When Your Husband Doesn’t “Meet Your Needs”: Fighting for Marriage

A couple I know very well are getting a divorce after almost 3 decades of marriage. The husband discovered she was having an affair.

I am heart-broken. They are heart-broken. Everyone who knows them is heart-broken. They were professing believers.

Every time I hear another story like this one, my first thoughts are, “How?” “Why?”

And every story is different. But in this story, and many like it, the wife admits her husband was good to her, but just “didn’t meet all of her emotional needs.” I don’t know the statistics, but I’m guessing this is the most likely reason (excuse) given by women for having affairs.

I know there are struggles and nightmares only the women in those situations can imagine. This post isn’t meant to discourage that woman. I’m specifically talking here about a normal marriage where a husband is loving the best way he knows how.

We are missing one, big, blaring thing:

Our husbands are not meant to, able to, or equipped to meet all our emotional needs and we need to stop expecting them to. 

If we were honest, what we really want in our husbands is another woman. You know, a person who instinctively knows when something is wrong, or senses when we’re “off” and probes at our hearts to try to find the reason. Someone sensitive and intuitive and responsive. Yes, that’s a wonderful thing, but it doesn’t come naturally to our men (not most anyway) and that doesn’t mean they are failures at being a husband, thus giving us justification to go have our needs met somewhere else.

And here’s a news flash: whatever need your husband isn’t meeting will likely not be met by the new guy either after the thrill of a taboo rendezvous wears off.

Yes, husbands are commanded to be gentle and kind, even laying down their lives for us. (I’m not trying to gloss over his responsibility or justify his abdication. But my audience isn’t men, so that leaves me with addressing the other side.) Sometimes though, that’s not enough. And in that case, we are not looking to Christ to fulfill what only He can.

I want to challenge myself and you: we cannot let familiarity with our husbands become a catalyst for discontentment. To say “He [the new guy] gives me attention my husband doesn’t” is to state an obvious fact of life. We are all probably more courteous to the guy/girl next to us in the checkout line if a conversation develops. We smile at strangers and put on our best for others. We’re generally nicer and more attentive to people with whom we do not share a life. That’s a given.

The comfort of being one flesh with your spouse cannot be displaced by the heightened enjoyment of another’s attention.

And another thing…

I think that if we spent more time BEING what our spouse needs instead of pining away for what we think we need, we may just find him becoming more attentive and loving.

My earnest prayer for you is to cherish your marriage and if you find yourself dissatisfied and struggling, seek help and counsel, making restoration a top priority. Divorce is tragic and it cannot take place without ripping people apart. God is able to heal and restore and renew the love and commitment made before Him. I pray that we will fight for our marriages with a tenacity that holds on when everything else says to let go.

38 Responses to “When Your Husband Doesn’t “Meet Your Needs”: Fighting for Marriage”

  1. Charlotte Moore says:

    Oh my, how true this is. So sad to see families torn apart. The devil is working hard to destroy the family.

  2. I have heard this reason given for dissatisfaction in marriage numerous times and it is tragic and unbiblical. There is NOTHING in the bible that states that husbands are to meet their wives emotional needs, especially since they have a difficult time understanding them and they often change. Not being happy is another big one. If they only understood that marriage is a commitment until death do they part, they would understand the bond that holds marriage together instead of some silly notion about their own emotional needs and happiness.

  3. Natalie says:

    Thank you Kelly. My darling sister and her husband are really struggling. Even though I know divorce is not is not the answer, she is in a lot of pain…I don’t know what to say. Praying!!!
    I love Paul Washer’s teaching that God will not give us a spouse who is compatible to us (on Youtube). God will likely give us a spouse that does not meet our expectations in the areas that we most want them to meet our expectations.
    I cannot imagine being in a marriage without knowing the Lord. I am so thankful that God meets the needs that my husband could not possibly meet.

  4. Gwen says:

    I have prayed for your friends just now, and I agree with what you said. I can say from personal experience that God is able to restore what was lost in a marriage, when it all seemed dead and buried, to far better than it was before. Thank you for standing up for Biblical marriage.

  5. Brandi says:

    Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.- 1 Peter 3:7

  6. Regina says:

    In my marriage, my husband practically ignores me. No one would believe me (except people close to me) because he is a friendly person. Over the years he has drifted away and doesn’t even approach me sexually anymore (4 years?). I think this article is a bit unfair to women who truly suffering and are lonely in marriage. It’s real hurt and real pain. And through much prayer and even fasting I am able to love and be happy and even attentive to his needs when I am able to figure out what they are. This wasn’t the way our relationship started, he was loving and engaged when we got married. But as his career excelled his family became less and less of a priority. Two of my children have left our home with anger towards him, and the oldest left at home is struggling too. It hurts to be ignored! God made us to be relational and we were told in the garden our desire would be for our husband (now I understand why that might be part of the curse on women) I’ve struggled in our marriage, and even considered leaving or cheating- but only in moments of weakness, because ultimately my greatest devotion is to Christ, and I would not want to do anything to shame His name.
    I’m just thinking if a woman in my position came across my path, my advice to her wouldn’t be “quit thinking about your own need”, but rather compassion would overwhelm me to point her to Christ to meet those needs, because her needs are real. My husband is “good to me” too. But the lack of relationship sometimes is more than I can bear. I usually appreciate your articles, but this one made me sad. Blessings.

    • Regina,

      I in NO way wanted this article to be hurtful. It was for that reason that I included this part:

      “I know there are struggles and nightmares only the women in those situations can imagine. But in this story, and many like it, the wife admits her husband was good to her…”

      Without exception, every time I’ve written an article on marriage, I’ve gotten comments similar to yours. The thing is, one article can’t address every struggle. I specifically wished to address a normal marriage where a man just simply falls short, in his wife’s eyes, of meeting her every need, but is a kind, loving husband.

      Perhaps I’ll reword the post to try to better reflect my intentions.

    • Also, I’m so sorry you are enduring such heartache. I truly can’t imagine. I’m thankful that you are clinging to Christ and that even amid true testing, you are bringing glory to Him.

    • Brandi says:

      My prayers and heart go out to you Regina. I too am ignored by my husband and my adult children suffer with trying to understand why there dad is not engaged in their life. But my hope lies in Christ and I have to believe one day my husband will love me as Christ loved the church.

    • Nikki says:


      I agree. And I understand what you’re saying totally. I thought the same thing as I read the article and some of the comments.

  7. D. says:

    We know from I Peter 3:7 that husbands are to live with their wives in an understanding way, showing her honour. From Colossians the husband is reminded not to be harsh towards his wife and in Ephesians, husbands are called to love their wives, as they love themselves! Whew! That’s a tall order. In as much as I strongly believe that many Christian marriages are in jeopardy because the husband has negated his calling, it is not an excuse for the wife to give up hope or forget her calling.

    God has designed it that the man is to lead, by being a servant. God has designed men and women differently, yet in that position of being a servant, God intended for a husband to be aware of his wife’s emotional needs (this is part of living with his wife in an understanding way). BUT…..we know that in most marriages this is not happening and if we believe in God’s sovereignty, then we know that He allows the wives needs to feel unmet in order that she will cling to Christ. God’s purposes are always greater than what we initially see. So that husband that doesn’t meet our needs is all a part of God’s work of sanctification in the wife.

    What wife wouldn’t joyfully submit to the kind of husband the Bible speaks of? Yet God is concerned with our being conformed to His image and that can’t happen unless trials come our way.

  8. Nikki,

    So is there no way for me to qualify the article to address a much-needed topic of women who are disgruntled in a normal marriage?

  9. Stefanie says:

    First of all, Regina, my heart goes out to you.

    Marriage, if it were simple we might all be bored. In our instant and anonymous society, thanks in to the internet and smartphones, as a whole we feign connection with “the world” as family connections fall by the wayside. Marriage is a covenant between God, husband and wife.

    Last year, after 15 years of being ignored emotionally, physically and mentally, I snapped. Watching him flirt with very young females in front of our son and I fed my coping mechanism, anorexia. I nearly lost the life God gave me more than several times. Trying to “please” him. Willing to give everything, do anything, to “save” my marriage. Having prayed and begged God for 16 years, I am still the faithful wife. However, because I am in a healthier state, he blames me for any little thing and says that I am crazy because I think we need marriage and family counseling. It has been years since I first asked and have diligently requested it.

    So, secondly, I am saddened at the shaming tone of today’s article. She deserves mercy. I will not cast a stone. Their story should be a reminder to appreciate our good and bad times. We don’t have highs without the lows to which we can compare them. I pray for God’s will in their lives.

    Respectfully and prayerfully,

    • Stefanie,

      I have the greatest compassion for you and women like you. But this article is not about you or your husbands. I don’t know how else I could have made that any clearer. I said the husband in this situation was a loving man and that’s the starting point for the rest of the article.

      Yes, there are some women who need to be told that they are expecting something there husbands can’t give them and it’s not fair and it’s killing their marriages. I’ve seen too many of them (including the case in my post) and to shame ME for speaking to those women is wrong.

      I don’t have any answers for those of you in hard, abusive marriages. I really don’t. If it were me, I’d be pulling someone alongside to help us, even if my husband tried to resist counseling. Our church has a Scriptural view of discipline and accountability and that would be my first stop. I’ve seen them lovingly and wisely invest in couples and call the men out if they were being less than loving and sacrificial.

      This post is about expecting more than a husband might be able to give, about being emotionally dependent on a GOOD husband instead of relying on Christ to fill our emotional tanks.

      Please see it for what it is. I can’t speak to everyone in every circumstance, and frankly, it’s frustrating that I can’t speak of a common problem in marriage without getting rebuked.

  10. Joy A says:

    Thank you for this article Kelly. This article reminded me of the book, ” It’s Not That Complicated” written by the Botkin Sisters.
    I really believe that women do tend to have the wrong kind of love in their heads that they think that they need from their husbands but that is not as natural to men as to women. I have found that many of the men I know whom are more romantic minded have learned this from their wives encouraging them in their marriage. We really do need to talk to our husbands and explain any needs that we have that we think that they should be meeting. However, if the wife focuses on her husbands needs and following Biblical patterns and examples she should be content and happy, it is when the worlds view of love (Hollywood and novels) gets into our heads that we are being unfair to our husbands and have the wrong idea of “true” love.

  11. Natalie says:

    After reading some of the comments, I had to reread the post to make sure I had not missed anything. What I hear is the encouragement to cling to Christ and to not have unrealistic expectations of our husband. Thank you for sharing the truth in love. Even in my sister’s marriage (husband had Intensive Brain Trauma and is a different man than she married)…I know there is hope. Because of the Gospel, I know there is hope!!!

  12. Kari Collins says:

    I had not planned to read this post, because honestly my husband is wonderful. He is wonderful to me because He belongs to God and God has grown him tremendously over the years. I used to pray he would be the spiritual leader in our family. God answered. He was mentored by different men as the Bible says to do. I didn’t do anything, my husband sought out those men. Now I go to him for wisdom and I look to him to follow and trust him as he seeks God’s will for our lives. Reading these posts, though, made me hurt for the women who are struggling with men that clearly are either not believers, not following God, or do not have other God-fearing men in their lives to correct them. It actually makes me mad at those husbands. That is not God’s plan! BUT, first we have to pluck the plank out of our own eyes before we can take the splinter out of theirs. I think that is what this post was doing. We as women need to first look at ourselves and see if there is ANYTHING we may be doing that is sinning in God’s eyes concerning our husbands. We cannot fix them, only God can. Okay, so here goes-please don’t hate me- I just want to mention some things I think we see in scripture that would help our marriages. First a woman should be at home keeping the home, a woman should be helping to disciple her children morning, noon, and night teaching them diligently God’s Word, we should be submitting to our husband’s leadership and decision making in our home, we should not be the head of the household in any way, we should make sure our children view their father in a positive light (even if he doesn’t deserve it- simply by not speaking negatively of him to ANYONE), we should encourage our husbands, our husband should come before our kids and friends and family, We should not nag our husbands, we should be diligent workers at home with a meal ready for him and a clean house (as best we can- Oh how I fail here!!), we should seek to please him even before ourselves. Our focus should be on making him look good in others eyes, even in his own eyes. When we put him first and he puts us first we have a happy marriage. You can only do your part and obey God’s commands. Then pray that God will change his heart. If he is a believer you can expect it. If he is not then ask for God to save him. I cannot imagine being married to someone that does not believe God and submit to His word. That is what makes the difference. Remember though, God is real, He is right there with you even when it doesn’t feel like it. Even in the pain, look to Him first. Ask Him to comfort you. Repent of sin you may be committing even in your mind or heart, and work on yourself first trusting God can change your husband. I am not saying it is the wife’s sin that caused this, I am only saying we are all sinners and we can only fix ourselves. God has to do the rest. Thank you ladies for sharing your side and the hurt you are experiencing. We often don’t understand something we aren’t experiencing right now. My heart goes out to you and I pray God works a miracle in your lives.

  13. Laura says:

    Kelly, I totally understood what you were getting at. You were speaking about my marriage. My husband is a good, good man. He loves me in the best way he knows how. But I do not always feel emotionally fulfilled by him. There is a lot he doesn’t understand about me, although he tries to. I could easily write him off and say to heck with you, I’ll go find someone who knows how to read my mind. But if I’m perfectly honest, I allow myself to see how good he truly is. How much of a gift it is to have a good, steady man. The older I get the more I realize that the grass is NOT greener on the other side. So, I choose to love him anyway. And also I think we as women find it difficult to see where WE are going wrong in the marriage. Maybe my husband doesn’t know how to fulfil my every need, but I don’t know how to fulfil his either. I know I am not always kind to him. I know I don’t always respect him like I should. I know I don’t always give of myself physically to him when he needs it. I know how far I fall short. It honestly takes two to tango and the sooner I realize that I need work too, the sooner my marriage can get better.

    I see a lot of people misunderstanding what you are saying. My heart goes out to them because they must be in so much pain. But there is a huge difference between these two types of marriages: The marriage where the husband is doing his best but falls short in his wife’s eyes (which is what Kelly was talking about) and the marriage where the husband really isn’t doing his part no matter how much the wife is doing hers. There IS a difference.

    • Thank you, Laura. Yes, I think you described what many of us can so easily fall into–looking for what is wrong instead of seeing so much that is right. All the while not looking at our own shortcomings or extending the same longsuffering to our husbands that he gives us. That IS what I was trying to say.

  14. MC says:

    It’s good that we encourage women to rely on Christ to meet the needs their husbands can’t.

    I wish, though, that women weren’t so often chastised, upbraided, and even blamed for men’s adultery because of our failure to meet their every need (which sometimes, even with our “greater emotional intelligence,” we are no more equipped to meet or even understand than they are to meet ours). Sometimes I think women would feel a bit less resentful if, perhaps, it were OK for men to also have needs that only Jesus, God, or another man (not in a sexual sense) can meet.

    On that subject. I’m sure it’s not that way in every Christian circle, but in the circles where I grew up, a married woman (and certainly a mother) did not have “friends.” It was understood that when you gave birth to your first child (if not when you exchanged marriage vows), you would instantly and completely put away the “childish desire” to spend time in fellowship with other women outside of Sunday school and the occasional church function.

    I think that we, as women, would function better (and be more emotionally able to cope with those needs that, for all a husband can’t meet them, are real and immediate none the less) if it weren’t “self-service” and “sin” for us to retain, and turn to, a circle of woman friends when we need to cry, to talk for hours, to giggle in ways that make a husband shake his head.

    After a lot of depression (and a lot of angry arguments and sobbing when I asked him to listen to me talk it out), my husband and I decided to give it a try. I made friends with another mama in our community who is struggling with similar issues (and happens to have a daughter with the same minor special needs as my son).

    I still feel guilty for the time (a few hours a week) spent away from home. It’s getting better, though, especially as I realize that I’m more productive in the time I am home (because I’m not sitting in the rocking chair crying out to God to either ‘fix’ me or call me home). My mental and emotional state is much improved. So is the other mama’s. I’ve taught her some tricks for dealing with ADHD kid meltdowns without either giving in or slapping the child (just escalates the situation with both our kids). She’s taught me some tricks for getting a room clean FAST. In addition to swapping war stories about traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, and our assorted ‘alphabet soup’ (and, yes, sometimes crying about the words our husbands said that cut straight through our spirits), we trade garden produce and recipes.

    I thought it would lead to us becoming more resentful and feministic, but that hasn’t been the case. This experiment is only about a year old, but so far, the reverse seems to have been the case. It’s easier to see our husbands’ points of view when we run our feelings through another woman. We’re more likely to submit with a loving spirit once we’ve had each other’s understanding. We both find we get into fewer arguments with our husbands.

    And she and her husband and my husband and I, respectively, get more date nights!!

    I was very skeptical at first, but I’m beginning to think this might have been part of what Paul was talking about when he instructed older women to “come alongside” the younger ones. It’s not just about exhortations, admonitions, and scolding– it’s about friendship and the sharing of hearts, about tending to emotional needs that, however much we might cry out to God and however closely we might walk with Jesus, still need to be met in the flesh. There’s only 9 years’ difference between us (I’m the older, at 37), but this relationship has been instructive and beneficial (not to mention emotionally satisfying) for both of us (and our husbands to boot).

    • MC–I couldn’t have said it better. I have NO DOUBT that friendships (with the kind that love you and want to see your grow in godliness) with other women are crucial to staying emotionally healthy. If it weren’t for the handful of my close friends I know I can call and cry to, I can’t imagine life. Of course it becomes distorted if/when they take the place of your husband completely, but it’s true they can offer things, as a woman, that your husband simply can’t.

  15. korie says:

    Thank you for this post. I am reminded of a speaker who was describing a marriage counseling session he was doing with a couple. After lots of discussion, he finally realized (I don’t think he actually said aloud to the woman) “if you were married to Jesus I still don’t think you would be satisfied!”
    Coming from a good marriage (by God’s grace!)but I realize how much I need wisdom from God’s word and from older, more mature women like you Kelly to guide me in how I view my husband, marriage and family. Thank you for not just writing stuff that our itching ears always want to hear.
    No matter the state of our marriage, we all need to hold fast to Jesus Christ to “fill all in all.”

  16. Melissa Brawner says:

    Thank you. I KNOW this. And yet, as I’m reading your column, I realize that I’ve allowed some selfish attitudes and thoughts in lately. Thank you for the reminder! :)

  17. Kristen says:

    I heard a radio program about this once. The minister said that back in the day, when women were home all day, they visited with the neighbor ladies and had those emotional needs met by girlfriends instead of expecting their husbands to fill those needs. But now that women are in the work place, that bonding doesn’t happen. That idea really changed my expectations of my husband. I have a wonderful husband, but he’s not emotionally wired like a woman. So, I work at cultivating my female friendships. I can vent to my BFF and know that she will listen and commiserate with me, whereas my engineer DH will just try to “fix it”. Lol.

  18. Sherri says:

    I have to say, our husbands ARE supposed to meet our emotional needs – it’s part of loving, understanding, and becoming one! However, it’s also true he can’t meet all of them perfectly. For normal marriages where the husband is good and loving but it just doesn’t fill the wife’s “love tank” (or vice versa) READ THE 5 LOVE LANGUAGES BY GARY CHAPMAN! Pardon the all caps but everyone needs to see this. It explains how to love your spouse in ways that make them feel loved, instead of trying to do what you think they should need and wonder what’s so selfish about them that they don’t notice. Sorry, but after reading all the stories in this I just can’t buy that marriage is meant to be unfulfilling as a way to show us to lean on Christ…we are supposed to model Christ to each other, and He is love.

    • Sherri,

      No, marriage isn’t meant to be unfulfilling and I don’t think anyone here thinks that, and certainly the post didn’t imply that. Of course everyone looks at this topic through the lens of their own experience, but too many women are married to good men, who are doing their best to love their wives, but because they aren’t necessarily mind-readers or the perfect romantic type, the wife becomes disgruntled and claims her unfulfillment justifies looking elsewhere. That is unbiblical, even if her husband is falling short to strive to meet her needs. My suggestion to any woman who feels unloved/unfulfilled is to be sure she is communicating to her husband what it is that would change that. (I talk to my husband about this very thing sometimes. And he appreciates being told, because his heart desires to love me the way I want to be loved, even if he doesn’t always know what that looks like.) If he is not willing to strive for doing what he can to love his wife fully, I think they should get other people–church, counselors, etc. involved. I’m not an advocate for just chalking an unhappy marriage up to “oh well…this is your life.” I’m a believer in pro-active measures to bring two people closer to what God intended for marriage. But just because my husband doesn’t act like a woman and have a super-sensitive antenna up all the time in the midst of doing his job to love and provide for us, doesn’t mean I’m justified to go searching elsewhere for happiness.

    • D. says:


      Of course no marriage starts off with the notion to be unfulfilling, but the point is that oftentimes Christian husbands (and wives) do not take their God-given roles seriously. In the case that a husband is not meeting his wives needs, specifically emotionally, God is giving this wife an opportunity to cry out to the Lord. The wife can A.) Remind her husband all the time that she is hurting and he needs to meet her needs or B.) The wife can draw closer to the Lord and find her needs met in Him.

      For the wife who already has a godly husband, sensitive to her needs, God will use other means in her life for sanctification. Personally speaking, God has used my husband’s lack of godly leadership and unawareness of how a woman feels close through communication to show me that I need the Lord first and foremost. I don’t give up praying that one day we will have a close-knit marriage beyond just living together, but in that waiting period, it doesn’t do any good to demand that my marriage should be fulfilling.

      Either we believe that “all things work together for the good….” and pray for God’s will to be done….. or we can demand that our husbands model Christ to us.

      I hope that makes better sense. :)

  19. Michelle says:

    Kelly, this is so good! Thank you for speaking up in defense of working hard for marriage, and offering grace to our husbands who are good men, but not perfect mind readers. Your meaning was clear. I think some commenters are reading way too much into what you are saying… Not just with this post, but with so much of what you write. I’m sorry. That has to be so draining to have your every word dissected and used against you. But I want to encourage you with this… Your writing is obviously making a difference for the kingdom of God. That is a threat to the enemy, and he’s going to try to tear you down and get you to be quiet and I think he’s trying to use naysayers and criticism. I’m glad you have a thick skin and don’t let it stop you from writing truth. Keep on! I love your blog. :)

  20. Sherri says:

    Sorry, I wasn’t correcting Kelly, it was more just to the discussion in general about how different commenters’ marriages were going. I do tend to agree with most of what Kelly writes. :)

  21. Kelly L says:

    I so agree.

    I just realized Friday (through two irritations I voiced, which turned into me yelling then crying) that I hadn’t ever forgiven my husband for all the times he “failed” my expectations. Rather, each new infraction was added to all the previous ones, which was why I reacted in such a crazy, “nothing ever changes” way. As soon as I forgave all the things he had done against what I had asked, I found I didn’t get even a bit irritated at one thing.
    I realized I fell into the trap of “he doesn’t care” and that’s why I’m mad. And all it got me was about 2 months of bitterness and unhappiness

    Yes , I have a marital right to voice my opinions and ask for things to be different. But I realized I was using that about 100 times more than him. And I was using all the stuff I did as a righteous excuse. But nowhere in my rights was in forgiveness. And in destroying me it threatened to destroy my marriage

    My husband really is a good , trying to be thoughtful man. But I was so focused on what he wasn’t doing that it clouded my vision on what he was.

    I wasnt tempted to have an affair (who has time for that?!?!) because I’d only been reveling in this mentality for 2 months. But if God had not opened my eyes, who knows down the line. I’m so grateful God never gives up on pricking my heart and speaking truth directly to me.

    • 6 arrows says:

      Thank you for your transparency, Kelly. I could have written a very similar post about myself.

      And you are so right in that last sentence: “I’m so grateful God never gives up on pricking my heart and speaking truth directly to me.” Amen. That last part especially — speaking truth directly to me — is important to remember.

      The Holy Spirit doesn’t reveal His will for wives indirectly, through husbands. I am grateful that He pricks my heart as an individual, and not that He goes through some human being, husband or not, as the means to deliver His will. I think that fact is sadly absent from many discussions on submission, and on husband/wife relationships in general.

      It’s good to communicate to our husbands what we’re gleaning from the Word, and to speak of how the Holy Spirit has been active in our lives.

      Good thoughts in your post. Thanks for sharing.

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