How do you have a great marriage? That’s the million dollar question. I don’t know of any guy that proposed to his girlfriend with the lofty goal of having a mediocre life together. No, the desire is much different, but how you get there is worthy of discussion.

My wife and I just celebrated our 10 year anniversary. The first ten years have been filled with the birth of our kids, adoptions, job changes, moving, and a myriad of life situations we worked through together.

Over the years we have met with 20-30 couples to do their pre-marital counseling. Their hearts are eager. They have big dreams. Their picture of marriage is so pure. So why does it drastically change so much for some?

I think it’s because we take our eye off serving our spouses, and simply focus on getting our own needs met. This is partly because we choose to act selfishly, but I believe it’s also because we don’t know what our spouses needs are.


I love the list that Dr. William J Farley created in his book, His Needs Her Needs. It is simple and to the point. Best of all, it leads to great conversations with your spouse on a date. Here is the list he created:

His Needs Her Needs List: Men’s Needs

1. Sexual Fulfilment
2. Recreational Companionship
3. An Attractive Spouse
4. Domestic Support
5. Admiration

His Needs Her Needs List: Women’s Needs

1. Affection
2. Conversation
3. Honesty and Openness
4. Financial Commitment
5. Family Commitment

When my wife and I talked about this together, we focused on 2 out of the 5 on the list. First, we discussed which need they were far and away best at meeting. And then we talked about the one we wished they would give some focused attention to.

I remember Steph said she knew I was committed to our family. There was no question in her mind about that, and she was grateful for it. That was my best one. But then we talked for a few minutes about her desire for me to be more intentional about opening up to her in conversation, the #2 on her list of needs. She wants me to be open – #3 – and to know what is going on in my head. Got it. Because I love her and want an incredible marriage that honors God, I now know a tangible area in which I could improve.

My wife is great in many ways. She really is. I don’t remember which one I thought she did the absolute best, but I clearly remember that “Recreational Companionship” jumped out at me as something I wanted more of. I wanted her and I to play more – together. The concept reminded me of dating. When we were dating, we did fun things together, but as life happened our dates turned into dinner, coffee and an occasional movie. I wanted more.

So that’s just what we’ve done. I’ve made a concerted effort to share with her all the crazy things bouncing around in my head. When I’m burdened by something, I let her in on what that is. And she’s made an effort to play more with me. On our anniversary trip, we went snorkeling and scuba diving. It was so much fun. Now that we’re home, I look forward to running with her, or throwing the frisbee. After all, she’s my recreational companion.

Do you want a great marriage? If so, spend the rest of your life eagerly serving your spouse. Do it in such a way that you are meeting their needs, not just doing what is most comfortable to you. Hopefully, these lists will help you on your way.

What do you think your spouse would want you to focus on, and why?