All about needs: A series of articles to help you identify your most important needs and how to communicate them effectively

All human beings are needs-orientated. Even a small foetus has needs and is not shy to take what it wants and needs in order to survive. We are needs-driven – to the core. To make it easier to understand; I would like to look at needs from five different perspectives: we all have emotional, physical, social, intellectual and spiritual needs. Because all of us were uniquely and wonderfully made, our needs will differ. This difference in needs can make some relationships more difficult. It is there for important to stand still with me for a while – let’s take a closer look at YOU and your individual needs.

In life there is one relationship that you cannot break up with, separate from or divorce and that is the relationship that you have with yourself. When your relationship with yourself is not good, all your other relationship (romantic, friendship, work and parental relationships) will be negatively affected by it. For this reason it is very important to stand still today and think….. When I look at myself, how do I feel? What do I need? How happy am I really? With the next five articles I would like to help you in reconnecting with your needs. Only then can we reconnect with our partners and then we can focus on what the relationship needs to heal.

In reconnecting with yourself I would like to start this series of articles by talking about and identifying our most important emotional needs. Because we were uniquely created our needs will differ, but through my years in working with people and couples, I’ve identified some common emotional needs that most people share. I would like to start this by identifying one very important emotional need for woman:

Woman want to feel emotionally safe.

Most women want to feel emotionally safe in their romantic relationships. They want to feel that their partner respects and listens to their feelings. By discarding your partner’s feelings; through saying things like: “You should not feel that way”, “here you go nagging again” “You are always so sensitive” or “I don’t care how you feel” you create an opportunity for her to feel emotionally unsafe. She will then either start to emotionally over react (fighting, screaming, crying) or she will start to supress her feelings. Both of these reactions could lead to serious problems in communication and cause your partner to feel unwanted and unimportant. To avoid this, validate your partner’s feelings. You don’t have to understand them or even agree with them, but validating and respecting feelings will lead to emotional safety.

On the other hand:

Men want to feel competent.

By this I mean that most men want to be good providers, husbands and fathers. They want to feel like they are doing a good job and hate feeling like they failed. When a woman expresses feelings of unhappiness and frustration, a man feels “responsible” to fix it. In a sense he feels incompetent because he’s partner is not happy.

Unfortunately we are primal beings – once you feel threatened, you either protect yourself or you defend yourself. The more the woman expresses her feelings, the more incompetent the man feels. The more incompetent the man feels, the more he tries to defend himself, thus not validating the woman’s feelings. The less he validates the more emotionally unsafe she feels which can lead to further expression of unhappiness or suppression of feelings. I hope that you can see how this can end up being a very unhealthy circle of events. Sometimes we infuse each other’s negative behaviour simply by doing what comes natural to us. So ladies, it is important that you give your man verbal acknowledgement on a daily basis – statements like “You really are a wonderful husband”, “Wow no one can make coffee like you do”, “You take such good care of your family” can mean the world to him. It also helps if you let him know that you are simply expressing feelings and that he is not responsible for them.

Deep inside all people (male and female) we also have four very basic, yet very important emotional needs. The first one is the need for belonging. All people want to feel that they belong somewhere. We are social creatures that need to be part of a family or group. When a child struggles to find belonging it can make them vulnerable to a series of negative group influences and this child will grow up being very pleasing and self-sacrificing just to belong. In a relationship this means that you will latch onto your partner and that you might supress or deny the expression of thoughts and feelings in the fear that your partner might leave you.

The second need is the need for unconditional acceptance. We all want to feel that we are accepted and loved for who we are. The word “unconditional” can be misleading. Loving and accepting someone unconditionally does not mean that you accept bad or destructive behaviour but that you accept your partner for who they are (not what they do). If you don’t feel accepted, you feel rejected. Feelings or rejection as a child can lead to a multitude of interpersonal relationship problems, because people who feel rejected constantly have the need to feel secure and to hear that they are still wanted. Once your fear of rejection is very high, you will either be over dependent in a relationship or you will reject people before they can reject you.

The third need we all have is the need for acknowledgement. All people want to hear that they are good enough. Unfortunately some people grow up in violent/dysfunctional families where the only messages they get about themselves are negative. If you did not receive positive self-messages as a child, you will grow up with the constant need for approval. Feelings of “I’m not good enough” can also lead to a multitude of interpersonal problems. You will become over dependent on your partner to make you feel good enough all the time. Because we are flawed human beings; no one can make you feel happy and good all the time. Expecting your partner to make you feel good enough all the time is unrealistic. 

The forth emotional need that is important is the need to know who you are and what you want – the need for individuality and identity. Like I said earlier, the relationship that you have with yourself is very important. You need to know and be in touch with yourself. The better you know yourself, the easier it is to accept who you are and also to express to your partner what you need. We can also become overly dependent on people when we are unsure of ourselves.

Please take this week to go think about the above mentioned emotional needs. Ask yourself “Do I feel like I belong somewhere?” “Do I accept myself?” “Do I feel emotionally safe and competent?” “Am I good enough?” “What are my most important emotional needs?” “Do I feel unconditionally accepted by my partner”… Take this week to look at yourself and do some introspection. In healing; starting with healing yourself is always the best start. First look at yourself, your needs and feelings, take care of them, and then we can focus more effectively on our relationships.

In this article I talked about your individual emotional needs, during the next article we will look at the emotional needs of your relationship and what we need to put into it to make it healthy and happy. But for now take the time to get in touch with yourself….we need to start somewhere and starting with yourself is the one thing that you have control over.

Happy soul searching. 

Also read the other articles in series: 
Emotional needs – the start to a healthier and happier you
Physical needs – your body, physical touch and your emotions
Social Needs – Our need for interaction and contact with friends and family (Part one)
Social Needs – Our need for interaction and contact with friends and family (Part two)