Foundation of Marriage: Proceed With Caution

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Part 4 of the Foundation of Marriage series.

Nate and I love questionnaires and evaluations. We love assessing things and figuring out new and better ways to do things. But proceed with caution!  We have learned over the years there is a right way and a wrong way to use these tools to improve our marriage and ourselves.

(Route A is the wrong way and Route B is the right, productive way.)

It all starts with the approach! Are you…

A: Trying to point out where your spouse is falling short?


B: Trying to help your spouse understand you and what makes you tick?

Your approach determines your words….

A: Accusatory and demeaning statements like “You need to do this better!” Or “You need to stop doing this!”


B: Affirming, encouraging, and helpful statements like: “I appreciate when you do this____. ” Or “I know this isn’t your intent, but when this happens, this is how it makes me feel ____.”  “Another way to do it that would be helpful in this situation would be if you could do this___.”

Your words (and tone) determine the outcome.

A: End result: Wounds being made, frustration forming and hope diminishing.


B: End result: A plan put in place to strengthen the marriage and move it forward in a productive and positive way.

On Monday, Nate challenged you to go through the Emotional Needs Questionnaire by Willard Harley. This is an excellent idea. We are always fascinated at the number of things we learn about each other when we take the time to talk through the different questions. As I filled out my answers, I made some changes to the format to help me have a good approach, words, tone, and outcome!  I think that it is very important to do this, because Nate and I are vulnerable in different areas and different ways.  If we approach the questionnaire in a selfish or demanding way, then all we will get is hurt feelings and resentment.

Here are the questions that I asked myself as I went through each Emotional Need.

  1. Do I feel that this need is important to me? (I did fill out the number line in section A to express the level of my need.)
  2. I didn’t spend much time on the questions under section A, because your answer will be directly related to how important that need is to you.
  3. Instead of focusing on if you are satisfied with your spouse’s ability to meet that need I instead asked myself these two questions:
    1. In what ways does my spouse meet this need for me? (I made a list-to affirm him and show him appreciation.)
    2. What are things that he could do show me that he cares about this need and wants to meet it? (I gave him insight into my mind and how I interpret life.)
  4. It is important to think about the amount that you require of each need. Remember there is a difference between ideal and realistic. This is also a great opportunity for compromise. At the end of the conversation each of you should pick 1-2 needs to focus on. If you try to do all 10 for each person, there just isn’t enough time in the week. Once you get a couple needs down, add another. Also remember that in different stages of life, different needs are more important than others. Reevaluate how you spend your time on a frequent bases.

If you are having a hard time coming up with ideas of what to say, here are some other questions to ask yourself to get you thinking.


  • What is a sexual touch and what is an affectionate touch to you? (will probably be different for each one of you)
  • Think about your love language. How do you need love or affection expressed to you?
  • How can your spouse word things or do things in a way that you will understand the heart behind what they are doing?

Sexual Fulfillment:

  • What are ways we can create a successful environment?
  • How can your spouse get you in the mood?
  • What can your spouse do throughout the day to get you ready for moments together?
  • What things do I need to do, to get ready to serve my spouse in this way?

Intimate Conversation:

  • Is it the actual words that are said? Or the tone? Or the lack of words?
  • Do you need your spouse to initiate conversation more or allow you to initiate more?
  • What questions can they ask you to show you that they want to meet this need?
  • Do you need them to acknowledge your feelings more?
  • What are things you need to do to set the conversation up for success? Do you need to allow them to talk and express their side? Do you need to really listen to what they are saying and weigh their opinions before responding? Do you need to let them know what you need instead of making them guess?
  • Do you need them to play a more leadership or spiritual role in the conversations?

Recreational Companionship:

  • What recreational activities would you like to do together?
  • Would you prefer that they come along and watch you or actually do the activity with you?
  • It can be sports, musical, artsy, crafty, building, leisurely, nerdy, entertainment, etc.

Honesty and openness:

  • Hopefully everyone is able to be honest with your spouse. If not, this should be a high priority. You will need to work on having a safe environment so that each of you will be willing to open up. If you cannot figure out how to do this on your own, please seek professional/pastoral help.
  • Security comes with knowledge. Make sure your spouse knows about what is going on in your life. What would be helpful to know about your spouse’s life on a consistent basis?
  • Think about how you communicate with your spouse. Do you need them to acknowledge your feelings more? Would it be helpful if they repeat back to you what you have said? Ask them what you could do to be more engaged with your conversation.
  • Ask questions if you don’t understand. Clarity is important when communicating with someone you love.

Physical Attractiveness:

  • Tread carefully!!!! This can be extremely hurtful very quickly.
  • Try to figure out some examples of when the other person did something you liked and would like them to do again.
  • This is probably one topic that is best to keep it simple and only make 1-2 suggestions. As they consistently do that, you can add more if necessary.
  • Ask the other person what you can do to help them achieve their own personal goals in this area. What are ways you can support them? For women the more confident they feel about their physical appearance and the more confident they are in your acceptance of who they are today, the more they are willing to show it off for you.

Financial Support:

  • Keep in mind that a man’s self-worth is often times related to their ability to work and provide, so make sure you are not giving the impression that he is not good enough.
  • Financial support can be extremely important to women. There is a sense of security when food is on the table and the house is warm. The first question to ask yourself is do you feel financially secure? If not, why? Is it because you have no idea how much money you have or where it goes? Is it because there is not enough? Is it because you don’t agree with how it is spent? If you are not satisfied with the level of financial support try to figure out why and focus your conversation on that. What could you do differently to make you feel more secure? Weekly budget talks, helping with the bills, having a budget? It isn’t always because you don’t have enough money.
  • Beyond the money you have to consider the work/home life balance. Are you willing to sacrifice money for your spouse to be home more? Do you need to increase hours of work and therefore increase salary for a short period of time to take care of a financial situation and then cut back to a normal, healthier level?
  • Are you unhappy with your job? Is it because or the pay, environment, type of work, boss etc? What can you change or do different? If you can’t change anything, do you need to find something else or just suck it up and readjust something else?

Domestic Support:

  • Do you want help in this area? If so, are you willing to allow someone else to help you even if they don’t do it the “correct” way? If you can’t answer yes to both of these then you need to change something before you ask them to fulfill this need.
  • When you feel unsatisfied with the lack of support is it because you didn’t like how they did it or because it didn’t get done? What needs to be done to prevent this from occurring in the future? Ask your spouse how you can help them get it done. Do they need training in the area or should you switch chores so each of you are doing a chore you understand and are willing to do?
  • Are you frustrated that you have to tell them every single time to do a certain task? Has it been communicated with them that this is an expectation of yours? Is there a better way to remind a person to get it done? Chore chart for parents and children? Alert on phone or calendar?
  • Are your expectations off? Are they too high? Do you and your spouse of a different order of priority? Figure out a way to make expectations clear and have both people agree on them.

Family Commitment:

  • Is there a certain area of the kid’s life that you feel like your spouse is absent? Is it the spiritual, educational, emotional or physical side?
  • Are you frustrated with their level of commitment or with how they interact with you or your children?
  • Figure out a game plan with how to work together as a time to make your family more united and stronger.


  • Are you frustrated with what they way or how they say it (face, tone, voice)? The book Love and Respect is an excellent resource if this is an issue.
  • Do you feel like they are missing some areas of your life that you would like more affirmation in? Do you need to be affirmed more in your ability to be a mom, a wife or a career woman? Do you need affirmation on your cooking or your ability to maintain a home? Do you need more affirmation on your looks or interests or how hard you work? Stop making your spouse guess and let them know what you need!
  • Do you just need to hear out loud “thank-you” and “I love you” more often?
  • Do you need more praise for your accomplishments whether big or small?


As with all things, use this as a guideline and adapt it in a way that will form productive communication.  Getting to know your spouse is a never-ending journey, but the farther you go the more vulnerable you both are.  So, it is best when you proceed cautiously.   Hopefully you can use these pointers to have a good approach, words, and outcome as well.


Download these questions in a printable format:  | PDF_Picture Supplement to Needs Questionnaire  | 

OPL: Foundation of Marriage:  The 1 Secret to Building a Marriage That Lasts

OPL: Foundation of Marriage:  Sacred Marriage

OPL: Foundation of Marriage: Your Most Important Customer

OPL: 5 Love Languages

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