The Four Emotional Needs in Marriage

When you pursue and possess these emotional attributes, your marriage can thrive even in the face of difficulties.

February 25, 2020
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Dave Willis

Some of the most foundational needs in a marriage are invisible. You can’t see them with your eyes, but they are as real and as vital as physical needs such as food, water, and shelter. In our years of doing marriage ministry, my wife Ashley and I have identified four core “emotional needs” in every marriage. Some men might roll their eyes when they see the word “emotional” because some men have naively believed that only women have emotional needs. The truth is that both men and women have an equal need for all four items on this list.

For the couples who pursue and possess these invisible, emotional attributes, their marriages tend to thrive even in the face of difficulties. For the couples who neglect any one of these four cornerstones of marriage, the relationship tends to be on shaky ground. These four emotional needs are similar to the four legs of a table. If one of the legs is missing or broken, the whole table will be flimsy. If two or more of the legs are missing, the table has no hope of standing.

If you want your marriage to thrive, make sure all four of these are met consistently. They will provide a foundation for your relationship. You’ll notice that faith is not on this list of four, and that’s because belief in God isn’t just a leg on the table of marriage. It’s the very ground where the table sits. Without Christ as your foundation, our best efforts to build a thriving marriage are futile.

Building on a foundation of faith, here are the four emotional needs in every marriage:

1. COMMUNICATION

Communication does for marriage what breathing does for a human body; it’s the very thing that makes survival possible. A marriage can’t survive without communication. Both spouses need to listen to each other and respond with care and genuine concern.

“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” James 1:19

2. COMPASSION

Build on your communication with compassion. Don’t just exchange words but show each other encouragement, tenderness, kindness, and forgiveness. When compassion sets the tone of your words, you’ll be setting a positive tone for your relationship.

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:31-32

3. COMFORT

As husband and wife, you have a unique opportunity and a unique responsibility to provide comfort to each other. This comfort isn’t just physical (sex, physical touch, etc.). Comforting each other also means providing a safe place for each other. In addition to the comfort of safety and security, you should give each other the comforts of fun, joy, and laughter. Let laughter be the soundtrack to your marriage. The healthiest couples prioritize the values of joy and fun. They don’t take their marriage lightly, but they also don’t take life’s stresses too seriously.

“…the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

“Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” Genesis 21:6

4. COMMITMENT

Love is just another word for commitment. Never give up on each other. Keep going. Your marriage won’t be defined by the size of your struggles but by the size of your commitment to overcome the struggles together. Your feelings might change by the minute, but if your commitment to each other stays strong, you’ll be able to weather any storm with the security of knowing your marriage is unbreakable.

“Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” Romans 12:10

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time, we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”Galatians 6:9

If you continue pursuing these four emotional needs, your marriage will grow stronger through every season of life.

Dave Willis

Dave Willis is a leading marriage speaker, author, and podcast host.

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