When it comes to relationships, we all have different expectations that we seek to fulfill. Frequently the importance of relationships, their quality, and endurance lies in a healthy and mutual fulfillment of emotional needs.
Relationships are a space where we can receive and give, feel validated, appreciated, listened to, and much more. Our loved ones are a source of emotional fulfillment for us.
However, we also need to be able to rely on ourselves and not place the weight of fulfilling all our needs on our partners.
What to do when emotional needs in a marriage are not being met and how to achieve more emotional satisfaction?
Before we move on to answering these important questions, let’s define more closely what are emotional needs.
What are the emotional needs?
Basic such needs are conditions and expectations we all have and need to have fulfilled in order to feel happy, accomplished, and validated.
Everyone seeks to accomplish such needs in a relationship, primarily with their partner and then with their friends and family. The hierarchy of our needs depends on our set of personal values and priorities. One person might value security above all, while another can cherish connectedness or commitment.
Common emotional needs
In 1943, in his paper “A Theory of Human Motivation,” Maslow presented his list of basic emotional needs. His pyramid of needs has at the bottom the basic ones, like food, water, shelter, and at the top self-actualization needs.
He postulated that humans needed to accomplish the satisfaction of the bottom ones first in order to arise at the next level of emotional needs.
Contrary to Maslow, we can observe people who value such needs differently and aim to accomplish some of the higher-ranked ones first. For example, they might prioritize feelings of accomplishment over some of the more basic ones that have not been fully met.
A list of emotional needs can always be extended, as we each have our own inventory. This goes both for the emotional needs of a woman and the emotional needs of a man. Here we share some of the most common ones:
Receiving and sharing attention
Feeling safe and secure (physically and psychologically)
Experiencing a sense of purpose
Achieving a sense of connection and community
Feeling intimate and vulnerable
Accomplishment and/or prestige
Feeling desired and wanted
Being special and uniquely valued
Surely, you would organize this list differently according to your priorities and personal values. Most likely, you would add some that are inherent only to you.
Use this list to help you illuminate and recognize more of your needs as it is one of the crucial steps in their realization.
Signs emotional needs aren’t being met
When such needs are not met, we can feel many things. Unmet needs can trigger certain behaviors that can show how neglected the needs are. Some of the common signs you may experience are:
Frustration and/or annoyance
Social withdrawal or isolation
Minimization of unmet needs
Seeking fulfillment outside the relationship
Frequent fights with your loved one
Valuing your partner or the relationship less
The intensity of the listed signs and emotions will vary depending on the importance of a particular need and the length of its neglect.
What happens when emotional needs aren’t met?
When emotional needs are not being met for a substantial amount of time, you may start to feel unloved, rejected, and lonely. In those scenarios, our first impulse is to turn to the people closest to us for the fulfillment of needs.
When we feel dissatisfied, we often turn to our partners for the contentment of emotional needs, yet for some of us, our partner is not the best person to turn to.
This is the case when we are asking for something they are not able to provide at that moment, because they are themselves drained, and excluding ourselves from the resource list for the accomplishment of needs.
Take responsibility for yourself and ask for what you need
Although we enjoy depending on our partners, we should be able to rely on ourselves as well, and for some needs, on other people too.
For the fulfillment of some needs, we could ask our partners to participate, but we should be the primary source of their fulfillment.
10 Emotional Needs You Should Not Expect To Be Fulfilled by Your Partner
A healthy partnership includes being there for each other but not relying completely on the other person.
Although you might take turns being strong for one another, this job should not fall solely on one partner. You should be able to carry the “weight” of your emotional needs, some needs more so than others.
Having someone you value deem you smart, funny, sexy, and worthy is sure to boost your confidence. However, your pool of self-confidence can’t and shouldn’t be filled only by your partner. The sources should be many, and the main one should be you.
2. Acceptance and self-love
Similar to self-confidence, learning to appreciate, accept, and love yourself is something only you can give to yourself. Seeing yourself through the loving eyes of a caring partner helps, but it shouldn’t fall on them entirely.
When you truly accept and love all of yourself (although you can still be working on improving certain aspects), you can receive more love and care from your partner. You can internalize and experience more of their affection when you create a base of self-love first.
3. To motivate you
Although our partner can support us in our goals, the majority of the motivation should be our own. One of the reasons for this is the fact that often our partner’s goals don’t align with our own.
If they are not as enthusiastic about something we want to do, that shouldn’t stop us from going for it. If you want something, you should be the primary source of your motivation.
4. Sense of completeness
We all need different things to achieve a sense of true completeness, and we each have to discover for ourselves what that thing is. If we rely on our partner to provide that feeling, we are tying it to them, and the fear of losing them rises.
Once we are afraid of losing them, we start creating strategies to restrain them instead of focusing on self-growth that ultimately attracts them spontaneously. We should be in a relationship because we want to, not because we can’t live without it.
If that role is all you have to make you happy, you will become too dependent on your partner. What other roles can provide fulfillment to you that are separate from your marriage union? Remember, we are most drawn to our partners when they radiate or are passionate about their personal projects.
6. Forgiveness and healing
We all have wounds from the past and baggage we carry with us. We are the ones responsible for finding peace and forgiveness for ourselves. Having a negative experience with a cheating partner is not going to be solved by your new partner.
Although having a trusting and reliable partner can be a healing experience, in order to truly trust them, you need to find a way to deal with the past hurt and your anticipations arising from it.
7. Inspiration to grow and improve
Make no mistake, in a healthy relationship, both partners grow and change. However, the reason they do is rooted in their desire to do so. Your partner should not be telling you what you need to improve or how. You are responsible for your own growth and who you want to be as a person.
8. Security of resources
A partnership, for many, means being able to rely on their spouse for financial security to some extent. Although there are many different ways to organize a house budget, it is recommended to have a way to provide for yourself so, if need be, you can do it.
There is no recipe for money related arrangements; however, it is recommended that you can rely on yourself for financial independence.
9. To always understand and empathize with you
You might be taken by surprise when you first read that we shouldn’t expect our partner to always sympathize with us. They are a separate person with their own set of values and beliefs, and there will be times when their perspective on things will differ.
That doesn’t make them immediately inadequate as a partner. That just makes them different from you. In a healthy relationship, you can expect your partner to understand and empathize with you, but not every single time.
10. To be your everything
In her famous talk, Kim Eng reminds us if we demand that our expectations should be met, we are setting ourselves up.
However, expecting someone to be our everything contains a lot of expectations and can lead to disappointment.
Don’t forget – a healthy relationship should increase your happiness, not be the sole reason for it.
How to become comfortable with unmet emotional needs
If so, your first step is to identify what it is that you feel missing. Do you need more understanding, support, security, appreciation, a sense of accomplishment, community? Naming such needs helps you start looking for adequate sources for their attainment.
2. Discuss with your partner
Once you recognize what emotional needs are not being met, you should have an honest conversation with your partner. Ask for what you need, and you might receive it. The keyword here is might.
By asking for what you need, you increase your partner’s chances of providing it to you. Yet, it doesn’t mean you are sure to receive it.
They might be going through a rough period and need support themselves, or they might not be the best source for that particular emotional need at this moment. Keep an open mind to hear their reasons, and remember that them saying “no” doesn’t mean your need will remain neglected.
3. Widen the resource list
Even if your partner wants to be there for ALL your needs, they shouldn’t be the sole source of their satisfaction. Your family and friends are important sources to consider.
There are going to be times when your partner will be depleted or unavailable, and you need a wider network for such scenarios.
4. Take more responsibility for yourself
Having a supportive partner and a wide social network is great, but it isn’t enough. You need to be a part of your resource list. Learning how to be emotionally supportive for yourself is not always the easiest task, yet it is achievable and important.
If you find it too difficult, you can always look for professional help. A therapist will be able to help you become more aware of your wants vs. needs in a relationship, distinguish on whom to rely upon what, and how to deal with periods of dissatisfaction better.
5. Learn to be more comfortable with unmet needs
In a healthy relationship, it is important to achieve emotional compatibility meaning that you are asking for something your partner can and wants to provide for you, and vice versa.
However, there are certainly going to be times when you feel exhausted and spent, especially if both of you are going through periods of stress. It is important to learn how to navigate those without jumping to conclusions about the relationship in general.
Such periods happen to all of us. Hence, we need to prepare the best we can for them.
Each person has a unique set of expectations they bring into the relationship. Having your emotional needs met is important for both partners and relationship satisfaction.
Albeit, your partner shouldn’t be the only resource for the accomplishment of your emotional needs. It is not fair to them and won’t benefit you in the long run.
Rely on your partner, but don’t become too dependent on them. Expand a network of resources to friends and family so you have people to support you when your partner can’t be there. Furthermore, take more responsibility for your own emotional gratification.
Learning how to complete ourselves is an important task that awaits each of us if we want to live happily ever after. There are things only we can give to ourselves like self-confidence, self-love, or acceptance, and relying on partners can endanger the relationship’s success.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Rachael Pace is a noted relationship writer associated with Marriage.com. She provides inspiration, support, and empowerment in the form of motivational articles and essays. Rachael enjoys studying the evolution of loving partnerships and is passionate about writing on them. She believes that everyone should make room for love in their lives and encourages couples to work on overcoming their challenges together.