“Happiness is not so much in having as sharing. We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Norman MacEwan

“If I could impart a desire in your heart it would be the gift to Love through the hurt.”

I am writing this to give you the insight I didn’t have. Through my pain comes my passion—to share what is not widely known. To help men and women realize their greatest need and the single biggest reason why marriages break down. I’ve shared the greatest need and the single biggest reason with thousands of men and women who, after hearing it, affirmed it, yet hadn’t before realized it.

I hope you will see what to stop doing and what you can start doing to help build-up your marriage and relationships so you can have more joy, peace, and gratitude in your life.

“It’s not greener on the other side of the fence; it’s greener where you water it.”

It took thirty years, three children, two marriages, losing my fifty-million-dollar company, and much heartache before I cracked the mystery—or better yet, my skull—and discovered Hiz and Herz Greatest Need and the single biggest reason why marriages break down. The damage I caused to my wife, my children, and my career was more than I could’ve ever imagined. I felt like I chucked my family over a cliff. Like I threw them away. They were so innocent and never asked for the cruel abandonment.

But I was still only focused on what I wanted. I wanted to be loved. I wanted what I felt I never had. I didn’t realize the destructive impact my choices would have on the lives of my children, my former wife, and other family members. Emotional scars never really go away; they impact the journey of our lives—and can shape our hearts for good. Why didn’t I see it sooner? Why don’t we see ourselves more clearly? Why are we so selfish and bent on wanting things our own way?

Our world is filled with so many broken men and women who keep hurting each other and running away to the next relationship. Looking for love in the circle of fear, not caring about anyone but ourselves—wanting to be loved. If we look for a way out instead of a way through, our love for our spouse won’t grow. As you read my book, I hope you will see how to save your marriage, enrich your marriage, and realize the back door or over the fence for greener pastures is never the answer. It’s true, it takes two to make a marriage, but it’s also true that love is contagious. From my heart to yours, you’ve been given the capacity to love with whatever it takes. The rewards are worth it and everlasting. God bless you.

“If you want to bust up the world, bust up the family. If you want to bust up the family, bust up the marriage.”

So how do we keep the marriage going? We start by understanding the greatest need of men and women in a marriage, the single biggest reason why marriages break down, and how we build it up.

Men and women in a relationship each have a single, primary need that drives them. This need is not the same for husband and wife but, rather, tends to differ based on gender. Women’s primary need in a relationship is different from men’s primary need in that same relationship, but these needs are nonetheless equal and complementary to each other. When one or both spouses suffer from an unmet primary need in their marriage, the marriage inevitably breaks down.

A man’s greatest need (in some form) is Significance.

A woman’s greatest need is Security (Emotional and Physical).

Certainly, we all have many other needs, but it is men’s primary need for a feeling of significance, and women’s primary need for a feeling of security, that are most integral to our relationships. These needs give insight into how we want to be loved at our very core.

Let me start off by sharing with you my Coin Theory. On one side of the coin, in the beginning of the relationship, the Sex and the Roses were great! He felt like number one (Significance) and she was going to live happily ever after! But then the white picket fence comes along (security). She finds herself trying to drag his butt over to the other side of the fence, which needs commitment and responsibility, and he is saying it’s not as fun over here.

Ladies, he still needs you to play over here where you found him—the things that drew him into the relationship in the beginning are still important to him as the relationship progresses.

After the children come along, our married couple finds that something changes…she’s changed. Her number one priority has suddenly shifted. Her attention naturally becomes focused primarily on the children, often at the expense of her husband. At some point, every guy will feel like he is less important—not number one anymore. She doesn’t get why he doesn’t get what she is getting. And he usually doesn’t know how to handle it or talk about it. He hasn’t had the same internal change that she has, nor was he really prepared for this shift in their relationship. Every man wants to be his wife’s hero. He might suck at it, but he still wants to be her number one.

When a man and woman have sex, the neurotransmitter oxytocin is released. This chemical strengthens the bond of love between them—it’s the commitment chemical in our brains that makes us want to be together forever. This is an amazing chemical bond that creates a oneness between two people. It fills each other’s cup. But now that the children are born, mom is also getting her cup filled from her interactions with them, not to mention the priority she now places on meeting the needs of the children. This is, in part, because oxytocin is also released in huge amounts during childbirth, and when nursing and interacting with her baby. Men experience oxytocin release around their children too, but in far more conservative quantities.

This is not to say that men experience less love for their children, by any means, but rather to emphasize that when the baby is born and during the first few years of life, the mother has a natural physiological reaction to the baby. That reaction ensures she will dedicate herself fully to meeting the baby’s needs, thus better ensuring its survival and development. Fathers have been shown to contribute more to the childrearing process once the children are older—around toddler and school age. Before this, though they may love and tend to their children, their role is somewhat limited because babies have a greater need for their mothers at this early stage of their life.

With this change in the family dynamics, a man’s desire for his wife can seem to go up, all the while mom’s desire and time is taken up with the children. Therefore, in a way, the children are pulling the teeter-totter out of balance from the way it used to be. This can be confusing and disheartening for the husband, as he feels left out and excluded. His sense of his own significance to his wife and family is often abruptly lessened and may not rise back to previous levels for several years—this can be compounded when the family continues to grow, and Mom is constantly focused on the newest addition to the family.

When a man feels insignificant, his typical reaction is to retreat. He goes inside himself and withdraws. This is a fear-based emotional response. This is far more common for men than it is for women. His logic is that he must not be as important to her as he used to be. Many men can turn to other escapes or coping behaviours (e.g., work, drinking, porn, gambling, television, etc.)—when deep inside, what he really wants is his wife. He wants to feel like he matters to her again. He wants to feel significant. When a man retreats, her need for security is threatened and she can be left feeling extremely insecure. She’s often just as confused by the change in their relationship as he is, but from her perspective life is wonderful and fulfilling and they have a beautiful baby together, yet for some reason, he is pulling away from their family. She has feelings of abandonment and can’t understand what his problem is.

This, too, is a fear-based emotional response. It’s a natural reaction. Even if he hasn’t left physically, he may be emotionally withdrawn. It feels to her like he doesn’t want what she wants and is abandoning her and the children. Her typical reaction is to attack or reject her husband—a basic fight or flight instinct when faced with a threatening situation. When she is attacking, she’s trying to say, “Don’t you abandon me!” When she’s rejecting, she’s trying to protect herself from his rejection by rejecting him first, saying, “I don’t need you anyway!” Because, if she doesn’t need him, his rejection can’t hurt her—or so she convinces herself to keep her heart safe. She doesn’t even realize she is doing it. This is a typical, natural response made from fear and the need for security. Women can also turn to escapes as well in this situation (e.g., friends, other men, etc.).

When she attacks or rejects him, he feels even more insignificant to her—the one person he wants to be most significant to is rejecting or attacking him—so he retreats some more, making her feel even more insecure, and her insecurity causes her to attack or reject again. And around and around it goes, with the gap getting wider and wider. More fear, more blame, and more hurt—building and building until both don’t even know why it all started or how to get out of the mess. This is just one of the marital circumstances in which this cycle can occur. I use it here because it’s the most prominent.

The reason behind a broken relationship is almost always that one spouse’s greatest need was not being met and, as a result of this unmet need, the couple spiraled into this cycle. Self-awareness, a willingness to change, and a skilled and knowledgeable marriage counselor can help prevent and repair such tragic misunderstandings. Keep in mind it will depend on you and your spouse doing the hard work – the heart work – over the long haul to bring about the loving changes you need. We get more of what we don’t want by trying to get what we want instead of finding out what it is our spouse wants and needs from us. It’s unawareness and fear that keep the relationship in turmoil until someone says, I’m done or, hopefully, Let’s get some help.

Now that you are aware of your own greatest need and that of your spouse, and how it affects your behaviors in times of stress, I hope you can take this insight and use it to help you break the cycle that ends marriages. Not only can you use this knowledge to save your marriage, but you can also use it to enrich your marriage by ensuring that you pay close attention to your spouse’s need for Significance or Security so that you can take positive, affirming steps toward keeping it fulfilled.

Caring for your spouse’s greatest need benefits the entire family. When the parents are happy, the children are happy too.

When a man loves his children, picks up the vacuum, plans for date night or family time, and makes dinner, he is loving his wife. He is fulfilling her need for a sense of security by demonstrating how important his family is to him and making concrete efforts to love his family and keep them healthy and safe.

When a wife is loving her husband, she is loving her children (e.g., Believing in him, cheer-leading him, and respecting him, not mothering him, and making requests not demands, etc.). She is fulfilling his need to feel significant, and in doing so shows him how important he is to her and their family, which encourages him to stay engaged and benefits the kids by giving them an active, loving, and supportive father.

In addition, the children will better know what a loving marriage means when they get married. If you don’t have your marriage, you don’t have a family. Children are better when parents are better. They are not so good when mom and dad’s marriage is not so good. Parents are the biggest influence on a child’s life, and this carries with them for their adult life and into their own marriage.

Yet the biggest influence on your children is not your parenting, it’s your marriage. Your love for each other brings them love and identity and unity. My father once told me about a time when he and my mom were flying back from Florida and a wife was showing affection to her husband while their two-year-old daughter was sitting on their lap. She kissed her husband and their daughter’s face lit up with a big smile.

“When a husband is loving his children, he is loving his wife.”

“When a wife is loving her husband, she is loving her children.”

Some husbands understand that loving their children is what makes the family tick. Most moms naturally place high importance on the children, by design, and they like it when their husband shares the parenting. Yet what is surprisingly unknown, by most women, is that when a wife is loving her husband, she is loving her children. My mom has told me that she didn’t realize this until I shared it with her. Prior to children, women show their husband how important he is. They spend time together and he feels important (valued). Admittedly, men don’t usually think in the pathway of loving the children as their default way to loving their wife. Most men want to love their wife directly, which can put stress on their wife because her priority is often for the children. It can be quite the mysterious disconnect.

Until we understand this and see the pattern, we won’t begin to take the needed steps to change. Unfortunately, most couples have been modeled this behaviour by their own parents and others in their lives, and not taught how to love their mates in the way that they need to be loved. From my research of over 11,000 men and women, as well as researching books and attending conferences, and all avenues of inquiry I have examined, have led me straight back to this conclusion. It has become apparent that these two statements alone could be considered the most insightful pieces of knowledge one can take from my book.

The other part of this entire concept that I want to highlight is the autopilot fear-based response that tends to occur because of a husband’s or wife’s unmet primary need. Women attack or reject when they feel their security is threatened, and men retreat when they feel insignificant or unimportant to the one that they love. This seems to go around and around—it’s these two fear-based responses that I’ve discovered to be the single biggest reason why marriages break down.

When parents are making their relationship a priority and loving one another, it ripples out to the children. Children need to see the love their parents have for each other and how they work together (e.g., showing patience, resolving conflict, forgiveness, building trust, etc.). Some parents say that if their marriage isn’t working out, then maybe they should split. This is a cop-out. It may seem like the easy way out, yet in the long run, this is damaging. I can speak from personal experience and have seen the destructive effects of divorce on families. Getting the marriage back on track and loving each other will be way better for all involved.

Are you on the Right Track?

A woman is a barometer of a man’s character—she is watching her man. She looks for integrity, purpose, work ethic, confidence, kindness, and strength that goes the distance and doesn’t give up. Typically, a woman knows and cares if her man is on the right track in life. Yes, women may want the edgy and spontaneous guy at times. Yet, overall, a woman wants a man that has those basic, reliable values and character traits—and that he values his wife in their relationship and the family. He is to be a ‘One Woman Man’. She wants to be able to count on his word and his actions. He is dependable, honest, and responsible. He’ll be there. He’ll be her rock. He’ll sacrifice his selfishness for her needs and for the children.

When a man is on the right track and pointed in the direction of God’s love, he lives out the qualities she’s looking for. When he is off track, she knows it, and her gauges (feelings, insecurities, and actions) will let him know. Sometimes it doesn’t come out so nice—yes, she may attack or reject. When a man is loving his wife in the way he was designed, he is courageous, patient, kind, and a man of integrity. He keeps working and persevering. He’s there for her no matter what.

Fathers are important to their sons’ and daughters’ lives. In fact, a father has a higher impact on character, and a mother has a higher impact on nurturing. It’s unfortunate that much of our society has degraded the tremendous value of both men and women—as well as the family. Many TV programs have shown this gradual trend of lowering the bar. It’s important to recognize how integral your spouse is to the health and wellbeing of your family as a whole. When we recognize each other’s value, we’ll treat each other with more love and understanding.

Men’s greatest need is for significance. By meeting your husband’s need to feel significant to you, and by showing him and telling him how important he is, you reaffirm his commitment to the family. Women’s greatest need is for security. When you meet your wife’s need for security by showing and telling her that you are committed to taking care of her and the kids, you make her feel safe enough to rely on you and show you love. The single greatest reason that marriages break up is that husbands and wives fail to meet each other’s greatest need, and this leads to a vicious cycle of attack or rejection and retreat. If we want a loving, healthy, stable family, it’s imperative that we recognize our spouse’s greatest need so that we can avoid that cycle. Remember, when a man is loving his children, he is loving his wife—and when a wife is loving her husband, she is loving her children.

Now, on to what I believe to be the greatest ways a husband can love his wife and a wife can love her husband. I have affirmed this with thousands of men and women. In combination with other keys ways to love your spouse, you can rebuild your relationship.

For men, loving your wife when you have been attacked or rejected, and staying in the fire with love for her, is one of the most important things you can do. Never give-up or quit loving her, no matter what happens. Even though she says or shows you that she wants nothing to do with you, it’s not what she is really feeling in her heart. I know this is confusing, but it is more than likely the case. Looking past the wrongs and the hurtful behaviour and seeing her pain and need for love is the only way to let her know she is safe and that you will never leave her, no matter what. Remember, hurt people tend to hurt people, and being able to forgive and see past the behaviour is key to your unconditional love.

For women, loving your husband is believing in him and letting him know you need him, desire him, respect him, and admire him, even when you feel abandoned. When his tank is empty, he needs your fuel—your love and cheerleading. Also realize that when you attack him or reject him, his reaction may be to retreat because he is not feeling good about himself. Please don’t take this as him abandoning you. Take this as a clue that you need to let him know how important he is to you. Your man wants to be your hero. He may struggle with how or knowing what to do or how to love you, yet he needs to know when and how he is doing with words of appreciation or physical affection. He needs to know what you like and need.

This is a life-long journey of togetherness, communication, and growth. It takes time with an invested heart and mind over the long haul. The richness comes along the way.

When a man treats his wife like a queen and a woman treats her husband like a king, they make a great team.

Article contributed by Brent Taylor, author of Hiz & Herz Greatest Need: The Single Biggest Reason Why Marriages Break Down And How to Build Them Back Up