

  • A husband should avoid regularly suggesting that his wife check with his mother about how to do things.

  • If counsel is sought from parents, a couple should go together.

  • Both husband and wife should avoid saying, “That’s not how my mom or dad used to do it.” The husband should avoid a habit of saying, “My mom always….” And the wife should avoid a habit of saying, “My dad always….”

  • Activities with in-laws should not demonstrate favoritism.

  • A persistent problem with parents interfering should be discussed with them frankly but kindly.


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