It’s something we hear from couple after couple: "Men and women are so different! How can my spouse and I learn to understand each other?"

Men and women sure are different! It doesn’t take science to tell us that. All we need to do is look at how any group of guys or girls interact to begin to see some differences. Obviously, these are generalities, but here are just a few of the differences between men and women:

  • When guys need encouragement, they typically go for the slap on the back from the guys on the court.

  • When women need encouragement, they want hugs from their supportive friends.

  • Men look to their friends to be just company. Women want emotional connection in friendships. For women, it hasn’t been a good time if they haven’t had a good laugh or a good cry.

  • Men think of intimacy in physical terms (S-E-X); women think of intimacy in emotional terms (T-A-L-K).

So how are you supposed to know what your husband or wife wants and needs? Well we’ve done part of the work for you! For our book, The 5 Love Needs of Men and Women, we surveyed more than 700 couples and asked them to rank what they needed from their spouse. The results may surprise you!

Here’s a look at the top five love needs for husbands and wives – and how you can meet your spouse’s needs.

A wife’s top five love needs

1. Unconditional love and acceptance.
Imagine your spouse loving you completely, without even hesitating over your mistakes. Sounds just like Christ, doesn’t it? That’s the core of unconditional love, and He is the source of it. You can reflect God’s love for her and your love for her by encouraging her, standing with her, complimenting her, respecting her opinion, talking with her – and listening, spending time with her and serving her.

2. Emotional intimacy and communication.
When your wife hears the word intimacy, she thinks about emotional connection and communication. She wants a marriage that has vulnerable sharing of inner thoughts, feelings, spirit and true self. Listen to her. Show her an understanding heart. Give her attention and affection. Build rapport with her. Resolve conflict and safeguard your relationship.

3. Spiritual intimacy.
A wife wants a marriage as a cord with three strands: God, husband, and wife. She wants God to be inextricably woven throughout the marriage relationship. She needs to be growing spiritually and watching you grow spiritually and leading the home. To do so, encourage her spiritual growth, encourage her fellowship with you and others, encourage her to express her spiritual gifts and encourage her with your prayers.

4. Encouragement and affirmation.
To keep a bounce in her step, give her daily doses of encouragement. Tell her she’s your best friend, that she’s the best wife, give her some space when she needs it, leave her thank-you notes and give your wife extra help with chores. Encourage her by understanding her wiring, giving her first place, pointing out her potential and appreciating her contribution.

5. Companionship.
To your wife, friendship means heart-to-heart communication, special time away with you and growing old together. It involves togetherness. She needs you to work hard at your marriage – to laugh together, play together, stay the course and work out the inevitable differences between you.

A husband’s top five love needs

1. Unconditional love and acceptance.
When your husband needs your unconditional love, it simply means that he needs you to love him and receive him no matter what. Unconditional love starts with God: He loved us even though we didn’t deserve it. He loves us even though we are full of pride and self-centredness. In the same way, put aside your own needs to meet your husband’s needs.

2. Sexual intimacy.
Less than 50 per cent and up to 90 per cent of a man’s self-image is locked up in his sexuality. Sex, passion, pleasing the woman he loves – that’s what makes a man feel like a man. Consequently, when a man experiences sexual rejection from his wife, he may shut down, pull away – or worse – do something morally stupid. To meet his sexual needs, talk to God about any hesitation you have. Start with your own heart; learn what satisfies your husband and commit yourself to meet his needs.

3. Companionship.
Are you the one person your husband can count on when the rubber meets the road? Your husband needs your friendship. He needs to know – deep down – that he is safe to explore with you what is churning around in his heart and mind. Let your husband know you want to be his best friend. Make your relationship a safe place for your husband to face his pain and be willing to love sacrificially.

4. Encouragement and affirmation.
Your husband will feel discouraged and defeated when he doesn’t hear you cheering him on – or he’ll seek the applause somewhere else. When he knows that he’s the only one in your world, the walls around your marriage grow stronger. Encourage him to hear your applause. Encourage him by reminding him of God’s work in his life. Most importantly, pray for him to hear the applause of heaven – to know God is on his side!

5. Spiritual intimacy.
Your husband needs to be growing spiritually. He needs spiritual connection with God, with you and with other men. Being the spiritual leader of your family is the toughest job your husband will ever take on, and he needs your help. Encourage him to spend personal time in the Word, talk about Scripture with him, pray with him, pray for him, and make time for fellowship and worship together.

Meeting your spouse’s love needs is one of the most important responsibilities you have in your marriage. So, take the time to learn your spouse’s love needs – and meet them! It will bring you closer and help you build an extraordinary marriage!

Portions of this article were adapted from The 5 Love Needs of Men and Women, © 2000 by Dr. Gary and Barbara Rosberg. All rights reserved. Published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Dr Gary and Barb Rosberg

Married for over 30 years, the parents of two adult daughters and five grandchildren, Dr. Gary and Barb Rosberg have a unique blend of insight and wisdom that touches people of all ages. Together with Gary's 25,000 hours of counselling experience and Barbara's gift of encouragement and Biblical teaching, they are equipping thousands of families through their interactive daily radio program, conferences and marriage and family resources.

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