A need is a want, sometimes even a craving, that, when satisfied, leaves a person feeling content and fulfilled. When left unsatisfied, it leaves them feeling frustrated or, at worst, emotionally devastated.
Overall, we share loads of different needs, all from mind-bogglingly life-altering to trivial and meaningless ones. Therefore, not all needs hold the same emotional weight.
For example, the need to eat a tasty dessert may have way less emotional weight for a person than their need to feel loved and appreciated. Not meeting the former will make them slightly frustrated, while not meeting the latter will make them feel forsaken or fundamentally flawed.
The way our need play out in romantic relationships is almost the same as how they play out in every other area of our life.
The longer we keep meeting our partner’s needs, and the longer they keep meeting ours, the longer we’ll stay satisfied with each other. But, when mutual needs are not being met anymore, conflicts arise. In fact, conflicts are almost always the result of unmet needs in one or both people in a relationship.
Sounds simple right? Well, there’s one problem: your partner doesn’t have the same needs as you, or to be more precise, they don’t prioritize the same ones.
If you keep meeting your partner’s wrong needs and neglect the right ones – the ones that they deem most important – you risk causing conflicts and ultimately sabotaging your relationship.
At this point, you’re probably asking yourself, “Which needs does my partner prioritize then?” Sadly, getting the answer to this question is often a chore.
First, your partner probably doesn’t consciously apprehend which needs they prioritize. And second, you can’t follow a formula for meeting their emotional needs because there is no such formula. Every human prioritizes their emotional needs differently.
Some people prioritize the search for security and trust far more than validation and appreciation. And others seek out being understood and feeling special and aren’t interested in security.
So, how do you figure out what needs your partner prioritizes?
In a nutshell, it comes down to consistent, honest communication, empathy, good observation skills, and a developed awareness.
In general, figuring out the needs of your partner takes a lot of trial and error. But here’s something that will make it way easier for you: a list of seven emotional needs that virtually all human beings hold in high (or even extraordinary) importance, regardless of gender.
These are also the exact emotional needs that kept popping up across the works of famous relationship and marriage experts like John Gray, Willard Harley, and John Gottman.
If you end up meeting the below seven needs in your partner, you’re going to make your relationship way more manageable and probably longer-lasting. That is, if your partner also keeps meeting these same needs in you.
1. YOUR PARTNER NEEDS TO FEEL SPECIAL
From all the men and women that I’ve talked to and from all the research I’ve done, one thing was obvious: All of us want to feel special, cherished, and adored in our relationships.
Here’s how this principle applied to my former dating life; the women I kept seeing knew I was also seeing other people at the same time. However, they still wanted me to show them that they were my top pick; they didn’t want to feel just like another notch on the bedpost; They wanted to feel special.
Now let’s apply this same principle to relationships.
Take my girlfriend, for instance. I met and kept meeting her need to feel special by showing daily physical affection and frequently communicating words of kindness and gratitude. But not the gold retriever kind. Far from it. The words of kindness I use — as should you — come from a place of inner strength and non-needy love.
2. YOUR PARTNER NEEDS TO FEEL APPRECIATED
Meeting your partner’s need to feel appreciated is simple. Just praise and compliment them frequently for what they’ve said, done, or tried to do with their best effort. And don’t be afraid to over compliment and “overlove” them.
There’s a common misconception that the one who loves the least in a relationship wins. But I call bullshit on that.
Your partner won’t lose attraction if you show them more love than they show you for a time, as long as that love is unconditional and non-needy, which means that it doesn’t come from a place of lack or fear, but one of strength and love.
3. YOUR PARTNER NEEDS TO FEEL HEARD AND UNDERSTOOD
Making your partner feel heard and understood means you listen to their feelings and problems with patience, empathy, and without judgment while at the same time acknowledging and approving what they’re communicating or going through.
Making your partner feel heard and understood can also mean not trying to solve their issues. Sometimes your partner just wants to vent. Therefore, let them do this, and be sure to respond with an accessional “I hear you, tell me more.” This phrase will let them get everything that’s bothering them out of their system — of course, if they know how to open up in a healthy way and be vulnerable.
4. YOUR PARTNER NEEDS TO FEEL Validated
Validation means accepting your partners’ feelings, whatever they are, all while not arguing about them, trying to change them, or object to them. That being said, you also don’t have to agree with them necessarily.
Here’s a concrete example of what I mean: let’s say you’re heading home from a concert that you loved, but your partner didn’t. They were yawning while the band played their hits and even dozed off twice that night.
When you’ve arrived home, they tell you the truth, “I didn’t like that concert at all.” But of course, since they’re a loving partner, they also tell you that they’re glad you had fun at least.
You could also confirm your partner’s point of view by saying, “You looked like a zombie at the concert. I could tell you didn’t like it, but it’s ok. I liked it, and I loved that you were there with me while I danced.”
In both examples, you and your partner acknowledge your differences in your enjoyment of the concert but still accept each other’s feelings about the event — a.k.a, you’re both validating each other.
5. YOUR PARTNER NEEDS TO get quality attention from you
This point is in tandem will the one stated earlier. Although validation is more psychological than physical, giving adequate attention to your partner is more of physical activity. It involves making yourself available to them whenever you are needed.
However, it’s also crucial to establish a differential line here between need and want. In most cases, your partner wants you with them almost at all times, while their need for attention is not that frequent even though it’s essential.
Now, this doesn’t mean that your attention is needed only when serious issues are at stake, but also when your partner simply wants to talk to you, so make sure you are not just listening but are also attentive mentally when that happens.
6. YOUR PARTNER NEEDS space away from you
As a relationship deepens, partners often begin sharing interests, activities, and other aspects of daily life. You might notice you’re becoming more of a unit as you grow closer.
But no matter how strong your relationship becomes, it’s essential to maintain your sense of self. While you might have plenty of things in common, you’re two separate people with unique goals, hobbies, friends, and values — and that’s a good thing.
If your identity has started to blur into theirs, take a step back to examine the situation. This blending of selves can happen naturally as you grow close, but it can also happen when you believe you need to become more like your partner for the relationship to succeed.
In reality, maintaining individual interests and keeping some distance between you and your partner can fuel curiosity about each other, which can strengthen your relationship even further and keep it exciting.
7. Your partner needs to feel secure
Making your partner feel secure generally refers to cultivating a warm environment where they feel safe, respected, and trusted.
More specifically, your partner should feel safe to open up, know that you will respect their boundaries, be honest with them and support their life choices, even when you don’t like them. It’s that simple.
When healthy needs in a relationship turn bad
Always keep an eye on the state of your and your partner’s needs because they can turn unhealthy rather quickly.
An overpowering need for validation can turn to codependency and neediness. An overpowering need for security can turn to jealousy, possessiveness, and obsession. And an overpowering need for feeling special can lead to obsessing about your partner and perpetual approval seeking.
In summary, meeting your partner’s needs is easy; figuring out which ones to meet is the hard part. An excellent book to help you out with this even further is: Getting the Love You Want, by Harville Hendrix. It’s a bit outdated, yes. And it has a cheesy title. But it gets the job done — brilliantly.
Receive a free copy of my popular breakup survival guide, 56 Tips To Heal A Broken Heart, with three bonus exercises on how to stop obsessing over your ex. Remember: whether you want to get over or re-attract your ex, recovery is always the first step.
How To Be Vulnerable In A Relationship
Learning how to be vulnerable in a relationship, be that romantic or platonic takes time, effort and often involves pain. But it's worth it.
How To Find Yourself After A Breakup
Learn three ways you can find yourself after a breakup and get clear on exactly who you are, what you value, and how to move forward.
The Guide To Healthy Relationship Boundaries
A lack of boundaries in a relationship leads to many problems. But there's a cure-Setting, keeping and mastering boundaries. Learn more here.
How To Rebuild Your Self Esteem After A Breakup
How to rebuild your self-esteem after a breakup: Learn how to rebuild just the right amount of self-worth and confidence to live a good life.
The Guide To Healthy Compatibility In Relationships
Compatibility in relationships is crucial. If you commit to someone incompatible, you'll end up heartbroken. Or even worse, miserable.
How To Stop Feeling Worthless And Inadequate After A Breakup
Many people feel worthless and inadequate after a breakup. But these feelings don't have to be permanent. You can overcome them. Here's how.