Many times in marriage, needs go unmet, and sometimes it can be blamed on our spouse. What is our responsibility towards meeting our own needs, and when is it our spouse’s job to take care of our needs through the relationship? If we aren’t doing a good job at meeting our own needs first, we can’t blame our unhappiness on our significant other!
What are the different basic needs in life? Safety (security), Self-worth, Identity, Belonging, Fun, Power (personal power), Love, and Freedom.
Safety (or security) includes our sense of trust in the relationship on an emotional and physical level. Are you honest with your spouse? In order to have your spouse provide truth and openness, it’s important, to be honest with your spouse first.
Do you keep toxic secrets around money/spending, communication with members of the opposite sex, or other important topics? Do you communicate with your spouse in a non-judgmental and safe way? Or are you defensive and reactive when any emotional topic is brought up? Safety in a relationship starts by being a safe person first. Communicate your needs with your spouse about what safety means to you both.
Self-Worth means how you view yourself and your feelings about your worth as an individual. Do you constantly berate yourself or put yourself down (whether it’s in your thinking or verbally)? When your spouse compliments you, do you accept it and say “thank you”, or do you reject it or dismiss it?
We can’t expect our spouse to meet our need for self-worth if we constantly berate ourselves and don’t provide positive messages about ourselves in our self-talk first. Let your spouse know what compliments truly help to provide a sense of worth to your marriage.
Identity includes our roles in the marriage as well as outside of the marriage. It defines who we are. Sometimes, we might look towards another person to define us, which can create resentment. No one wants to feel as though they are responsible for the identity of two people!
Do you have hobbies, interests, and passions outside of, or separate from, your spouse? Do you allow your spouse to have outside interests? Find your own identity first before expecting your spouse to do this for you. You will have more to bring to the marriage!
Belonging includes our sense of acceptance and where we fit into our lives and relationships. This might come from feeling like our ideas and opinions matter to others, or come from having your spouse include you in things that are important to your family or relationship. Do you communicate with your spouse about the areas important to you to feel included? Do you initiate things with your spouse or do you wait for them to ask you first?
Fun is the playful side of relationships. It’s easy to get bogged down in the day to day life (laundry, cleaning the house, work, taking care of kids) and let the fun go to the wayside. What kind of recreational activities do you participate in outside of the marriage? Do you do things that bring you joy (apart from your spouse), or do you exclusively look towards your “dates” with your spouse to fulfill your fun time?
Power (personal power) is important in our relationships to feel respected for our role in the marriage. Power can also be one of the biggest underlying issues for couples in their conflict. Sometimes we wait for our spouse to “hand us” power, instead of actively asking for what we need and setting boundaries with our spouse.
If you find yourself feeling powerless in your marriage, work on setting boundaries with your significant other. Again, we cannot expect our spouse to meet a need that we aren’t doing our part in the meeting.
Love is what makes our relationships fulfilling. Everyone needs to feel loved! Does your spouse know what ways you feel the most loved? Perhaps it is by helping you around the house or being spontaneous in bringing you gifts. Or maybe it is spending time doing something you both enjoy. If your spouse doesn’t know how you feel the most loved, teach them! A great resource on this is “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman.
Freedom is what helps us feel like an individual outside of the marriage. Many marriages can become controlling, which causes couples to feel smothered—like they have lost who they originally were when they first met.
If you are controlling of your spouse, ask yourself what that is attempting to protect you from? Is it fear-based and come from a place of insecurity? Does your spouse need more freedom to do the things that bring him joy and provide more to give back to the marriage? Or perhaps you view your spouse as controlling. Begin setting boundaries with your spouse to gain back your healthy freedom in the relationship.
Each basic need is very important in our relationships. Without having each of them met, your relationship and personal happiness will suffer. Which of these needs can you begin working on today?