Relationship Needs

18 Dec

There are some needs in a relationship that we cannot provide ourselves and rely on others to help provide them for us. Such needs are called “dependency needs”, because we were dependent on others to meet them.

When a child is born he is dependent on others for food, comfort, care, etc. As we get older, these needs change because we learn to provide some of these things for ourselves. However, as adults, there is still a universal set of relationship needs that remain. These are

  1. Companionship
  2. Affection
  3. Emotional Support

For couples, these needs are ideally met in the partnership by sharing their day to day lives, personal histories, and interests together, give verbal and physical affection (affirmations, hugs, compliments, etc.), and provide emotional support (being there to help during tough times, validations when the person is struggling, etc.).  In a healthy relationship, both members of a couple get used to depending on the other for these needs, and when they are not met, each person starts to become dissatisfied, which ultimately can lead to a break up.

Individuals that are not currently in a relationship need to have these needs met in other ways, usually through strong bonds with friends and family. A good example would be a group of friends or a family that knows you well, gives big hugs when they see you, always get your back and know the right thing to say when you are under stress, and make you feel like you have an important place in their lives. 

These are usually not the only needs people have in relationships. Almost everyone has some individualized needs as well. For example, in addition to the basic set, some people have different needs for amount of control in a relationship, or have specific requests to feel balanced and comfortable in it.

The results of these needs not being met are different depending on the individual on where he or she is in life. If these needs are not met when we are children, it can lead to lasting problems relating to others. As adults, not having these met adequately leads to feelings of loneliness and sometimes can move into depression.

Unfortunately, many family cultures and role expectations dismiss the importance of these needs, and instill values that not needing these things is somehow a superior way of being.  Examples: “I don’t need anyone”, “I can always rely on myself”, “I don’t want to burden others with my problems”, “crying or being angry doesn’t solve anything”, and “I only say ‘I love you’ infrequently because it will mean more when I say it”. When a person holds these values, and these needs are not met, there can be distress, which is more complicated to work through. These can also get in the way of meeting the needs of your partner, family or friends.

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