8 emotional needs to consider in a relationship
Everyone has emotional needs. Consider basic survival needs like water, air, food, and shelter. Meeting these physical needs means you can stay alive, but it takes more to give life meaning.
You can’t see or touch things like companionship, affection, security, or appreciation, but they’re just as valuable. The same goes for feeling heard or valued.
In a relationship, the strength of your bond can make a big difference in whether you both get your needs met.
Although every relationship looks a little different, these 8 emotional needs are a good starting point for considering whether you and your partner are each getting what you need from the relationship.
Affection helps you bond and increase closeness. Not everyone shows affection in the same ways, but partners generally get used to each other’s unique approaches toward fulfilling this need.
Someone who doesn’t say “I love you” might show their regard through their actions, for example.
If the level of affection in your relationship suddenly changes, you might start to worry. Many relationship issues stem from a lack of affection, and it’s pretty understandable to wonder why a once-affectionate partner seems distant or avoidant of touch.
Knowing your partner accepts you as you are can help create a sense of belonging in the relationship.
Acceptance doesn’t just mean they accept you, though. It also means you feel as if you fit in with their loved ones and belong in their life.
This sense of belonging might increase when they introduce you to family and friends or share dreams and goals for the future.
If you don’t feel accepted, you might feel as if you’re hovering on the edges of their life. This isn’t a comfortable place to be.
A healthy relationship should feel secure, but security can mean many things.
If you feel secure in your relationship, you generally know they respect your boundaries, feel safe to share your feelings, feel physically safe with them, believe they support your choices and also be able to share your feelings.
Trust and security often go hand in hand. It’s hard to feel physically or emotionally safe with someone you can’t trust. When you trust someone, you know they’re looking out for you as well as themselves.
If you start to doubt them, try bringing up specific behaviors, such as staying out late without explanation. This helps you get to the bottom of what’s going on while touching base on communication needs.
Having empathy means you can imagine how someone else feels. This ability is essential to romantic relationships since it helps people understand each other and build deeper bonds.
Say they forget your birthday. You feel angry and hurt. After 5 years together, how could they? You’ve never forgotten their birthday.
But after your initial rush of disappointment and anger, you start to consider their side. They’ve been struggling at work lately, and that anxiety has started affecting their sleep. Most of their emotional energy has gone into planning a big project that could help turn things around.
With all that on their mind, you reason, it’s more understandable how they completely blanked on your birthday. You know it wasn’t an intentional slight, and you also know they feel terrible.
It’s pretty normal to want your partner to make you a priority. You want to know you come first and that after they meet their own needs, yours are next in line.
Of course, most people have a few (or more) significant relationships. From time to time, someone else in their life might need to come first, such as a friend going through a crisis or a family member experiencing a rough patch.
In general, though, if you don’t feel like a priority in their life, you probably feel as if they don’t really value your presence. This can make you wonder why they even bother with the relationship. A conversation can often help.
It’s OK not to do everything together. In fact, maintaining separate interests and friendships can be good for individual mental health, as well as the health of your relationship (see autonomy above).
But you probably want to feel connected at the same time. That’s perfectly understandable. What are relationships for, if not sharing your life? Without connection, you can feel lonely even when you spend most of your time together.
Connection is important, but so is space.
Space within a relationship means you both have the freedom to do your own thing when you want to. You feel supported but know you can make your own choices.