The success of any relationship hinges on the ability for each partner to get their needs met. This is true of a parent-child relationship, friendship, and romantic partnership. But, that criteria of a successful relationship isn’t as simple as it seems. Getting your needs met is a result of identifying, owning, understanding and communicating those needs effectively.
Here are three steps you can take to get your needs met in a relationship, based on research from Susan Pease Gadoua (2018) and our work with Denver-based clients.
Step 1: Acknowledge that you have needs
According to Susan Pease Gadoua (2018), begin by giving yourself permission to have needs. Start with accepting the fact that you have needs, rather than being embarrassed by or in denial of that very truth. Don’t let the fact that you have needs make you feel weak, incompetent, or inadequate. If it’s hard for you to own this part of yourself, look at those people closest to you in your life. From the outside, can you see that they have needs, and perhaps can even make a short list of what those might be? For your partner, it might be a desire for intimacy, stability, and/or connection. When you can see that those around you have needs, whether they are conscious of them or not, it might be easier to acknowledge that you too have needs.
Step 2: Identify your needs
Understanding your needs, based on your values, is important before you can act on and communicate around them. Identifying your needs is an ongoing process. You can begin to uncover your needs in a variety of ways. It’s often helpful to create a list of your ideal life. When you reflect on this list, your needs will be more clear. For instance, if your need is around “career achievement”, define what that uniquely means to you. Perhaps it’s a certain salary, title, impact, or sense of fulfillment. Getting clear about the details of your needs, and what in your life might have to change to ensure they are met, will improve the chances that your needs are fulfilled in a healthy and satisfying way.
Step 3: Learn how and when to get your needs met
Getting your needs met means either committing to or saying “no” to the invitations in your life in honor of your needs. Start by identifying which needs are being met fully, and which might be met partially, or not at all. From these, go one step further and ask yourself whether your needs are met in a healthy and sustainable way. For instance, if your need for more spontaneity in your life is met 100%, and at the same time, that also means that you have too much credit card debt due to last-minute trips and purchases, your needs might be met, but not in a healthy way. Along the same lines, communicating the details of your needs to your partner, friend, or parent, with examples, might be uncomfortable, but is essential fully getting your needs met. Lastly, by getting clear on what actions, activities, boundaries, or interactions serve your top needs, you can choose more of those actions in your life, resulting in more satisfying relationships.
Getting your needs met in a relationship is not something to take lightly and also not something that is often openly discussed with your partner. Begin the conversation by encouraging him or her to make a list of his or her top five needs as you share yours. Then, talk candidly and fearlessly about whether these needs are being met, to what degree, and with what actions. This deep dive into something so fundamental to the success of your relationship is certain to improve the dynamics of your partnership.
At Center for Shared Insight in Denver, Colorado, we use exercises just like this with our clients to help them uncover more about themselves and the way they interact with others. We work with our clients to help them identify their needs. We help clients uncover deeper needs that they might not even consciously understand, as well as guide them as their needs evolve. Getting needs met in a relationship always leads to more satisfaction in the partnership. If the desire to get your needs met better in a relationship resonates with you, contact our Denver therapy team for a free consultation.
Pease Gadoua, S. (2018). To Divorce or Not to Divorce: Helping Clients Get Out of Marital Indecision. A Training for Therapists.