We all have needs, including emotional ones. Everyone wants to feel like they belong, like they are wanted, loved, and mean something. All of these needs are a part of human nature. These natural desires are what fuels our self-esteem. We all share these wants, but everyone has a unique set of desires. In a healthy marriage, both spouses need to have an understanding. Both individuals must feel respect from and for each other and others. Understanding each other’s primary emotional needs, and working to respond to them will strengthen your marriage.
Am I being responsive to your emotional needs?
Not all our emotional needs can be met. Certain needs are beyond the scope of any one person. We can try to satisfy these wants by asking our partners to be responsive and to honor them. Some of these needs your partner might be happy and willing to make happen if they know about them. Bear in mind that there might be desires that they aren’t able to meet. Discuss the emotional needs that you and your spouse have. Speak honestly and precisely about what you are willing to offer to each other. Deliberate substitutions for getting your needs met without your partner, if necessary.
What should I say to you when I need more?
It can be hard hearing or saying, “I need more from you.” Having our partners wanting more love, attention, affection, and intimacy than we can give can have us feeling like our sense of being accepted and appreciated is dissipating. Everyone wants to believe or at least feel like we and our devotions are enough. You can’t discern all your partner’s needs, and you might not be able to understand or relate to some of them. Even so, your significant other should feel comfortable expressing him- or herself. What’s more important is how you respond to them. Ask yourself: how can I make their request feel safe for them?
Do we have enough emotional space?
One emotional need is a need for independence and liberty. Perhaps you need less emotional than your spouse does. Needing emotional space doesn’t mean you don’t want to be intimate or close with your partner. In fact, having space from each other enhances the desire to be more intimate and affectionate. The heart often wants what it doesn’t have, even if it is for the briefest of moments. Talk to each other about space. How much is too much? What kind of space is needed, and can you both make this happen for one another? Sometimes we must be away from what we love to remember how much we want it.
Do you feel understood?
Some emotional needs can’t be met at all times, but empathy can always be achieved. Listening, showing we care, acknowledging each other’s thoughts and feelings is a major way to support your partner. Sometimes this requires help from outside the marriage, and that’s okay. The goal is to ensure that each spouse is feeling like they are understood. We can let our partners know they aren’t in this alone, and that we recognize and understand their frame of mind and desires.
Are you feeling free to express yourself?
Certain individuals can freely express themselves while others don’t find it as easy. Anger, hurt or feeling not fully understood can prevent your spouse from talking to you about their emotions. “Maybe they’ll diminish how I feel…” is a thought that goes through the mind of people who are fearful of expressing themselves to others. If you or your partner have any of these thoughts or have suppressed your emotions, especially about your marriage, you need to talk about it. Speak kindly and constructively to each other. Listening while setting aside any defensiveness is imperative for the fluid flow of communication. If there is any doubt, it will affect both of you and your marriage.
What from your past has shaped your emotional needs and reactions?
Many of your reactions and triggers stem from your upbringing. How you were raised and the environment in which you grew up can have a profound impact on your emotional well-being as an adult. It is the root of how you react and handle emotional circumstances. Your significant other can’t step back in time to see what you went through. What they can do is listen to you as you explain your needs and your past. They can try to be understanding about how certain past events have affected you, your outlook, and behavior. Schedule some time to learn about each other’s upbringing and the past. Don’t just talk about the bad. Discuss the fun times you had as well and all the different moments you have experienced. This will not only bring both of you closer but will also benefit your marriage. You will have a better understanding of each other and where you are coming from because you will have a very good understanding of the journey your spouse has traveled.
Am I overwhelming you?
There will be times when you will have conflicts with your spouse. During these times, a flood of pain, difficulty and negative emotions can drown both of you at the same time. If your partner is someone that you turn to during hardships, remember that they may be feeling the same as you and might not have a lot to give at that moment. Therefore, an alternative route needs to be planned and discussed for when both of you are feeling overwhelmed. It’s okay to seek help outside of your marriage. We are human after all and if you and someone you love are going through the same thing, an outside perspective might be what you need. Discuss what alternatives you both can use if you find yourselves in a hot seat.