Whether you are in a strong or struggling relationship, if you are committed to it, I recommend this book.
I'm rating it 4.25 stars. (check out my rating scale.)
Let me start off by saying that the insights, suggestions, questions asked, and core knowledge offered far outweigh the sometimes ridiculous examples and gender presumptions this book presents. (I'm pretty good at taking the best and leaving the rest.)
Points primarily taken off due to the repeated relationship assumptions that are way too 1950's gender stereotyped for my interest. Also, I just don't like the subtitle. I think the core info in the book is great whether you are worried about or recovering from an affair or not. I guess that didn't scare anyone off, though. This baby has been selling since 1986.
Best Parts Overview:
"The purpose of this book is to teach you to discover, and then learn to meet, each other's most important emotional needs."
"We affect each other emotionally with almost every encounter." (maybe you've heard of the "love bank" theory?)
"What could your spouse do for you that would make you the happiest?"
To me, the genius of this book is how it explains that to be in love with your spouse, you need to know how to make each other happy and how to avoid making each other uphappy. And then do it. (sometimes easier said than done, I know, but understanding the following emotional needs at least makes it possible.)
Yes, I love my husband, but how can I feel
*in love* with him again?
Dr. Harley explains that we all have a unique combination of 10 emotional needs: admiration, affection, conversation, domestic support, family commitment, financial support, honesty and openness, physical attractiveness, recreational companionship, and sexual fulfillment.
Here's a quick take to figure out which are most important to you: if you feel specifically happy when you experience it and are decidedly unhappy when you don't, it's high on your "needs" list. The book does a good job of explaining each of them in detail.
Something I learned about my own relationship that really surprised me happened while reading about domestic support. I keep our house clean and (mostly) neat and organized. To me. But the piles at the end of the counter, etc. drive my husband crazy. He definitely has higher standards, and abilities, at keeping things "nice" than I do. He cleans up as he goes. I save things to do later. You know... when I'm done with something else. This has been a point of contention throughout our entire marriage.
I always attributed this to us having very different parents, personalities, and his being generally difficult to please. (this is true! he'll be the first to say it!) I never considered it could be an actual emotional need. When I read this and reframed it that way in my head, I finally realized that not only does he want things a certain way, it actually makes him feel happy and loved, and feel love toward me when I make an extra effort here.
This realization doesn't make it easier for me. But it does change my feelings about trying to do things his way. I'm not born organized. I won't be perfect, but I'll do it better anyway.
One other exercise I found really useful was listing the specific ways I do and do not like to receive affection. If you had just asked me, I wouldn't have had many answers for you but the book gave some examples and it helped to get the ball rolling. While both my husband and I have always been very physically affectionate, it was time to get clear on what we currently preffered. (note: affection is not the same as foreplay)
I could go on and on about what I learned from this book, but let me wrap it up by saying that each emotional need has it's own chapter, ending with questions for each partner. There is a great website for additional support and there are multiple questionnaires for you to print. I didn't love every format, but did find them all very useful as starting points to figure myself out a little better. (it's a work in progress, I assure you!)
I'll leave my top 5 emotional needs in the comments. I'd love to hear about yours!