Golden Rule of Marriage (2)My wife recently told me about a friend of hers who decided to give her boyfriend flowers for their anniversary.

She figured that she would love getting flowers, so why not get them for her boyfriend?

He would love them!

He was less than thrilled.

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Oh, sure, he thanked her for the gift. But he definitely didn’t love the flowers.

And my wife’s friend an important lesson about relationships.

It’s a mistake we all make at times. What did she learn?

Don’t take the Golden Rule too literally.

Here is the Golden Rule, as taught by Jesus:

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12 (NIV)

So, don’t buy your husband flowers because you would like flowers.

Do think about what your husband would like and get that, because you would like him put thought into the perfect gift for you.

But you’ve probably heard or read this advice a million times already.

“Don’t buy your wife golf clubs because you would like getting them.” I’ve probably seen that exact example 100 times.

Gift giving is just one example of taking the Golden Rule too literally. There are many other, more subtle, ways for you to make this mistake.

One of the most critical areas you can get this wrong is in meeting your spouse’s core needs.

Your Spouse’s Core Needs

Have you ever met a couple that is just brimming with love?

And not a new couple, either. A couple that has been married for years but are still obviously in love.

You can see it how they talk to each other, and look at each other, and smile when they are together. They laugh and flirt and lovingly tease each other.

Or have you seen a couple that looks like they can barely stand each other?

They don’t spend much time together, but when they do sparks are flying. And not the good kind of sparks.

They bicker back and forth, treat each other sarcastically, and generally make life unpleasant for each other and anyone else unfortunate enough to witness it.

Both these couples are where they are because of how they’ve handled their core needs.

Let’s take a look at 3 different ways of looking at core needs, according to 3 authors.

Love and Respect

Love and RespectIn his book “Love and Respect”, Emerson Eggerichs explains that a wife’s core need is to feel loved and a husband’s core need is to feel respected.

He also suggests that women see the world through “love colored lenses”, meaning that a well intentioned wife will naturally be able to show love for her husband, but respecting him is more difficult.

And men see the world through “respect colored lenses”, so a man easily knows how to respect his wife, but he struggles to show her love.

The 5 Love Languages

The 5 Love LanguagesGary Chapman describes a similar problem in his book “The 5 Love Languages”.

He says that there are 5 primary ways that people communicate love, and most people have 1 or 2 primary love languages.

Spouses that have different love languages usually try to show love to their spouse in their own love language, leaving the spouse feeling unloved and neglected.

The 5 love languages are:

  • Words of Affirmation
  • Acts of Service
  • Gifts
  • Quality Time
  • Physical Touch

My wife scores high on Acts of Service, while I score high on Physical Touch. This can lead to conflict because we each want to show love in different ways.

You and your spouse can take the 5 Love Languages Survey when you pick up the book to learn what each other’s needs are so you can be more intentional about meeting them.

The Most Important Emotional Needs

His Needs, Her NeedsIn “His Needs, Her Needs” author William F. Harley Jr. outlines 10 different “most important emotional needs” and explains that husbands and wives usually have opposite scores for these needs.

Five are usually more important for women and the other five are usually more important for men.

But they can be mixed in any way in any specific relationship.

He says that feelings of romantic love are the result of your core emotional needs being met.

The 10 emotional needs are:

  • Affection
  • Sexual Fulfillment
  • Conversation
  • Recreational Companionship
  • Honesty and Openness
  • Physical Attractiveness
  • Financial Support
  • Domestic Support
  • Family Commitment
  • Admiration

You and your spouse can take the Emotional Needs Questionnaire when you pick up the book to learn about each others core emotional needs.

Do Unto Your Spouse What THEY Need to Feel Loved

While these authors have different ways of looking at core needs, they all agree that couples aren’t very good at meeting each other’s needs. It’s instinctual to try to make your spouse happy by doing what would make you happy.

One of the keys to a passionate marriage is to be intentional about learning and fulfilling your spouse’s core needs.

Another concept from Harvey’s “His Needs, Her Needs” is the love bank. When you do things to meet your spouse’s core needs you are depositing units into his or her love bank, which creates feelings of romantic love, intimacy, and trust.

Neglecting core needs and negative interactions withdraw units from the love bank, which can cause resentment, bitterness, and even hate if the balance goes too far into the negative.

So the happy couple from our example above has learned how to keep their love banks full, while the other couple has a negative balance from neglect and poor treatment.

If this couple learns to focus on meeting each other’s core needs, they can fill up their love banks again completely turn their marriage around.

Maybe you’re somewhere in the middle. Maybe your marriage is ok, but not full of passion and intimacy.

If you as a couple learn how to meet each other’s core needs and keep your love banks full by avoiding withdrawals, you can have a more passionate, engaged marriage.

A great way to get started is to check out the books discussed above (Love and RespectThe 5 Love Languages or His Needs, Her Needs) and pick the one that resonates the most with you. 

Read it, discuss it and put it into action – you’ll be so glad you did!

Author Bio: Daniel Robertson is a husband and father and writes to improve Christian marriages at God’s Help For Marriage. Download his free report to learn 3 Simple Keys to Create More Passion and Intimacy in Your Marriage.


About the author 


Dustin Riechmann created Engaged Marriage to help other married couples live a life they love (especially) when they feel too busy to make it happen. He has many passions, including sharing ways to enjoy an awesome marriage in 15 minutes a day, but his heart belongs with his wife Bethany and their three young kids.

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  1. Great article. It is easy to see how a well-meaning couple could lose their way by not understanding this concept.

  2. I made a careless mistake & chose giving flowers to a man a few years back. Each day I waited for him to leave (Real Estate) The office thought I was a delivery person He wasnt speakimg to me and no I didn’t cheat. I verbally was disrespectful in front of his friends.
    Monday a single white Rose. Tuesday 2 yellows.
    Wed 3 purple
    Thurs 6 bright multicolored. One of the girls finally asked who they were from. I said from me. You kmow some, they had to ask why. I simply said ,Becas I screwed up amd want him to know I am sorry. Thurs night I ran by stores picking up everything related to Coffee for my Java Man. Friday I picked up my order of course a Dozen Red Roses Then twist tied The candies, chocolate covered coffee beans from Starbucks, Assorted Biscotti homemade giant cookies and 2 basketball tickets to the stems. This time I waited til the am meeting was over and waltzed in hidimg behind the forest of flowers while he was there. He turned as bright as the flowers and had a huge grin. Had I sent him flowers all week? I said heck no. Do you know what they charge for deliver? When he asked why I looked at the nosy staff and repeated Cause I screwed up and I am Sorry. Have a good Day and I left not giving time for him to catch me. by the time I got to my car the whole staff was at his desk. My deed didnt warrant such outward display. I didn’t want a ring. It gave him reason to forgive and we have been good friends since. Was it the flower Probably not. Outwardly expressing my sincere apology becas I messed up in front of the agents and staff. Maybe all the attention when he could of been angry and feeling low. Whatever it was that man has not hesitated to help me when asked. Nor I for him. For those like me who arent perfect. It truly isnt the gift but the thought that counts. Focusing on what makes a person special and going out of your way to find and present the gift says a whole lot about how a person feels about you. Letting his peers kid him about this woman who jumped thru hoops to say sorry is priceless. And the memory “I am Loved” he gets to keep forever.

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