Marriage Help: How to Identify Your Relationship Needs

Marriage Help: How to Identify Your Relationship Needs

In a previous relationship help article (Relationship Needs: Are Your Needs Hurting Your Relationship), we explored how a sense of entitlement (holding unrealistic relationship expectations that your spouse/partner should and can meet all your needs) sets up a slippery slope that can undermine your marriage/relationship.

Just as damaging to your relationship is the denial and failure to acknowledge your relationship needs—to yourself and to your spouse/partner. The fulfillment of our emotional and physical needs is central to our well-being, to feeling psychologically whole, engaged and fully alive in the world. But most of us haven’t been raised and taught to identify and effectively communicate our emotional needs.

Relationship Needs: The most important step is knowing where to start

The first and most important step in this process is being able to clearly identify your needs (which is not always an easy task). All too often couples are more attuned to the fallout of not getting their needs met (consequences such as depression, anger, resentment, a lack of intimacy) than they are at proactively identifying and communicating these needs. 

Below is a list of relationship needs to help you begin the process of identifying your needs. As you read through the list, it’s important to note that not all of the listed needs will resonate for you (and you might think of some of your own needs that aren’t listed here). The goal is to identify which needs speak to you the loudest—which are most relevant to your life and to your relationship, and which needs (when met) will bring you the greatest fulfillment.

List of Relationship Needs

Acceptance (feeling accepted for who you are)
Acknowledgment (having your actions and efforts noticed; feeling like who you are matters to your partner)
Adoration
Adventure
Affection (to express and experience affection)
Appreciation (giving and receiving of appreciation)
Availability (to experience each other as available when needed)Belief (to be believed in and taken seriously)

Camaraderie (sense of togetherness)
Care (to show caring and to feel cared for)
Certainty
Challenge (to feel challenged to grow and evolve)
Cherished
Closeness (experience emotional connection)
Comfort
Competence (to feel competent/capable)
Compromise
Commitment
Consistency
Contentment
Cooperation

Dependability
Desire (to express and feel desired)
Devotion
Discovery (continued sense of mutual discovery)

Emotional safety and security
Encouragement (to give and receive encouragement)
Esteem (to esteem your partner and feel esteemed by him/her)
Excitement
Exploration (shared sense of adventure in the world)

Familiarity
Fidelity
Flexibility (openness and willingness to change)
Freedom (to be yourself and experiment with new ways of being)

Harmony
Honesty

Individuality (having space for individual interests/pursuits)
Influence (to emotionally impact your partner)
Intellectuality (sharing knowledge/challenging each other)
Intimacy (deep emotional connection)Love (to give and receive love)

Mutuality

Negotiation
Novelty
Nurturance (to feel nurtured and to help your partner feel nurtured)

Openness (continual openness to each others’ uniqueness/individuality)

Peacefulness
Passion
Playfulness
Predictability
Presence (to feel your partner is emotionally present)

Reassurance (to be reassured when needed)
Recognition
Reliability
Respect

Sacrifice
Safety/security (emotional, financial, physical)
Sensitivity
Sensuousness
Sex
Shared/mutual interests
Socialization
Spirituality (spiritual sharing/connection)
Spontaneity
Stability
Support

Teamwork
Touch
Trust (to trust and be trusted)

Understood (to understand and feel understood)

Vitality (need to feel profoundly alive through emotional connection)
Valued (feel important/like you matter)
Vastness (to experience a mutual connection with something greater than yourselves)

(Please add any additional needs that might not be listed above)

Relationship Reality: The intensity of a particular need can wax and wane depending on the phase of your life (e.g. after retirement the need for adventure might become more central than before)–and the context/circumstances that you are in will also impact which needs increase or decrease in relevance  (e.g. after struggling emotionally for a period time, an increase in the need for security and harmony might be heightened). 

Needs aren’t static: Think of your relationship needs as multidimensional—influenced by your unique developmental history, genetics/biology, as well as context (the current and ever-changing circumstances of your life).  

The challenge and goal is to remain mindful of the shifting landscape of your relationship needs and to effectively share your evolving needs with your spouse/partner.

All best,

Dr. Rich Nicastro

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