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Dear Emuna: How Do I Fulfill My Wife’s Needs?
Dear Emuna

Dear Emuna: How Do I Fulfill My Wife’s Needs?

I provide her with everything but it doesn’t seem to be enough!


Dear Emuna,

My wife has been pressuring me lately to get her a very expensive designer handbag. I don’t even want to tell you how much it cost. I finally relented when I saw how much it meant to her. She was delighted with the gift but it didn’t bring about the change in other areas of our marriage that I imagined it would. She still complains that I don’t spend enough time with her and the children, that I don’t really take her needs into account etc. etc. I am a good provider and from the outside it looks to me that she has everything she needs and more than a few that she doesn’t, including the aforementioned bag. I don’t know what else to do. Please help.

Unhappy Husband

Dear Unhappy,

I’m not sure why you don’t know what else to do; it seems that your wife has clearly spelled it out! I don’t know if it was actually true or not but we all seem to have an image of the fifties where the man was the breadwinner coming home at 5 in a suit with briefcase in hand while his wife met him with sparkling floors, an apron that evidenced dinner was in the oven, a drink and a smile. In that scenario, we imagine, the man’s job was to go out and earn an income and the woman’s was to take care of the home. Each was, again according to our imagination, satisfied with those limited roles and found them not only materially satisfying but emotionally satisfying as well. I’m of course being tongue in cheek. If those roles had been so satisfying, Betty Friedan would not have found so many ready followers!

Your understanding of marriage seems to reflect those values (accurate or inaccurate) of another era. You seem to imagine that as long as you provide for your wife materially she should be satisfied. But your wife is telling you (very clearly it seems) that she has other needs – emotional ones, desire for time spent with you and so on – that you are not satisfying.

Whether it’s because she’s female and you’re male, whether it’s because you speak different love languages or whether it’s because you have different personality types, while your wife clearly enjoys nice material things, they are not enough to make her feel loved and connected to you. Whether you think they should be enough or not is completely irrelevant. The bottom line is it’s not working. And it seems that the onus is on you.

You need to recognize that marriage involves giving emotionally, not just materially, and making yourself receptive to your wife’s emotional needs and available to her. This will not be easy for you but I am confident that if you are able to make the switch, you will also find your relationship to be much more rewarding.

Luckily for you there are now many books and resources to help you – from John Grey’s oldie but goldie “Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus” to Gary Chapman ‘s “The 5 Love Languages” to David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates’ “Please Understand Me” based on the Myers-Briggs personality types. Happy reading!

My Husband Doesn’t Always Follow My Advice

Dear Emuna,

My husband frequently consults with me about important personal or business decisions. That’s the good thing. Then he frequently either ignores my advice or only finds it to be “good” advice when it is seconded by one of his colleagues or friends. I find this very annoying. I like being consulted but I also like being listened to!

Wife with an Ego

Dear Wife with an Ego,

I hear you. I understand how frustrating that must be. But there is an underlying assumption here that I would be remiss in not addressing. Your frustration seems to stem from the fact, to put it bluntly, that your husband doesn’t immediately acknowledge that you are correct and then proceed to act on your advice. This doesn’t leave room for either the possibility that, hard as it may be to believe, you may be mistaken in your advice or incorrect in your analysis or the situation and the options.

It also doesn’t give him the opportunity to weigh the advice against that of others and to achieve some kind of consensus or momentum before acting. I’m afraid that while I’m sympathetic to your frustration, I also see that it really stems from an inappropriate sense of your ability to always give correct advice. No one is always right (I hope you’ve seen that in other areas of your marriage).

Instead of focusing on the fact that your husband doesn’t always act immediately on what you say, take pleasure in the fact that he consults you at all. He clearly values your input and wants to share all aspects of his life with you. I can’t begin to tell you how rare that is. Instead of being annoyed, you actually have a lot to be grateful for. As long as you can keep your ego out of the way…

November 26, 2017

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Visitor Comments: 8

(8) Anonymous, December 8, 2017 6:33 PM

wife needs help,too

Since the answer to the first question was addressed to a husband, it gives him helpful advice for learning to address the needs of a wife. Your many female readers - whom, I'm sure, are nodding along with that answer and plotting how to show it to their husbands - also need to hear how to proactively take control of their marriage and transform their relationships - and it is NOT by criticizing, complaining, or instructing your husband. Like many unsatisfied wives, the wife in the example is rejecting that which her husband DOES bring to the relationship, disrespecting him and dragging down the tone of the relationship. She CAN get her desires fulfilled - but she is going about it in the wrong way. I strongly suggest Laura Doyle's book The Empowered Wife - it will transform your marriage!

(7) Anonymous, December 7, 2017 4:57 PM

She can not have it both ways!

If the wife craves EMOTIONAL support then she should be CLEAR about what she wants / needs. Telling the husband to go read up on what he should do is really not fair. The wife is an ADULT and should communicate as one. If this handbag meant SO MUCH to her, then the husband is certainly reacting "normally" when he thought that this would "make her happy". This was NOT a "bribe" -- it was a response to the wife's EXPRESSED WISH. As far as the husband's "not spending enough time" -- well there is no mention of the husband's job and the constraints that it imposes. Without that information, there is NO WAY to know if the wife's "complaint" is valid -- or unreasonable. It seems to me that the wife should CLEARLY express what she needs -- in other words, instead of saying "my needs are not met"... She needs to state CLEARLY (1) what her NEEDS are (and not expect the husband to figure that out by reading some books!) and (2) what has to be "done" for those "needs" to be met. Then BOTH have to see whether "(2)" is actually a reasonable request. For example (using a ridiculous extreme), if her need can only be met if her husband spends 6 hours a day with her -- then that need will likely not be met because it is probably unreasonable! On the other hand, asking that the husband spend 1 hour in the evening to chat privately with her is likely to be "doable"... but until the WIFE does "(1)" and "(2)"... it is not fair to expect the husband to just "figure it out".

(6) Anonymous, December 7, 2017 4:13 AM

Feel sympathy for he husband here...

I have to say that I feel sorry for the husband in the first letter. It is clear that he is attempting to meet his wife's needs. FYI: there are physical and emotional needs. Wife asked for an expensive handbag. It is shortsighted to criticize husband for buying it for her. After all; she is also an adult and surely she understands that asking for such an expensive item will mean that her husband will have to work additional hours (and thus be away) to cover the $$$ expense. Surely; wife needs to grow up and have some gratitude that she has a husband who is; clearly, trying to meet her needs. Even though she keeps moving the goalpost!

(5) JB Destiny, December 5, 2017 5:04 PM

Was the expensive handbag a gift... or a bribe?

I'm a bit suspicious of Husband's motivations. On the one hand, he says he bought the bag because it meant a lot to his wife. On the other, he says that in giving her the bag, he had the ulterior motive of buying himself respite from her emotional needs. So now he feels like he wasted his money - worse, like his wife manipulated and took advantage of his good nature! (As comedian Ron White jokes about the famous De Beers tagline "Diamonds. Take her breath away!" - "Diamonds. That'll shut her up!" ) Husband unilaterally declares, "My wife has everything she needs," when apparently she doesn't. Marriage is work, peace is the reward; you don't get shalom bayis from grudgingly buying gifts in hopes she lets you off the hook for all the rest of your obligations! Here's an idea: Ask her for something concrete, as in, "What would you like me to do for you today?" and when she tells you, LISTEN and ACT. Whether it's cleaning out the garage, or going on a day trip with her and the kids, don't whine, sneer, brag, bargain or bribe - do what she asks. Keep asking, keep doing and it will pay dividends in your marriage - including reciprocity.

(4) Anonymous, December 5, 2017 3:14 PM

Wants vs Needs

Your wife cannot express what she NEEDS and instead says what she WANTS. As a man, try to identify what your wife she really NEEDS. An expensive handbag is something your wife WANTS. Its not what she NEEDS. Give her what she NEEDS; whether its noticing and complimenting in things she needs appreciation for or explaination of why you are not spending thousands of dollars on a bag.

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