In marriage, we need each other

I don’t know you personally, but I do know something about you. Don’t worry — your secret is safe with me. I know that you are a needy person.
Again, don’t worry that I’ll blow your cover, but I do have to tell you that you are in very good company. All of us are needy and have been since the day we were born.
Part of our neediness has dealt with the basics of food, clothing, and shelter, but what I want to address are the relationship and emotional needs that we all have.
I think I saw a list somewhere that detailed more than 300 specific emotional needs of human beings. I prefer the shorter list of 30 that I read recently and, even better, the list of 10 which I will share with you in this post.
My information for this list comes from David and Teresa Ferguson, co-founders of Intimate Life Ministries in Austin, Texas. David and Teresa married at the ripe old age of 16. The morning after the wedding a friend came by the motel and asked David if he’d like to play pool. Since Teresa was sleeping, he figured he would go, leaving Teresa to wake up husband-less on the first day of their wedded lives.
I hope your marriage started later in life and got off to a far less rocky beginning. David and Teresa have now been married more than 50 years and have helped thousands of couples around the world to develop close, intimate marriages.
In one of their workshops, called More than Married, the Fergusons have participants look at ten specific relational needs which were supposed to have been met during childhood. These needs are (in alphabetical order): acceptance, affection, appreciation, approval, attention, comfort, encouragement, respect, security and support.
These needs are ingrained into our humanity and, again, are supposed to be met by parents, siblings, extended family, etc. The problem for so many of us is that they weren’t. At least they weren’t met as they should have been.
During one particular exercise in the workshop, couples are asked to review the ten needs and determine if Mom or Dad met them well. If Mom met them, participants draw a semi-circle beside the need. If dad met them, they draw another semi-circle by the need. Thus if both met the need, there is a complete circle. If one or the other met it, there would be one half-circle, and if neither met the need, there would be no marks at all.
It grieves me to tell you that a great percentage of participants have very few whole circles. Many have half circles and far too many have no marks beside the needs.
There is bad news/good news in what I’m saying here. The bad news is that we cannot undo past damage and/or neglect. Though we might always yearn for the comforting embrace of a mother or the encouraging words of a father, that simply may never happen. (Please don’t be too hard on your parents. Chances are pretty high that they didn’t get those needs met by their parents either.)
The good news is that marriage provides an opportunity for a do-over. Needs that were not satisfied in childhood and growing up years can be met within the confines of a marriage. The problem is we don’t often tell our spouse what it is that we really need from them. Often we don’t even know ourselves what it is we desire.
The Fergusons developed a questionnaire to help people determine their top three relational needs. While we all have all 10, it is quite likely that some will be more impactful and needed than others. Armed with this vital information, each spouse then has a far greater chance of hitting the mark and satisfying each other’s deepest needs. Do that well, and you are well on your way to having a close, intimate marriage.

Ron Price is the co-founder and executive director of the Four Corners Coalition for Marriage & Family, a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to strengthening and equipping marriages and families in the Four Corners area. He can be reached at
ronp@fccmf.org, or (505) 327-7870.