Take a position on Harley’s statement, “Engage in only those recreational activities that both you and your spouse can enjoy together.”
This writer agrees with the above statement, given the parameters Willard Harley places on this radical assignment, which is, “They can eventually participate in activities apart from each other, but until they become each other’s favorite recreational companion, they must spend all of their leisure time together.” Harley openly admits this and continues his explanation by stating, “…Once you think it through, you have to agree with me, at least on principle.” In the end, Harley asserts, “Eventually, [he or she] will come to enjoy mutually appealing activities even more than those [he or she] could not [or would not] share with their spouse.” While engaging in recreational activities is a great way to spend more time with your spouse, there are a vast majority of couples that like vastly different things, so finding a common interest may take some time. This writer agrees with Harley that it is important to find those common interests, but developing clear communication channels, healthy boundaries, and accountability should be the foundation of beginning or fixing a marriage.
Is he correct? Why or why not?
In theory, Harley is correct. The danger, specifically for men is, “spending recreational time with his wife is ranked second only to sex for the typical husband.” This statistic only validates why men go looking outside the marriage to meet this fundamental need. Harley cites this, “common pattern at its worst can lead to an affair and divorce, [so] the wise couple will avoid this trend in their marriage or correct it as soon as it begins.” Harley demonstrates, in his Fourth Law of Marriage, “The couple that plays together stays together.” Essentially, all Harley is asking his couples to do is exactly what they most likely did when they first fell in love. Prior to marriage, Harley illustrates, “Most men and women combine all four needs into a romantic experience, but after marriage, spouses get lazy. Women are too tired for sexual fulfillment… and men cannot fit affection or intimate conversation into their busy schedules.” The longer a couple suffers under these conditions, the less likely they fill find enjoyment and fulfillment in life or from each other.
Do husbands and wives need to do everything together?
This writer does not believe husbands and wives must do everything together. Instead, what Harley is trying to point out to couples is, “If you were to find recreational activities that both you and your spouse could enjoy together, just as much as you enjoy your favorite activities now, it would definitely improve your feelings for each other.” Harley demonstrates the importance of doing things together because, “It reflects the care both spouses should have for each other, as activities found to be mutually enjoyable will very likely be done again, and it ensures deposits in each other’s love-bank.” When Harley suggests all activities must be enjoyed together, he is trying to increase the likelihood of at least some activities being enjoyed as a couple. The end-goal is to find mutual interactions, which are making more deposits into each other’s love-banks, which only happens by overcoming their individual desires and natural tendencies to pursue more mutually desired activities.
Is it good to do some things separately?
Yes. As long as they know what one values most in life is what they will make time for, it is all right to do things separately. If God were not the first thing on that list, one would be living an adulterous life. People, places, and things constantly compete for time and that is why Michael Todd Wilson and Brad Hoffmann demonstrate the importance of establishing boundaries. Wilson and Hoffmann demonstrate, “Boundaries help us prioritize the more important of two legitimate callings such as family needs versus ministry needs. They also protect that which matters most to us according to our values.” It is amazing how one can make time to watch television, workout in the gym, or pour all their free time into work, just to avoid being at home with their spouse or family. Ministers sacrifice so much on the altar of ministry, but these hobbies, recreational activities, and excuses are instead sacrificed on the altar of one’s selfish and fallen nature. Complacency leads to just wanting to have fun or wasting time. Instead, Wilson and Hoffman suggest a radical approach of re-creation. They believe, “Re-creation is supposed to be a purposeful activity to restore and regenerate us so that we can better pursue our calling and intimate relationships. To neglect re-creation is to potentially resign ourselves to a foreshortened tenure in ministry [and or marriage.]”
It has been said, “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it,” making history a valuable teacher. However, Richard Swenson maintains, “The lessons of history will only be marginally successful in framing our questions and suggesting our remedies. [When one navigates off the map,] they do not know what is around the next bend. Furthermore, they cannot depend on the lessons of history to tell them, for history, too, has never been here before.” Therefore, the best roadmap one can have in life is making sure their values are in their rightful place. In all things, God must be first, then your spouse, then your children, then your job, and then your interests and hobbies. What is at the top of one’s list is an idol if it is not God and if anything is elevated above what it is should be, the entire system will breakdown. The damage may not be evident early on as the early offenses are often minor, but over time, as foundational pieces are removed, the entire structure will come crashing down. The statistics in failed marriages and ministry only serves to prove this point. Satan knows the quickest way to scatter the flock is to attack the shepherd, so pastors, more than anyone, must maintain this balance and maintain this order as much as possible. Yes, there will be extenuating circumstances like unexpected deaths and catastrophes that cause you to elevate your ministry above family, but those circumstances should never be the norm. If God is truly first in one’s life, it is only natural to make your wife second and any children third in priority.
Love for God should be the stimulus that causes His followers to love others. In fact, that is how He told the disciples the world would know they were His followers. The love you show others is an investment in their life and if more spouses were cognizant of this principle, Harley and this writer believes there would be more healthy relationships and less marriages starving and failing. Marriage takes work and raising a family takes even more. One does not truly find out how selfish they are until they have children. The number of times this writer has counseled people who thought getting married or having children would solve their problems has exponentially grown every year, so where they are being taught this lie is very disconcerting. This writer looks forward to applying some of the methods from this assignment in future counseling sessions. Overall, this writer likes Harley’s approach and while it is radical, it demonstrates what you are truly willing to sacrifice to save your marriage and it illuminates what is truly a priority in your life. By realigning one’s priorities and finding mutually enjoyable activities, this writer believes Harley’s method is a great start to fixing marital issues.
Harley, Willard F. Jr. His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage, Revised and Expanded Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2011.
Swenson, Richard A. Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2004.
Wilson, Michael Todd and Brad Hoffmann, Preventing Ministry Failure: A Shepherd Care Guide for Pastors, Ministers, and Other Caregivers. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007.
 Willard F. Harley Jr., His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage, Revised and Expanded Edition, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2011), 94.
 Ibid., 96.
 Ibid., 89-90.
 Willard F. Harley Jr., His Needs, Her Needs, 91.
 Ibid., 99.
 Ibid., 98.
 Ibid., 95.
 Ibid., 95-96.
 Michael Todd Wilson and Brad Hoffmann, Preventing Ministry Failure, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007), 28.
 Ibid., 28-29.
 Richard Swenson, Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2004), 39