Putting Her Needs First

Putting Her Needs First

You are still exalting yourself against my people and will not let them go. Exodus 9:17

Early on in marriage, I was more than a little clueless about how to meet my wife’s emotional needs. When she was stressed, I’d try to make her feel better by offering physical intimacy, which wasn’t what she wanted. It was what I wanted. That was my emotional need. I was self-centered, putting my needs above hers. Through reading a marriage book together,* I later learned that my wife needs openness, honesty, and domestic support from me – that’s how she receives love. Still though, I was self-centered, putting myself first. I made my decisions based, not on what she needed, but on what I wanted. This led to the disaster of my addiction, which shattered her trust in me. Where she needed openness and honesty, I offered dishonesty and deception. This nearly destroyed our marriage.

Now, in recovery, I’ve had to learn to do marriage very differently. This isn’t just about not using drugs – though that was a prerequisite for reconciliation. This is about me learning to put her needs above my own. As long as I exalt myself, I’m doing marriage wrong. The same is true for her. If she puts her needs above all, our marriage doesn’t work. A successful marriage is two people putting the other’s needs above their own. It is paradoxically only in doing so, that we have found that our own needs are met. My wife freely provides what I need only when I freely provide what she needs. Daily, we must put each other first. When one of us elevates ourselves above the other, we invite inevitable conflict.

Though today’s passage admittedly has nothing to do with marriage, it does illustrate this principle – Exalting ourselves is self-destructive to our relationships with God and with those around us. In the narrative, God told Pharaoh to let the Hebrews go and Pharaoh, dependent on their slave labor, refused to do so. God accused Pharaoh of exalting himself above all and warned him of the impending consequences. Putting himself first was natural to Pharaoh, but it was also profoundly self-destructive.

How would my wife feel about this? In recovery, I’ve had to learn to think very differently. It’s my nature to elevate myself above all, doing whatever I want. When I exalt myself however, life is upside down, creating misery and conflict. Paradoxically, it is only in putting my wife’s needs above my own that I find my own needs are met. So, daily, if I want a successful marriage, I must choose not to be selfish, but to look to my wife’s emotional needs, putting her first.


*His Needs, Her Needs by Willard F. Harley Jr.

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