Alright Accuray, I�ve been pondering on your situation for a few days now � trying to find the areas of overlap between our experiences, where my advice/insight will be most helpful. To set expectations (for both of us) let�s recognize that no two marriage are the same. Some of what I have to offer may be spot on. Some will be off the mark. Only you will know how best to apply the advice that follows. But, you seem to be in the right frame of mind for inspiration. I believe you will know.

First, let me start by saying don�t be too hasty. I�m glad you feel we may have found a new way of looking at your situation which may prompt new beliefs, behaviors and outcomes for you and your wife. I believe you�re right � but you are still very much in the planning phase of your new approach. I would wait until you have a firmer grasp on what you�re hoping to accomplish and how you�re going to accomplish it before implementing or suggesting any major changes in your relationship. I think trying to improve our marriages with the wrong approach � then failing - can sometimes be WORSE than doing nothing at all. My wife and I had major setbacks due to misunderstanding and mis-applying MB principles. You are still going over the blueprints of your marriage building project.

Posting on the forum and getting feedback and reading Harley�s books are great ways to continue to develop your plan. Besides reading �His Needs, Her Needs� I also *strongly* recommend you get and read Harley�s �Fall In Love, Stay In Love� and �LoveBusters.� I know you�ve read a lot of great marriage books � so why read a few more? I do believe Harley offers a uniquely comprehensive strategy to marriage building that is different enough from what you�ve already read that reading his books will absolutely be worth your while. It is more than the LoveBank. It is much much more than �His Needs, Her Needs.� The website is good but nowhere near a replacement for his books. I�m not sure I�d even attempt any major changes in your marriage until you�ve read all three. After reading them you�re going to have a much clearer vision of the big picture and what your new and amazing marriage is going to look like. (Begin with the end in mind�) Failing to do this and gain this vision, you will have an incomplete understanding of the process and will likely fail.

Now on to your post.

So we agree that understanding your wife�s ENs is a bit of a barrier. It was the same way for my W and I and it was MADDENING for me. I often caught myself thinking �Ugh! Why can�t I be married to a normal woman who at least HAS emotional needs? Give me something I can work with!� Being out of touch with one�s own needs is completely foreign to me. *I* certainly have no problem identifying what I want/need in our marriage. But I felt impotent to make any real change in my wife�s lovebank, except to avoid withdrawals, since she herself didn�t really know what she needed. Not surprisingly this did not produce romantic love for her but it was the best we could do.

Over a long period of time my wife did come to the realization that her most important EN was in fact admiration � not the same kind as Harley describes (which threw us off) but still admiration. I will tell you that having discovered this fact has been a huge breakthrough. My wife now experiences the true fulfillment you�d expect when someone is having their most important ENs met. I never thought it would happen. It is fascinating to me to see these principles in action, even under atypical conditions.

So how did we get there? Please realize it took a lot of time and persistent but not overly burdensome effort. By reading my story it may sound like once we got our act together everything was easy. That would be a serious oversimplification. We still had major blow ups and rough spots years after our initial crisis. By no means is my wife a big fan of focused marriage building where we sit down and give each other critiques. Yes, there was a honeymoon phase where she read books and filled out questionnaires. But there were also periods where doing so felt unsafe and exhausting for her. We still take a much less direct approach than might be my ideal � but we have found that sweet spot where we both get what we need with minimal withdrawals. I�d say we achieved true safety at about the three year mark, just to put things in to perspective. I�m not saying we were miserable for three years, far from it � but we still had major re-programming to do for quite some time after D day.

Ok, so what about you? What to do next? How do you make some more progress?

I am reluctant to offer what may seem like quick fix advice. Don�t forget what I suggested about an adequate planning phase, but I do want to offer a few suggestions.


Admiration seems like a top contender for your wife�s EN. To fill my wife�s need for admiration we have check-in sessions, every night if needed. We spend a few minutes telling the other person what we�ve appreciated about them that day. Maybe you could just start this. Right before bed, or some other time that seemed right share with her what you appreciated about her that day. Be honest but also try to focus on the things that SHE values most. For example, I�ll tell my wife I appreciated how she looked today, which is nice but that isn�t where the money is at. When I express appreciation for things *she values*, I know it registers more strongly for her. Don�t be effusive. Don�t go overboard. Pick the most high value things � but MEAN IT.

Acuray - here is a crucial key � maybe one of the most important things I can say to you� To truly fulfill your wife�s need for admiration, you need to truly admire her. The only effective way for you to show affirmation and admiration to your wife, the kind of deep, safe and meaningful affirmation she is craving, IS FOR YOU TO FEEL IT, deeply and genuinely. I don�t think there is any other way. You�re wife is KEENLY attuned to your satisfaction with her as your wife � maybe too attuned. No subtle negative judgment will escape her. You have to get to the point where you ACTUALLY feel the satisfaction she wants to see. I don�t mean superficial �admiration� � I mean deeply cherished. And for you to feel this adoration � she needs to effectively meet your needs. Yes, I see the conundrum. I�ll address this later.

Now there is another interesting part of these admiration sessions with my wife. During these check-ins we will also take turns sharing what we appreciated about OURSELVES that day. Like �I was proud of how I handled X situation� or �I felt good about getting to the gym.� Or whatever. I never would have thought this up cuz I don�t need admiration. But sharing positive reflections about ourselves is especially impactful for my wife. Interesting.

Could you try something like that? You will likely need to lead for a while. Do you make it part of some grand �Marriage Building Project?� Probably not. Keep it simple. Maybe just give her some positive feedback then ask her to share some positive reflections about herself (not you.)

(I have some theories on why women like our wives are out of touch with their need for admiration, why they don�t like compliments etc. I decided to leave them out for now, glad to discuss further if you think it would be helpful.)

Other Needs?

I would also consider your wife may need Openness/Honesty and or Affection more (and differently) than you or she realizes. I hear you say that so far these things have made her �uncomfortable� (a common theme) � but I wonder if the problem is the approach, not the target. Maybe in the past �openness and honesty� has not been safe for her � yet it still may be just what she needs � HER version of openness and honesty. To be totally transparent and yet loved all the same. Don�t mistake her discomfort for disinterest. By fleeing openness/honesty she may be trying to protect herself from disappointment in the areas that she actually needs most. Also, openness and honesty is about more than airing your grievances =)

As to affection, do you feel you have adequately separated sex and affection? If the two are tied (even if just in her mind,) you need to sever that tie. I have more thoughts on this if you feel there may be something there. Remember, affection is not just physical.


I heard you say that maybe you�ll focus on your wife�s needs again for a while until the time is right to ask her to start doing more of the things that make you feel loved and cared for. Interestingly I don�t think subverting your needs is the right approach. In fact, I think your wife wants desperately to know you are truly satisfied with her as a wife. The problem is, you cannot give this to her. You cannot produce it. It is impossible. Yes, you can �be� nice, and patient and avoid complaining � these are �be�haviors. But you cannot �be� satisfied. Satisfaction with her as your wife results from your spontaneous response to her �be�havior � not yours. Silent dissatisfaction does not represent what both of you want � true, deep satisfaction. You want to feel it. She wants to know you feel it.

This is really hard for people like my wife and maybe yours to understand. They may not realize that their biggest fear (criticism) is actually the key to getting what *they* want from people - admiration. The paradox is maddening. You cannot satisfy someone in a long term relationship without opening yourself up to, receiving and adjusting to their corrective feedback. If criticism is poisonous to you, you�ll never experience the lasting satisfaction of others.

Sooo, I recommend, along with giving better affirmation/admiration for your wife, you pick the one behavior that would make the most difference to you and tell your wife �It would mean a lot to me if you would do X. Is there a way that you could enthusiastically do X?� If the answer is �No,� this is where negotiation starts. Try not to give up until you find a solution that it mutually satisfying. You may need to experiment. You may need to adjust. One or both of you will likely find they are satisfied/comfortable with more/less than they imagined/feared. But focus on this one, high value behavior.

The secondary msg is help your wife identify and do *less* of what doesn�t matter to you. She (like all of us) has limited resources. She may be doing too much of what doesn�t really matter to you (likely thinking it DOES matter to you.) When you ask her to do something she�s not doing, she understandably may say �I can�t do more.� But if you ask her to do �different� � she may have a more favorable response. I don�t know what low yield effort of hers that could be eliminated is, but I bet you can think of a few. Whatever different thing you ask her *add* to her to do list, she should take something else of lesser value *off* her to do list.

What do you you think? I realize your sitch is �complicated� and she doesn�t �like� to do some of the things you feel you need her to do. But pick one, just one � and come to a happy middle ground. The joy you will both feel as your need for X and her need for approval are met will be a great motivator. �Maybe we can break out of �our dynamic!�

I�m interested in your thoughts. Your feedback may help me put a finer point on any future advice.

A few final questions. I�m mostly just curious. You don�t need to go in to exhaustive detail.

Can you tell me more about how your wife gets angry/uncomfortable with complements? How about openness/honesty and affection?

Did your wife have problems with affection, honesty/openness, affection or sex during the early parts of your marriage?
What was your wife�s main complaint when she asked for a divorce?

What do you think your wife was getting from her EA that was so meaningful and powerful that it was able to threaten her marriage?

How old were you two when you met? How long did you date? What was her relationship experience before she met you?

Last edited by BWS71; 06/10/12 04:47 PM.