Explaining Your Needs and Desires to Your Husband

Needs Checklist - AdobeStock_66767001Are you having a hard time explaining your needs and desires to your husband? Here are some suggestions:

Make a list of the needs and desires you would like to see your husband fulfill. Divide your list into four categories: emotional needs, physical needs, spiritual needs, and mental needs. In some areas you may have an overflow of needs, and in others you may have to struggle to think of one need. But delve into your feelings until you believe your list is complete. Condense the list into the smallest number of vital needs so it doesn’t appear overwhelming.

Explain the List

As you explain the list to your husband, remember to discuss one need at a time until you’ve covered each subject. Your husband may have trouble accepting the importance of some of your needs. You may have to discuss the difference between men and women where sensitivity is concerned. But be sure to maintain the right attitude while explaining. When you appeal to him for understanding, avoid self-pity, jealousy, and whining. These approaches are repulsive to anyone, especially your husband.

Finally, as you begin to discuss your needs, be sure to use the salt principle when appropriate. Look for creative ways and times to share these needs. For example, you might want to write your husband a letter explaining a few of your deepest longings. Be careful not to accuse or imply failure on his part; just explain how you feel. Let him read it alone if he chooses. Be sure he can read it during a calm, tension-free time of the day.

The Worst Approach

One woman told me she was extremely discouraged about her husband’s lack of interest in her. He had a tremendous drive and interest in his work, his friends, his pastimes, but almost no interest in her or their children. She talked on and on about how much she had tried to get him to change. Nothing seemed to work.

When I discussed it with her husband, I found she had continually confronted him with his failures as a husband. He said she always seemed to choose the wrong time to talk about their problems. This happens “Just when I was trying to unwind.” To top it all off, she came across as a combination of prosecutor, judge, and jury.

Just before he went to bed, just as he got home from work, almost anytime he “let down” around her, she started condemning and reasoning.

Contentious Spirit

I began to see that she had what I call a “contentious spirit,” one that always contends for its own way. She was constantly pushing him into a corner, trying to make him see her point of view.

Even the Bible describes the effects of a contentious woman. She drives out a man like the searing desert sun; she drives a man to the corner of a rooftop; and she drips on a man like a steady rain (Proverbs 25:24; 21:19; 27:15).

What perfect analogies. Around the house this woman’s habits were as annoying as a constant dripping-like a leaky faucet. Her contention was like the sun beating down on a wayfarer in the desert. No matter where her husband turned, he couldn’t get away from it. He found no oasis of relief because she continually reminded him of his failures. Finally, her actions forced him to the corner of the rooftop with nowhere else to go.

Want to know what brought him down off the rooftop in a hurry? His wife got rid of her contentious spirit. Consequently, she inspired a tremendous change in her husband. Today she describes him as a much more loving husband who meets her needs in ways she never even dreamed possible.

Explaining your feelings and needs is not the same as voicing complaints.

One couple, who constantly bickered, determined to go through a whole week without voicing any criticism. Rather than argue, each time either of them became irritated, they wrote it down.

Each time either was annoyed by the other’s failure, he or she wrote it down. They placed each “complaint” slip in one of two boxes, a “his” and a “hers” box. At the end of the week, they planned to open the boxes. He would read her complaints and she would read his.

Saturday night finally arrived, and he decided to go first. He opened the box and began to read the dozens of little notes, one at a time. His eyes reflected the hurt and disappointment in himself as he read the complaints. “You’ve been promising to fix the screen door for six months, and it’s still not fixed.” “You never put your socks in the dirty clothes.” “I’m getting sick and tired of having to pick up after you everywhere you go.” He was sincerely grieved by all the ways that he had offended his wife.

Then it was her turn. She opened the box and pulled out the first slip of paper. She read it with a lump in her throat. The next note brought tears to her eyes. Picking up three more notes, she read them quickly and began to weep. Every note in the box read, “I love you.” “I love you.” “I love you.”

Fooled Into Thinking

Like many wives, you have been fooled into thinking that one day your complaints would finally re-mold your husband into the perfect mate. But I hope the example above clearly illustrates that unconditional love and tenderness, not complaints, can transform a cranky opponent into a humble, loving partner.

However, it is important to verbalize your feelings. One wife touched her husband’s heart with the note she wrote him. He actually changed his weekly schedule to include more time with her. The note read:

“Many days I feel like a shining little red apple —one of the top ones in a barrel. Everyday you come by and choose one, but never me. Your hand comes close, sometimes you even lift me up, but always you choose another. I’ve got a little worm growing inside me, and each day I become less attractive. I long for the day that you choose me!”

This article came from the wonderful ministry of Dr Gary Smalley (from a newsletter we received from his ministry). Gary Smalley was the founder and chairman of the board of the Smalley Relationship Center which is one of the country’s best-known authors and speakers on family relationships. He has published more than 40 books.


Here are a few articles that may also help you in this mission. Pray, read, and glean through the info you can apply as the Holy Spirit, our Wonderful Counselor shows you will work for your marriage:



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43 responses to “Explaining Your Needs and Desires to Your Husband

  1. I’m impressed, I have to admit. Rarely do I come across a blog that’s equally educative and amusing, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. The issue is something that not enough people are speaking intelligently about. I’m very happy I found this during my hunt for something relating to this.

  2. Hi Cindy, Great article indeed. I am a very lonely and busy/depressed wife at the same time. This year we are celebrating our 10th year anniversary, I keep asking myself how did we made it. I mean we both work, the ministry, the kids and my studies. As I write this comment, I’m tired. I need to rest. If any conversation starts it ends with fighting. I don’t know how to raise my concerns with my husband because it ends up with a fight and I will be more hurt.

    In the meanwhile I’m always told how I don’t do things right. The house is date, the meals are not well prepared, or the food is burnt. In the morning I’m making him late, I must wake up early, prepare the kids, make their beds, plus our bed, do their lunch box in time. Other things of the ministry also I need to do. My studies, I don’t want to lie, I’m tired. His complaints have just shut me up. Even if he’s doing something wrong, I don’t have the guts and strength to tell him because it will end up in a fight or me getting blamed of all other things. Our toilet has been leaking for more than 2 months but I am quiet, the geyser is also not working but I am not complaining. I wake up every day to boil the water with kettle for us to bathe. He is busy postponing to the weekend and when the weekend comes another weekend. I’m very tired of the situation. I don’t know how to communicate with my husband. There is nothing I say that he will listen to or even do. I have developed the attitude of doing things myself if I want it done. Please help me.

  3. How do you deal with resentment that has built up over years of not communicating? For years I have told myself to just keep quiet and let it be. But now, I can’t hold it in any more and it feels as though the resentment has totally covered up my heart. As if I can’t feel anymore, even when good loving things are done.

  4. I am having a lot of problems with husband. He’s incarcerated and is always thinking I am cheating. I am so faithful to him and it is causing a lot of problems were I had it help me please.

  5. I’m amazed at how many wives are in this same boat. I feel on the fence about my emotional response to this. Should I be encouraged that I’m not alone? Or should i feel hopeless? This is how it is. I do know that males and females are created in the image of God. I wonder what aspect of God can I glean from my need to be honored as a spouse, and my husband’s ability to be – what we view as aloof- but maybe it’s really a gifted ability to be uneasily rattled by what’s around them. It is from experience a definite process.

    I like to write. My husband reads that as avoiding the conflict. He like to address issues head on. I’m adapting to his style of addressing our grievances head on. I’m learning that I have to be patient with myself. It’s still challenging to not feel personally attacked, but I remind myself that I expect the freedom to express my grievances with him, and I afford him that room. No bashing. No words displeasing to the Father. Not easy, but I work at hearing his heart.

    Part of our issue is, I’ve only recently made progress in this area and he’s not used to me being open. I used to do the “quiet docile wife” approach. Don’t say anything. Don’t ruffle the feathers. I realized it built resentment and was not honest. My husband isn’t afraid to voice his opinion with people. I used to envy that. He says he can’t control how others respond. I now realize as a wife we want to control or husband’s response. But we can’t. They cannot read our mind. If he gets offended, so be it. I’ll get offended too.

    The thing is to communicate, then be humble. Swallow pride, and pray. Don’t be afraid to escalate. Every passionate endeavor is loud. Preaching is passionate. Worship is passionate. Winning is passionate. Just don’t allow the anger to flare where it’s controlling you. I argue and control my tones. When I get loud I do so with decisive intent to emphasize my passion. I used to think taking in calm controlled tones was the best way to argue peaceably. I’m learning it’s ok to argue honestly. Just don’t let the sun go down on your wrath like the Bible says. After a verbal conflict reflect and pray. I process what I’ve heard and make a commitment to honor what he’s expressed. Each argument is a learning experience. We learn one more new thing about one another. I’m appreciating it more each time.

  6. My husband of 10 years abandoned me and our children; he cheated and I caught him he said he was sorry but placed that heavy blame on me. He apologized and says how much he loves me and wants to now be with me. He tried for about a week to show he loves me and so on, then out of nowhere he’s back to being so hateful, cruel with his words, and has even lost control of his anger. I love this man and have been through hell with him still to come on top together. This time he is so close, but yet I feel we’re ages apart; I feel so neglected and hurt, I try to talk about how I feel but he either doesn’t listen or brushes it off with sarcasm. I am lost as to how to get through to him and to let him know I need him more than just in the bedroom. I’m spiritually, emotionally, and mentally all alone and I’m silently crying deep inside for him to take notice and help me work on our marriage and become one again. Please, any advice would be so great.

    1. Hi Lisa, My husband of 6 years is not cheating, but he allows his family who is literally living across the street from us to control our household. We have two toddler girls and they have been trying to dictate every situation, from the girls not sleeping early enough to girls are not as neatly kept, because they have a snot in their nose. My husband would just allow them to say what they want about me. As a mother, we all know how hard we work, and we all try to do the best we can. I have a full-time job, a graduate school and two toddlers that goes to the daycare every morning. I get home around 6:30 pm after picking up the kids, I still have to cook dinner, bathe the kids and a million other chores. My husband, helps too but he’s also tired from working long hours as a police officer. Like you, I feel so lonely, hopeless and neglected.

  7. I am a 30 year old woman who has always been told by my family my whole life that when I am upset or my feelings are hurt that it is “my problem.” Over the years I have found that I have a lot of compassion, kindness and do selfless acts for others. My problem is whenever I face disappointment with family or we have a lack of communication with my spouse or my feelings are hurt and I am told again it’s my problem and I should not get mad or sad so I have to give the silent treatment to cope.

    The truth is I am beside myself with anger, sadness and hurt and no way to dig out except to not feel or care at all. I have recently exploded with screaming and have used curse words to my brother and or spouse because they don’t feel like their actions or words are hurtful. I am a Christian and recent advice was you can’t change people and its hard to change yourself and not to focus on the negative but to focus on the positive always. I can focus on the positive but when I tell my spouse he is eating too fast and I tell him he needs to count his bites because I am concerned, he tells me to stop and that’s annoying. When I brought it up a day later after I gave him the silent treatment and didn’t kiss him good night, he said that my emotions need to be kept in check and that he didn’t do anything wrong and that apologizing does nothing.

    I feel alone and I feel like no one in my life gets me. I have anxiety and when people are aggressive or confront me in a bully or disrespectful manner I usually cry and later confront them to talk it out because I don’t want to appear as a pushover or as a child. Many times I feel better but when I confront family or spouse on their actions or behaviors again I am told I am crazy or need to control my emotions. I don’t know how Jesus controlled his emotions when Peter said he didn’t know him or how when the disciples fell asleep when praying how that made Jesus feel. He was always kind and when Peter was wanting to fight off the guards in anger Jesus told him not to. Does God not want us to feel or to at least be so forgiving that we don’t care when people we love hurt us? Only God can give peace, grace and mercy. I can’t save my relationship by acting like I’m a robot. What can I do ?

  8. I really found the letter about the apples helpful and understand that I have the wrong approach for letting my husband know my needs aren’t being met. It’s been about three years of doing the wrong things ;( this makes me feel sad. I’m going to read some of the suggested material to assist me. It just seems like a very slow process and can’t do this alone. I hope through my faith in God and family I can change.

  9. Wives are more attentive through out the day so of course husbands have less complaints. Men aren’t attentive and they actually choose to ignore needs until you are at your wits end and then they scurry to change or accuse you of nagging. Let’s just be honest here. Stop putting so much weight on the woman without examining the when’s and what’s TRUTHFULLY.

  10. Hi, I need ur help. My marriage is not going well. I have been married for 10 years now and with child. My husband doesn’t live with me but visits me every six months. In fact, it is not easy because when he visits me he stays for one month and within the one month we only argue until the last week when he is about to leave again before he changes his character by being nice. When he is far from me we argue sometime and he does not call me but I always call him and he never asks me how I am doing. When I complain about his behaviour he gets so angry and doesn’t answer my calls for 2 to 3 weeks. I am not happy because my marriage isn’t doing well and I want to die. I love my husband so much that I can’t live without him but I am also suffering too. Please I need some advise. Thank you.

  11. I have struggled with words my husband has used in the past; the most hurtful ones – “I do not love you anymore!!” Later on he apologized and said he did not mean that, but, it hurt me in a very profound manner. Three weeks ago I found a very inappropiate text message between him and a woman I do not know. He called her “Mi reyna” my queen in Spanish among other things. The words mi reyna are one’s that I felt as mine, something intimate betwen him and I, and when I read them in his text message, where he was inviting her out, I felt betrayed. This may seem dramatic on my behalf, but it hurt as much as the day he said ” I do not love you.” So, much so that I am considering divorce. I just can not get over this, I feel as if he has cheated on me. Am I crazy?? We have been married for 20 years and have three wonderful boys.

  12. This article was not very helpful. You can tell it was written by a man who possibly had a complaining wife. The article left me feeling more like women should be quiet and keep their feelings to themseleves rather than express them. All this does is lead to resentment and limit intimacy. More practical tips about when and how to communicate needs as well as frustrations would be more helpful.

    The example about writing down complaints and putting them in a box seemed helpful. But the story implied that simply by holding back your concerns, desires, and requests that it improves the relationship. The article was more critical of the image of a demanding, annoying woman rather than an unloving husband who neglected his wife. I found this article to be subtly sexist rather than helpful in improving communication in marriage.

    1. Marie, I totally agree with you. I was humbly in search for practical biblical tools to express my needs to my husband of 3 months (it always ends up with him being defensive and my already broken heart gets even more crushed leaving me in a painful fuse). I was open to something that would humble me but instead after reading this I just felt shut out.

      I kept on searching and found this great article that explained a woman’s experience on how she stopped criticizing her husband and instead encouraged and praised… after two years, her husband had a change of heart and began loving on her in such sweet and surprising ways. God’s ways are surely greater and mysterious if you ask me! The author of the other article highlighted respect and love. Similar to this but in a much more empathetic and compassionate way!

      Praying for all of the women here! Just 3 months in for me, and this area is such a huge struggle that I confess wanting out at the height of my emotions. And many of these women have struggle for years. Let’s Hang on to God, just as He did when you were not married and filled your every need… He is the same God and He shall fill you up. Spend time with our good, good Father… and be encouraged because God is greater!

      1. Hi Isabella. Thanks for sharing this. I’m so sorry that you found this article to be negative, rather than helping you. That sure isn’t our intent. What makes sense to one, does not necessarily make sense to others. I’m sorry that this one wasn’t helpful for you or for Marie. Anyway, I looked once again for other articles that might be helpful concerning this issue. I went to the one that you showed a link to, but it was problematic. Any computer that has ad blockers (like ours) cannot get into it without disabling the ad blocker their way. That is problematic in itself. We can’t approve a link to an article that won’t let us see the content. I tried to get into it a number of other ways, but to no success. So I just can’t let the link stand. I had to remove it from your comment. Something is wrong here and though the article may be a good one, unless we can see it, we can’t link to it… plus, others will have problems seeing it too.

        But in my search I found a few other articles that may be helpful. There sure isn’t much written on this subject that is posted on the Internet. I approached it through several different browsers, but didn’t find much. I did the best I could, given that fact. Please go back into the article and see if either of those seem to be helpful. I hope it does.

  13. If your husband might have a problem with pornography what should I do? Confronting didn’t work; he denied everything. I want to know if I have given plenty of reasons to seek affirmation elsewhere. I know he loves me and I don’t believe he would ever leave but our relationship has no intimacy. He works 24/7; in fact we don’t even see each other maybe 1 time every couple of months. He is on the road. I’m trying to get rid of the problem I have that pushed him away but im struggling. I sometimes feel like it’s too late but he won’t leave. He is working himself to death; one day I’m afraid that special woman will prsent herself. He is devoted and a Christian but no one is perfect. I’m afraid and my insecurities are making that much harder to give up the crutch that is the problem; it’s a vicious cycle. I believe if I could be someone he wants to be around again our lives would improve and I would have the confidence I think I need to let go of my crutch. Please help.

    Thank you for any input and prayers

    I guess I will say one more thing; he made a major change about two years ago. Our whole life changed for the better. Unfortunately I still had my crutch and it didnt take too long before his fire went out. Why? Because he feels it’s his responsibility to make sure I’m ok not crossing the line into sin. Anyway if you understand this please respond.

    1. Dear Leanne, This whole situation is so very confusing. It seems that you need someone to personally talk to so they can fill in the blanks to get a clearer picture of the whole thing, and then they can respond. But I will do the best I can with limited info. You ask if you have given your husband “plenty of reasons to seek affirmation elsewhere.” Absolutely not! That is ESPECIALLY true if he is a devoted Christian, as you say he is. There is nothing within God’s character that excuses someone who is unfaithful. Don’t kid yourself for a moment to believe the lie that there is any reason that would pave the way for someone to be allowed to cheat and do that which they should not. It is not acceptable for any reason.

      If your husband is into pornography, he is re-wiring his brain to play around with sex in ways that are not God’s ways, nor are they acceptable within marriage. Please go into the “Pornography and Cybersex” topic of this web site and read what you can. It is very addicting and can actually change the brain chemistry in most circumstances. Just like with any addiction, many people can break free for a period of time, or even for good. But it won’t happen without a lot of intentional, painful effort on their part. They actually say that this type of addiction is harder to break than a heroine addiction. But it CAN be broken! However, it won’t be broken if the addicted person feeds himself with excuses.

      No matter what you do, don’t be lead into doing that, which you feel convicted that you shouldn’t (such as watching videos, or looking at pictures, or going to strip joints to watch things like that). You would be bringing another person into your marital bed–whether it is physically, through your imaginations, or virtually. And that is never acceptable. Hold true to your standards. Don’t lower yourself to go down to standards that God would not condone. Have fun sexually with your husband… yes! But don’t bring another person into it whether it is through your imaginations or physically. He would be pulling you into his sin. Don’t go there. Expect more of your husband. He can break free, but he has to want to bad enough. There is a lot of help out there if he wants to reach out for it (which you would see within the “Pornography and Cybersex” topic).

      And if he is “on the road” all the time and works “24/7” then he has more opportunities to give into his toxic behavior. Something needs to change so that he is with you more, and he has someone other than you to be accountable to when you aren’t with him.

      You talk about your “crutch.” I don’t know what that is, but I don’t have to. I recommend that you talk to a counselor of some type. If you don’t know of a marriage-friendly counselor, then contact the ministry of Focus on the Family. Go to their web site at focusonthefamily.com and find their counseling section. They have counselors on staff there that can point you in the right direction for future help. I wish we could help you, but we are limited in that way. I believe they would be a good place to start after prayer. Pray for Divine guidance. I’m joining you in praying for that. Don’t make excuses for your husband to continue on with bad behavior; look to the Lord to help you to help him and you to take your marriage to a healthy place. I pray God leads you as you put your hand in His while you travel on this rocky road. God is a “very present help in a time of trouble.” Please remember that! God bless!