A lot of conflict in relationships boils down to one thing: You and/or your partner aren’t getting your needs met. Everyone has basic needs–like food, shelter, and water. But do you know what your needs are when it comes to your relationship? These are the needs that are the unconscious drivers behind every choice you make.
If you’ve listened to or read Tony Robbins’ material, you’ll be familiar with his premise that there are six basic needs that affect everyone’s behavior:
Marshall Rosenberg has a much more extensive list of needs, but he and the folks at the Non-Violent Communication Center state that the basic ones are:
- physical well-being
Do you know what your most important needs are? Take a moment to look at these two lists and see if you can come up with your top two needs. Ask your partner to do the same. Then, ask each other how each of you can meet and honor each other’s needs.
Have you ever noticed the ineffective ways people try to get their needs met? Pouting, withdrawal, yelling…If you don’t have tools to express your needs, it makes it worse. Way worse. And, if you don’t know your needs, you won’t know why you feel like picking a fight with your partner (or vice versa) or why you’re reacting so strongly to something they did or said.
A lot of needs in your adult life can be traced back to certain needs not being met when you were a child. So, for example, while your husband may be needing more certainty in his life because his parents split up when he was young; you may be needing more significance in your relationship now because you didn’t feel loved as a child. When you’re in touch with what your needs are, you touch on the triggers in your relationship–the triggers that lead to conflict. By the way, the priorities of your needs change over time as well. Maybe five years from now, the need to feel significant will go down the list as you grow and heal, and it will be more imperative to get the need for love and connection met.
Some of your needs right now could be a continuation of your childhood. Let’s say your mother put you on a pedestal so your need is to continue feeling significant in your adult life. What if that’s your partner’s need as well? If you aren’t conscious of this–of you both having the need of significance–this may cause conflict as you both unconsciously vie for the most attention. What if your partner’s most important need is for significance, but they don’t feel this from you so they go elsewhere to meet these needs? It could be they bury themselves in their work or in activities that don’t include you–or by having an affair. The need for variety sometimes leads to affairs as well.
The quality of your relationship improves when you’re conscious of your needs and how they drive your thoughts, beliefs, and actions.
And, since relationships take two people–your relationship will blossom if you know your partner’s needs (and it goes without saying, they know them). Imagine if you knew that your partner’s most important needs in your relationship was for certainty and love because when they were little, they lost a parent then endured abuse from a stepparent. How could you bring them certainty and love every day in your relationship? Yes, we should be proficient in getting our own needs met, but relationships are vehicles to engage in “we-ness.” When you willingly and consciously try to meet your partner’s most important needs, the relationship’s whole energy shifts.
When you have a fantastic relationship, everything else in the world seems rosy. When you can turn to your partner to celebrate life’s little ups, and be there for each other during life’s little downs–that enhances the quality of your life. When your needs are being met by your partner pleasantly, willingly, and lovingly–that creates an environment, an energy if you will, of safety, trust, harmony, intimacy, and love. Isn’t that what we all crave?
So the next time you find yourself in a conflict with your partner, think about what needs aren’t being met–for them or for you. What’s the trigger for the argument? Not all conflict is because of needs, but begin thinking about whether the negativity in your relationship is tied into not having needs met.
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If your relationship needs some much needed attention, and you’re not sure just reading articles like these and books will help, I invite you to discover relationship coaching. You can find out more by clicking here: Relationship Coaching.
My passion is to enrich people’s lives by helping them create extraordinary relationships. I am a certified life coach, have a Master’s degree in psychology, and am a Marriage and Family Therapy Candidate. I am the author of Transforming Divorce, the Transforming Divorce Workbook, and co-author (with my husband Don Nenninger) of The Secrets of Loving Relationships, and The Art and Science of Parenting: How to Act When Your Kid’s Acting Out.