How to Explain to My Husband What I Need (in 14 Simple Steps)

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Not sure how to tell your husband what you need?

In this article, we’re breaking down how to have that conversation with 14 simple but highly effective tips.

If you want the short answer, here’s a summary:

  • Don’t corner your husband—pick a time to discuss one need at a time
  • Be clear and specific, using “I” language to express your feelings
  • Write a letter if it’s helpful to get your thoughts and feelings out
  • Approach him like you would your dearest friend
  • Inspire him by expressing gratitude for what he does in your relationship
  • Make helpful suggestions about how he can meet your needs
  • Ask for his perspective, and make sure to listen with an open mind

If you feel like your marriage is suffering and you need to turn it around before it’s too late, an excellent place to start is by refocusing your marriage on the “WE” like marriage expert Dr. Lee Baucom teaches in his best-selling guide, Save The Marriage.

Click the link above now, or keep reading to find out how to explain your needs to your husband effectively and non-confrontationally.

First, Identify Your Needs for a Healthy Relationship

First things first: know what your needs are.

Take a moment to explore your needs in the following categories and make a list of specifics for each—this will help you better communicate them to your husband.

Read Next: Why Do Men Change After Marriage?

Emotional needs

What makes you feel supported, loved and valued?

Nobody knows this better than you do, and being able to articulate it to your husband is a powerful tool to get the emotional connection you desire with him.

In addition to what’s missing in your relationship, think about things he’s said or done that made you feel emotionally or spiritually nourished, too.

Putting it all together, you can better understand both the areas that are lacking and the emotionally supportive things he does that you want to encourage.

Physical needs

Physical needs encompass a wide range of aspects, including affection, intimacy and personal space.

Think about how much physical touch (whether more or less) and closeness you need to feel comfortable and loved.

Then, consider how much personal time and space it takes to recharge and maintain a sense of individuality within your marriage.

Some people put their physical needs on the back burner because they deem them less important, but doing so can throw your overall health and well-being out of balance.

Intellectual needs

Intellectual needs are often overlooked—yet they’re essential for maintaining interest and stimulation.

Reflect on how important things like deep conversations, shared interests or even friendly debates are to you, and whether they’re happening enough in your relationship.

A healthy mental connection can greatly enhance your overall satisfaction in the relationship.

How to Explain to My Husband What I Need

Find the right time and place

Choose a comfortable setting and a time when you both can fully focus on the conversation.

Avoid bringing up a serious conversation about your needs when either of you is stressed, distracted or trying to have some “me” time—like unwinding at the end of a long work day.

Also, don’t start this conversation at the tail-end of an argument—if you do, you’ll be met with an oppositional attitude from your husband, who will feel attacked and reprimanded.

Focus on one need at a time

Discussing multiple needs at once will likely overwhelm your husband.

Instead, prioritize and focus on one particular need per conversation for a more productive outcome.

Think about your communication style

How do you and your spouse communicate?

If you have an aggressive communication style and your husband has a passive one, you will need to watch your tone, language and the energy you’re putting out there.

Adjusting your communication style will help your husband hear you and ensure he’s not just trying to avoid conflict with you.

Read Also: What Causes Lack of Communication in Marriage?

Clearly explain the need

Since you started out by defining and outlining your needs, it should be easier to clarify them to your husband now.

For example:

“I need for us to go out on more dates.”

“I need more ‘me’ time on the weekends.”

“I need more meaningful communication with you.”

Being specific is important to avoid coming across like you’re just complaining without seeking a resolution.

Express your feelings

Opening up and being vulnerable with your feelings is key to speaking to your husband’s heart. 

You want to connect and foster empathy from your husband.

However, there’s a right and a wrong way to do it, which we’ll explain in the next tip.

Use “I” statements

Avoid making generalized statements, such as “You never listen to me,” or “You’re so messy, it drives me nuts.”

Generalized statements sound to another person like personal attacks and shift the focus from your needs to their flaws.

So instead, use “I” statements to explain your experiences and emotions.

For example:

“I feel unimportant when you look at your phone instead of at me when we’re talking.”

“I feel frustrated and overwhelmed when you put your dirty dishes in the sink rather than straight into the dishwasher.”

Or, if you’re asking your husband to change some bad habits:

“I feel anxious when you drink more than a few beers after work.”

Don’t compare your marriage to past relationships

If you feel like an ex “got you” or nurtured your needs better than your husband, avoid bringing that up.

Nobody likes being compared to an ex—it will only make him feel like he’s not good enough and he’s doing everything wrong.

It’s better to start on a new page and focus on your current relationship exclusively.

Consider writing him a letter

If you find it challenging to talk about your needs, consider writing your husband a thoughtful letter.

You can take all the time you need to organize your thoughts this way.

Also, depending on your husband’s communication style, it could be a good way to allow him to absorb what you’re saying and think on it.

However, if you do this, make sure you follow up with an in-person discussion—the letter will simply help you open up the floor.

Treat him like your best friend

When we’re not getting our needs met, we start to feel frustrated, and that can come out in our communications.

The problem is, this can hurt your chances at making the changes you need.

Approach the conversation with compassion, kindness and understanding, similar to how you’d talk to your closest friends.

(And indeed, isn’t your spouse your best friend as well as your soulmate?)

This will foster a safe and supportive environment for both of you to feel heard and respected.

Dr. Lee Baucom goes into detail on why simply changing the way you talk to and treat your spouse makes a bad marriage good again (and how to do it) in Save The Marriage.

Mention something your husband does that makes you feel cherished

If you want your husband to let down his defenses and be really receptive, talk about his strengths, too.

Share examples of actions that made you feel valued and loved.

This highlights the positive aspects of your relationship and can also serve as a model for what you’d like more of in the future.

Ask him to share his perspective

Allow your husband to share his thoughts and feelings during the conversation.

This ensures that both of you are on the same page, but also, sometimes there’s more to the story than you might imagine once you hear his side.

Seeking to understand your spouse can make all the difference in your communications and build a better connection in your marriage.

Don’t get defensive if he doesn’t feel the same way

In case your husband replies that he does plenty of dishes when you mention that you need him to clean up more, try not to immediately counter his opinion.

Acknowledge him and validate his experiences—but don’t allow them to negate your own.

You can appreciate his point of view and express yours at the same time. 

Just remember to do so calmly and empathetically.

Provide some examples of how he can meet your needs

Upon hearing about your unmet needs, your husband is probably going to ask the million-dollar question: “What do you want me to do?”

Instead of saying “I don’t know,” try giving him some suggestions to point him in the right direction.

“Maybe we can mark off two weekends every month on the calendar for a date night.”

“I think it would help me feel more connected to you if we hugged every morning before we left for work.”

“Can you take the kids for an hour before it’s time to make dinner so I can have some alone time?”

Ask how you can better support him, too

Finally, ask about any needs your husband may have that you could potentially help fulfill.

This promotes reciprocation of support and strengthens your relationship.

Tips for Effective Communication

Nonverbal communication

When expressing your needs to your spouse, pay attention to all the signals you’re sending.

Make sure your signals align with your words.

Maintain eye contact while speaking to show that you’re serious and attentive, keep your body language open and your tone of voice calm and gentle to create a comfortable environment for dialogue.

Read Also: Signs of Poor Communication in Marriage

Active listening

Being an active listener means you’re not just passively nodding your head when hearing your husband’s perspective or inadvertently making communication one-sided.

Keep the following tips in mind when talking to your husband:

  • Stay engaged in the conversation, and truly listen to his words
  • Ask questions for clarity if you’re unsure about the meaning of what he’s saying
  • Avoid interrupting or formulating a response while he’s talking

By demonstrating that you’re genuinely interested in understanding his perspective, you’ll create a positive atmosphere for respectful communication.

Expressing feelings

When expressing your needs, make sure to focus on how you feel without accusing or blaming your husband—especially when you’re feeling upset.

As suggested above, communicate your feelings clearly and honestly using “I” statements (e.g., “I feel upset when…”) instead of directing blame (e.g., “You always…”).

This approach will help you express your emotions without making your husband feel defensive.

Making Sure Your Needs Are Met

Once you’ve laid your needs out on the table and discussed ways to fulfill them, here are some ways to make sure they don’t fall by the wayside.

Praise him when he provides the support you’re looking for

Every time your husband meets one of your needs, remember to express your gratitude.

Praising him highlights his positive behaviors and encourages him to continue.

In addition, reinforcement strengthens your connection and makes your husband more receptive to your needs.

Maintain an open dialogue

Keeping the lines of communication open is vital in a healthy relationship.

Never rely on mind-reading or expecting your partner to guess your needs—articulate them clearly, and speak up when they’re not getting met.

Talking about things when they’re bothering you is much more conducive to healthy communication than bottling them up and blowing up later.

Have a weekly check-in

Taking time out of your busy schedules to touch base with each other makes it easier to address and remedy all the things you want to fix in your relationship.

During these weekly check-ins, take the opportunity to update each other on your emotional needs and discuss any areas where you feel they’re not being met.

Helpful tip: Write down some questions you’ll ask each other during every check-in that would be good jumping points to discuss both of your needs.

Examples:

  • Have I responded to your needs this week, and in what ways?
  • What did I do this week that made you feel honored, loved and appreciated?
  • How can I be more supportive or make your life easier in the coming week?

Final Thoughts

Hopefully after reading this article, you’ve picked up some valuable tips on voicing your needs and ensuring they’re met.

One last thought—while your personal needs matter and should never go ignored, it’s also important to keep your expectations realistic.

We can’t expect anyone to radically change their personality or their own needs and desires based on our own.

Married life is not about having things your partner’s way or your own way, but rather finding compromises.

With this in mind, be sure to keep your communication open and approach one another with empathy, unconditional love and a sincere commitment to your relationship first and foremost.

This way, you will ensure that not only do your needs get met, but you and your husband will also maintain a harmonious and vibrant connection.

FAQ

How do I get my husband to understand my emotional needs?

Start by expressing your feelings in a clear, open and sincere manner.

Reflect on your emotional life and be specific about what you would want to change in your relationship.

Avoid blaming or accusing, and use “I” statements to focus on your own emotions and needs.

What a wife needs most from her husband?

Every woman is different, so you’d be wise not to paint the needs of all wives with the same brush.

With that said, there are some basic things your wife needs whether she asks for them or not, and they are to feel loved, valued and supported.

These needs include emotional support, time and attention, trust, respect and active listening.

If you want to know what your wife needs or if you’re meeting her needs, just ask.

She will have enormous appreciation for this simple gesture.

When needs are not met in marriage?

When needs are not met in a marriage, it can lead to feelings of dissatisfaction, resentment and disconnection.

Unmet needs may also result in increasing conflicts, decreased emotional intimacy and reduced trust between partners.

This is why it’s so important to talk about your unmet needs (and ask about your spouse’s, as they may be feeling the same way) and work collaboratively to find realistic solutions.

How do you explain to your husband you feel unloved?

This is tricky, as many different issues can contribute to feeling unloved, including marital problems, busy schedules and not being listened to very closely.

This is one of those instances where writing a letter could be highly effective for both of you to broach this sensitive topic.

When explaining to your husband how you feel unloved, try to do so in as neutral, yet sincere a way as possible.

Be specific about the instances or behaviors that make you feel unloved using “I” statements, and express your desires for the changes you’d like to see.

It helps to offer some constructive solutions—that is, ways your husband can make you feel loved.

Chances are, he’s not doing it on purpose and would be quite emotionally moved and upset to know how his behavior is making you feel.

If your marriage is suffering and you want to save it, we highly recommend doing the exercises in Dr. Lee Baucom’s Save The Marriage Program and creating that upward cycle your marriage needs to survive.

Marlene Davis is an experienced blogger with a focus on interpersonal relationships. Her dream is to help improve people's lives and relationships through sharing of practical knowledge and evidence-based practices.