The 3 Basic, Universal Relationship Needs


There are a lot of ways that psychologist and researchers try to quantify the health of a relationship. Some look at the quanitity of positive interactions, others ask about satisfaction, and another group looks at how needs get met by partners. The latter is centrally important in working therapeutically with couples, and I hope the following post will highlight some information that readers can apply to their own relationships or groups of friends.

Relationships Needs Throughout Life
The basic relationship needs written about here are all things that we cannot provide ourselves, and we rely on others to help provide them for us. The original concept about this kind of need was from psychoanalytic therapists who called them “dependency needs”, because we were dependent on others to meet them. Specifically, when we are first born into the world, almost every need except for oxygen is a dependency need. An infant is dependent on caregivers 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 / Belonging
2. Affection (Verbal and Physical)
3. Emotional Support / Validation

For couples, these needs are ideally met in the partnership. Strong couples are able to be good companions (sharing their day to day lives, personal histories, and interests together), give verbal and physical affection (affirmations, hugs, sexual intimacy, 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. For a good model on fulfilling these in your relationship, read “Minding Your Relationship”.

Individuals that are not currently in a partnership need to have these met in other ways. Usually a lot of this occurs in strong bonds with friends and family …

Read more: Will Meek PhD, Psychology Today

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