When we experience traumatic events in our lives such as the loss of a loved one, severe health issues, the loss of our job or our home, many of us come face to face with needs that I call basic relationship needs. As a relationship coach I define them as 1) feeling physically (including sexually) safe 2) feeling accepted for who we are 3) feeling connected 4) feeling supported and cared for, and 5) feeling appreciated. I summarize these basic needs in two categories, feeling physically safe (1) and feeling emotionally safe (2-5).
Life, however, does not have to be so challenging for these basic relationship needs to arise. We are born with them and they stay with us throughout our lives. I dare say, it is only when all our basic relationship needs are being met that we can be at our best. So will our partnerships and other important relationships in our lives. It contributes to our emotional and physical health.
In an example, a friend of mine wanted to get divorced because she did not feel emotionally safe with her husband. Unfortunately, he was not open to relationship coaching or any form of marriage counseling/therapy that may have helped them as a couple. Too often she had been ridiculed by him for having certain feelings and too often she had been accused of being incompetent. She did not feel accepted for who she was. Feeling unappreciated and disrespected finally became unbearable. They had daily arguments and it began to affect her health. At that point, she felt her only option was divorce.
My friend’s example illustrates how crucial it is for those of us in a partnership to get our “five basic relationship needs” met. It is not enough to satisfy two or three of them if you want a lasting, growing partnership. It also demonstrates that when we look at what is behind our arguments, we often will find unmet basic relationship needs. When we learn to recognize and express those needs directly, our chances that they will be met will increase.
Whether we are in a partnership or not, it is important to be able to satisfy those basic relationship needs in ourselves. For various reasons, our partners or friends are not always able to meet our needs. Learning to be our own best friend before entering a partnership is extremely helpful. However, no matter how good we get at fulfilling those basic relationship needs for ourselves, we still need to feel physically and emotionally safe with others, especially our partners.
In my first blog on relationships I made the comparison of relationships being like a garden in which we get to choose what to plant and what not. In my last three blogs, I explained why trust, vulnerability, and getting our five basic relationship needs met are important “fertilizers” to grow healthy and thriving relationships and how they work in synergy with each other. Vulnerability allows us to be in touch with our basic relationship needs. Meeting each other’s basic relationship needs builds trust. The result is that “flowers” such as “intimacy” and “positivity” in our relationships will continue to bloom and we as individuals along with them.