Meeting needs in a relationship plays a key role, because by having a partner fulfil our expectations in the relationship, we feel happy and satisfied. Very often, this gives rise to reciprocity. Since the other party surrounds us with care, we also want to listen and support them. The result is a rewarding relationship for the partners. The relationship becomes a source of emotional security that keeps us at an optimum level of arousal. We don’t have to remain alert all the time because we know we have the support of our partner. The other party will help us face adversity. Unfortunately, needs are not always met in a relationship. This happens for a variety of reasons. Sometimes we don’t speak our expectations out loud, causing the other party to only try to guess at them. Even with the best of intentions, they may not guess what we need because we come from different families and speak different love languages. We often give to people close to us what we ourselves wish to receive from them. This breeds mutual frustration. The giver feels that his or her efforts have not been appreciated. On the other hand, the gifted party doubts the affection of their partner because their needs are not being met. When one’s expectations are not met, dissatisfaction with the relationship increases. There is a sense of misunderstanding and loneliness in the relationship. Sometimes our emotional security also suffers. We feel that we are facing everyday challenges alone, because we cannot count on our partner.
What needs are most important in a relationship?
Although each of us has our own expectations in a relationship with which we enter into a romantic relationship, we can distinguish basic needs in a relationship. These we generally divide into physical, psychological, emotional and developmental. The classification adopted coincides with the pyramid of needs created by Abraham Maslow. At its core are physiological needs related to the satisfaction of hunger, thirst, sexual desire, etc. When they remain unrealised, we cannot move to the next level of the pyramid. Slightly higher is placed the need for security. This consists of things such as a roof over our heads, financial stability and predictability of our partner’s behaviour. Slightly higher Maslow ranked the need for connectedness, and the top of his pyramid is development. How does the division discussed translate into expectations in a relationship?
The need for emotional security and acceptance
When considering emotional needs in a relationship, I would first like to address the most important one, that of feeling secure. In a healthy romantic relationship, there is room for open communication. Each party can talk about their experiences, joys and concerns without fear of criticism or rejection. Emotional security is what I chose to discuss first, because without it, it is impossible to have a successful relationship. A person who feels insecure and is afraid of their partner’s reaction will not reveal their needs to them. As a result, these will not be met and the romantic relationship will become a source of frustration in the long term. If our partner provides us with emotional security, we know that we can tell him or her everything, hoping for acceptance and understanding. This awareness has a soothing effect and provides us with optimal stimulation. We realise that in case of difficulties, the other party will give us help.
Sexual needs, including the realisation of fantasies
Although we usually think of sex in a broader context, taking into account the emotional aspect of erotic life, according to Maslow, sexual relations are part of the physical needs in a relationship. This means that they lie at the base of his pyramid. They are classified as lower-order needs. When these needs remain unmet in a relationship, it is difficult to move to the next level. Sexual needs are possessed by most people, only asexual people do not have them. Unfortunately, we often differ in our expectations. When one party prefers vanilla sex and the other wants to try out BDSM, conflict arises. It depends on the maturity of both partners how they deal with this problem and whether they can work out a compromise. With a little creativity and goodwill, solutions that satisfy both parties sometimes emerge. It is helpful to talk openly about your sexual needs, even though it can seem quite embarrassing at first. It is helpful to know what you want so that you don’t ‘gift’ your partner with caresses that don’t please them. Too often we ‘give’ to the other person what we ourselves would like to ‘receive’. In some situations, where the two parties differ greatly in temperament and erotic fantasies, couples decide to separate. Sex is a special aspect of life. On the one hand, it supports the building of a close bond with the partner and is a source of satisfaction. On the other hand, it requires assertiveness, because by agreeing to forms of intercourse that arouse resistance in us, we can experience trauma.
The need to be important for the partner
Emotional needs in a relationship are very diverse, but we usually want to feel important to our partner. For this reason, we are very hurt by situations in which the other party makes decisions without asking our opinion. We then feel that he or she is disrespecting us. We experience similar emotions when we constantly lose out on our partner’s hobbies or work. The need to be important is satisfied when a loved one chooses to go out to dinner together instead of watching another episode of their favourite TV series. While this is one of the most elementary expectations in a relationship, it is worth remembering that a romantic relationship is no substitute for the unconditional love of a parent. The other party is entitled to his or her own passions, friends, work and self-development. He or she does not have to give them up every time to make us happy.
The need for love and connection
Needs in a relationship include the desire to be loved. The situation is complicated by one issue. Everyone expresses love for another person differently. Many conflicts in a romantic relationship arise from mutual misunderstanding. We often ‘say’ I love in a language that is foreign to the other party. If we ourselves show love through small favours and the partner does so through touch, the risk of conflict increases. Each party feels unappreciated and unloved. To satisfy the other’s need for love, it is helpful to ask him or her what he or she means by it. Does he or she want to spend more time together, or does he or she value the small gifts brought back from their travels? I discuss this question in more detail in the article in which I show the different languages of love.
The need for autonomy
Within each of us lies both the need for connection and autonomy. When these are in balance, the relationship develops properly, bringing satisfaction. We want to feel that our partner will take care of us when we fall ill or get into financial difficulties. On the other hand, we do not want to completely give up our independence, including the right to our own opinion, professional development and passions. We care about keeping in touch with acquaintances and friends. In addition, everyone sometimes needs their own space in which to be alone. Autonomy protects us from merging with our partner and from the disappearance of individualism. At the same time, it makes the world more diverse.
The need for development in the relationship
Meeting needs in a relationship enters a slightly higher level over time. Initially, we want to know that our partner takes us seriously and that we can open up to him or her as he or she provides us with emotional security. Later on, the need to be important, loved and sexually satisfied comes to the fore. When these are fulfilled, we begin to question whether the relationship is showing a developmental trend. Stagnation in a relationship often acts as its silent killer. It breeds frustration and a sense of emptiness. We have the feeling that we are stuck and that there is nothing more satisfying in store for us. We fulfil the need for growth in a relationship in different ways. Some couples explore remote parts of the world, others indulge in a shared passion.
The need to share
Man is a social creature, so he wants to share what he has with his loved ones. This applies to both tangible and intangible goods. Some people take great pleasure in preparing dinner for their partner, while others take the time to listen to them and show understanding. The need to share also extends to talking about emotions and experiences. We want to tell the other person about what has happened to us during the day. Present to her or him our concerns and reasons for being happy.
The need for spontaneity
We usually think of play as the domain of children, but as adults, we need it too, to reduce nervous tension and develop creativity. Spontaneity can be realised by inviting your partner on a date in an unusual place, such as a puzzle room. It is worth smuggling it into the bedroom, as it will help to relax the atmosphere a little, resulting in greater satisfaction.
The need for boundaries
Every relationship is governed by its own rules. For example, we agree on monogamy, equal sharing of household chores and joint planning of major expenses. At the same time, each partner defines their own boundaries to take care of their needs. For some of us, autonomy and the ability to have our own desk where nothing is rearranged is important. Others value city life and cannot imagine moving to the countryside. By setting realistic boundaries at the beginning of a relationship, many potential misunderstandings will be avoided.
How can meeting needs affect your relationship?
Meeting needs in a relationship benefits the relationship. When we make an effort to know our partner’s desires ourselves, we show them that they are important to us. In many cases, the rule of reciprocity works. Since we fulfil the other person’s expectations, they want to fulfil ours. As a result, the satisfaction becomes mutual.
Open communication of needs
When the need for emotional security is met, we allow ourselves to communicate openly. We clearly express our expectations, we also share our most intimate experiences because we feel confident. This fosters a close bond with the partner and the fulfilment of other needs. In addition, emotional security provides an optimal level of arousal. People who feel alone and misunderstood often face adversity alone. This increases stress levels, results in the release of cortisol and reduces the overall quality of life. Chronic nervous tension promotes depression and psychosomatic symptoms. When we have a supportive person next to us, everyday difficulties do not stress us as much. Together we can overcome problems more easily.
A satisfying sex life
By satisfying our sexual needs, we build a closer bond with our partner, while at the same time lowering the level of nervous tension. People who feel erotic frustration often have higher levels of cortisol in their body. On the one hand, they are stressed by the fact that their fantasies have not been fulfilled; on the other hand, successful sex promotes relaxation. Satisfaction with one’s erotic life translates into overall relationship satisfaction, although other factors also influence it. Sex alone is not enough, but without it it is difficult to have a successful relationship.
High relationship satisfaction
When we strike a balance between ‘giving’ and ‘taking’, we usually declare a higher level of relationship satisfaction. By communicating our needs and fulfilling our partner’s desires, we feel happy and satisfied. At the same time, we engage more strongly in and care about the romantic relationship, realising that together we have created something special. Each partner should clearly communicate their needs in the relationship. All, even the most basic needs in a relationship, will remain unknown to the partner until they are clearly articulated. Too often, we assume that the other party will guess what we expect from them. We have grown up with the myth of two halves of an apple that fit perfectly together. We believe that someone who truly loves us can guess our innermost desires. They share our dreams, values and emotions. This is a misconception that often leads to a relationship crisis. We are all individuals, remember that you are two separate people, and you each have your own needs. Even monozygotic twins, who were raised by the same parents and share the same gene pool, often view a particular event differently. If we want a partner to fulfil our needs, let’s name them and communicate them openly. We are often better at listing the things we don’t like about his behaviour. A lot of difficulties arise when we have to specify our expectations. Much of this is due to poor contact with our own emotions. Although we dislike some of them very much and try to escape from them, they have something important to say to us. By inviting them in and listening to them, we will learn their hidden meaning. People who do not ignore their experiences build better interpersonal relationships because they know their needs. If you are out of touch with your emotions and therefore your desires, you can change this. It is never too late to learn new skills:) In my course The ABC of Emotions, I show you how to read and regulate your emotions. I used current psychological knowledge and my many years of professional experience to work on it. I am a couples therapist, psychologist and sex therapist. If you are interested in the ABC of emotions course, you can find out more about it here.
How do you communicate your needs in a relationship?
Very often we think that we are able to openly communicate our expectations and needs in a relationship. Although we all know how to formulate sentences, we do not always provide them with the right tone. Needs in a relationship arouse great emotion and their unmet needs breed frustration. As a result, it can be very easy for us to take an accusatory tone. Meanwhile, open communication in a relationship produces the best results when it is based on mutual respect. How do you express your emotional needs in a relationship without the other party feeling attacked?
1. choose the right time and place to talk
In many cases, we find ourselves talking about our needs at the time when we are most frustrated. We feel like we can’t take any more, so we decide to articulate what is weighing us down. Unfortunately, frustration does not make for a substantive conversation. It is best to communicate our expectations when we are calm and can manage to regulate our emotions. In this way, we will avoid an outburst of anger and an accusatory tone. Also, don’t start a conversation about your needs in a relationship when circumstances are not conducive to it. Other people around, a late hour or a tired partner are all signs that the exchange of ideas should be postponed. Don’t give up, but make sure the conditions are right. Couples therapy can provide a safe environment, a judgement-free space to start talking about your own and your partner’s needs.
2. open communication free of aggression
In order for emotional needs in the relationship to be met, do not speak them in an accusatory tone. When we blame our partner for not spending enough time with us, we unconsciously attack them. As a result, the other person becomes defensive and closes off to our arguments. This can be avoided by starting from a position of our own emotions. This creates space for dialogue and the development of an understanding. An accusatory tone: I want to remind you that you have a wife and children. Why don’t you include us in your plans instead of going to the mountains with Mark?
Open communication free of aggression: I’ve been feeling lonely lately because you often go to the mountains with Mark. Both me and the children need your presence very much. Maybe next time you could take us with you?
3. Accept your partner’s refusal
While you have the right to communicate your needs openly, remember that your partner is an individual who can refuse to meet them. Each person sets their own boundaries in a relationship. You also have the same right, so the expectations expressed by the other party do not oblige you to meet them. For example, your partner asks you to borrow money to buy a new car. If you do not want to grant it, all you have to do is say so. Furthermore, it is worth realising that the other person will not meet all our emotional and physical needs. We can fulfil some desires alone, others with the help of friends and acquaintances. Remember not to overburden the other party with your expectations. Accept and respect her refusal.
What if partners have different needs?
When considering basic needs in a relationship, you will find that everyone defines them slightly differently. E.g. one person will feel important to her partner if he spends a weekend with her and takes her opinion into account when choosing a restaurant. The other, on the other hand, will expect him or her to spend eight hours at work instead of ten, regardless of temporary difficulties in the company. It is normal for partners to have different needs in a relationship. We are separate individuals, grew up in different environments, represent different personality types and speak different love languages. When we recognise that we have different needs from our partner, it is worth considering which needs play a key role for us. Some expectations we will not give up, such as equal sharing of household chores. Others we can meet with friends and relatives. E.g. a partner does not like to travel abroad because the change of environment over-stimulates his nervous system, leading to overstimulation. This does not mean that we will only get to know the world from travel films. For a trip, let’s invite a friend or cousin who enjoys exploring remote corners of the world. No one person can meet all our needs, so let’s nurture different relationships to fulfil different desires with everyone.
What happens if needs are not met in a relationship?
Meeting needs in a relationship plays a very important role and affects the overall level of satisfaction in a romantic relationship. When we get the impression that the other person does not show interest in our desires, even though they have been clearly expressed, we feel lonely. Expectations that are met with disregard breed frustration in us. This, over time, develops into resentment towards the partner and leads to a crisis in the relationship. Unmet needs in the relationship become a trigger for arguments in the relationship and also result in emotional distancing. Sometimes the partner, who feels increasing frustration, decides to end the unsatisfactory relationship. In addition, disregarded desires increase the risk of infidelity.
Summary – needs in a relationship and how to meet them
Both emotional needs in a relationship and physical needs are equally important. Communicate them in an open and non-aggressive way without relying on the other party to guess our desires. Balance is key. Sometimes we give more than we receive. It is not about writing down in a notebook how many times the other party has prepared dinner for us or shopped for the house. It is worth paying attention to whether our commitment to the relationship outweighs our partner’s initiative. If an inequality arises, let’s consider what it is due to. We bring patterns drawn from the family home into romantic relationships. If we were the party who looked after younger siblings but could not count on much care and attention ourselves, we are likely to step into the role of ‘parent’. As a result, we forget about our own needs and focus on our partner’s expectations. Sometimes we start a romantic relationship with inadequate expectations. We count on the other party to meet our need for unconditional love because our parents did not. A partner loves differently than a mum or dad, and it is worth bearing this in mind to avoid disappointment. We fulfil some desires on our own, others with friends. Let’s remember that no one person can meet all our needs, so let’s nurture different relationships. Then we will discover that different interests do not derail a relationship because we share them with friends.