Psychologist started using the concept of biological needs (such as the need for water, food, etc.) as a way of thinking about individual psychological wants and desires, such as our desire for connection, for love, for respect, attention, etc. during mid-20th century.  A good example of this approach is captured by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs proposed in the 1940’s.

There is a serious consequence in this “needs” approach to intimate relationships. The problem lies in the idea that if you have a “need” for something (sex, connection, conversation, attention, etc.), your spouse must fulfill this need, or you will feel “deprived” of what is due you.  You will feel mistreated and resentful.

Psychologist and sociologists developed “social exchange theory” as a way of managing peoples’ needs in their interactions.  Since the ‘70’s marital therapists have used this “quid-pro-quo”, “tit for tat”, or reciprocity approach to marital interactions as a means of achieving a satisfying and stable marriages.  For example husbands are instructed to be conversational (need for attention, companionship) with their wives who, in turn, will provide sex (a biological and connection need) for the husband.  In one reported study of marital therapy in the 70’s, a psychologist encouraged a couple to exchange fellatio for French Provincial furniture.

The “need-fulfillment” theory of marital relationships through some process of exchange promotes selfishness in relationships, not concern for the other along with concern for oneself.  It promotes the ideas that the primary motive in our lives is self-interest, our own individual need-satisfaction.

Here are several current blogs that adopt this kind of approach.

Here is blog ( written by a trained social worker who has adopted the idea the marriage is organized around “needs-that-must-be fulfilled” or you are heading for a divorce.  She invokes Maslow’s Hierarch of Needs as the basis for her list of “needs”.

This blog ( is a great example of the needs as demands that must be fulfilled for your husband to be happy, and, presumably, stay with you, presumably. There is no mention of collaboration or negotiation of needs because needs-that-must-be-fulfilled cannot be negotiated.  I love the tag line Fulfilling your husband’s needs does not mean you’re inferior to him. It means you love him and want to make him happy. Are you doing that?Here is a real doozy of a blog about men’s needs (

This blogger starts out:

 Today, I want to address a common meme in marriage literature: if you want to get your needs met, then meet your spouse’s first. Figure out what his primary needs are, and meet them, and  then you’ll get your needs met!

 There is truth to the adage that the more we care for others’ needs, the more our own are met. The key here is motivation: if you care for someone’s needs in order to get something in return it’s manipulation, and they will sense it and it will backfire. If you care for someone’s needs because you love them, then that love by itself will change the dynamics of your relationship, and you will be more likely to   get your needs met.

Here the blogger tries to say that needs are not really a tit for tat (exchange) deal by saying if you really love your husband you will want (not need?) to fulfill his needs, and by the way, you are more likely to get your needs fulfilled……a tit for tat.  To this blogger, men are quite simple, they only want respect and sex…!

The last one is “7 Ways a Husband Needs Respect from His Wife” ( This blog is one of those blogs that sees what men and women “need” as based on gender differences . Thus, men “need” respect, which then covers a number of things that are unique to men.  He also refers us to the “need” for resect that women need, which are different.

In summary, all one’s wants, wishes, and preferences can be characterized as needs-that-must-be fulfilled.  Bloggers like these described seem to try to limit the number and range of needs in order to make them manageable.  But, it is not the number of needs that is the issue; it is that the fundamental idea of “needs-that-must-be-fulfilled” is an idea based on self-interest, not interest in other’s well-being.



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