What are Needs? Needs are basic emotional requirements. The list is infinite and can include needing food and shelter, to needing a sense of ease and quiet throughout the day. A need could be a basic, such as food, money, a roof over your head, stability, or sleep. It’s easy to recognize, for instance, that a toddler will become cranky if he or she is hungry, sleepy, or the environment is unstable. These needs do not go away as we grow. In fact, they multiply. Humans have a need for:
Connection with others
The list is seemingly infinite, because we are all different and needs include not just the things we require to survive, but also our wants and desires to create a meaningful and peaceful life. When needs aren’t being met, there is a tendency to react in an unhealthy or destructive manner instead of responding in a healthy way. This is especially true if you are in need of food or sleep as these needs not only can trigger a survival response but also impact our production of what our brains need to feel good.
Let’s imagine that a relationship can fall on a spectrum of loving a person for who they are and loving a person for what needs they fulfill for you. We also mentioned the importance of knowing where you fall on that spectrum, which can vary at any given time. Take time to ask yourself these questions:
What needs do you currently have that are unmet?
What needs are being fulfilled by your partner?
Does your partner know they are fulfilling these needs?
Is your partner comfortable fulfilling these needs?
How are you fulfilling your partner’s needs?
Are you comfortable fulfilling these needs?
Consider the following: Nadia and Chris support each other through thick and thin. When Chris got a promotion at her job after almost a decade of working there, Nadia felt sincere joy for Chris, and not exasperation at how long it took for Chris to be promoted. Nadia knows Chris is an introverted person and usually avoids taking the reigns in things like asking for raises, or even asking for the check when they are out to eat. When Nadia hosts her bridge club at their home, Chris welcomes everyone with open arms, even if she desperately wants to recede to the bedroom. Nadia is much more extroverted than Chris and craves social interaction with all sorts of people, much more frequently than Chris. Both Nadia and Chris are aware of each other’s unique needs, and they both work with each other to make sure that those needs are met most of the time.
They aren’t always met, of course, but when that happens, Chris can step back and say, “Hey, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed. My need for solitude just isn’t being met. I think I’m going to take a walk by myself for a while.” Likewise, Nadia can say, “I feel like going out soon. I think I will go to that restaurant that just opened up tomorrow night and see what the fuss is about. You are more than welcome to come with me, if you’re up to it.” Nadia and Chris communicate assertively and are quickly able to compromise with each other because they are both in tune with their own needs as well as each other’s. Try it!Think about a need you have that might be in direct opposition to a need of your partner’s. Let’s use sex as an example.
Say you want to have sex more frequently, and you want things to be more lively in bed. Your partner wants sex to to be more intimate, and not when they are too tired. You usually find yourself wanting sex late at night. Rate your desires for sex on a scale of 1-10, 1 being least important, 10 being most important. Your list may look like this:
More frequent sex – 10
More lively sex – 6
Sex late at night – 2
And your partner’s list may look like this:
Because your desire to have sex at night is less than your partner’s desire to have sex earlier in the day, give in to your partner’s desire. The more each partner is willing to compromise or “give in” with the other, the less of a hassle the larger priorities seem. For instance, it might be easier to compromise now to have sex more frequently, earlier in the day, if the sex is also mostly close and loving, and not just short and sweet.
The more intimacy cultivated could also open up doors to being more adventurous and lively. Homework Take time tonight to intentionally fulfill one of your partner’s needs. This can be a need for comfort or a need for ease. Prepare lunch for tomorrow, have their things ready to go for them so they can have a stress free morning. Give them a long massage. How does it feel to be there for your partner, enriching their life? Let them know how it makes you feel. Ask they do something similar for you, a small favor or gesture that is fulfilling.