Most of us enter into a relationship expecting the love of our life to satisfy our personal and emotional needs. After all, isn’t that the deal? If you love me, then you’ll know what my emotional needs are and you’ll work hard to satisfy them. This unconscious expectation seems to work fine in the initial stages of a relationship, when both parties are keen to do whatever it takes to please their partner and win their affections. But as time goes on, we aren’t so motivated to keep meeting our partner’s needs.
In fact, what initially felt fun and enjoyable may now feel like a burden. We stop doing the things we did during the courtship phase and start becoming a bit more critical. We begin to notice and comment on those negative personality traits that we had dismissed or overlooked at the start of the relationship. Once full of admiration and compliments, now our relationship is full of complaints and criticisms. No wonder 50% of marriages end in divorce. Nobody likes being criticized. Relationships fail when you experience an emotional disconnection. Relationships strengthen when you feel your emotional needs are expressed and satisfied. Now here comes the questions to building a happy, healthy relationship.
What are your top four personal and emotional needs?
The second key relationship question: What are your partner’s top four needs?
An obvious place to start. Ironically, most people can’t articulate their own needs, let alone their partners. Why is this so difficult to do? There are over 100 personal and emotional needs. These include the need to be loved, appreciated, understood, included, touched, cherished, respected, admired, etc. They also include personal needs like the need for order, to be right, to control, or for balance or peace.
Do you know which are your top needs?
If you can’t clearly articulate your top four needs, then how do you think your partner will be able to fulfill them for you? This is an obvious starting place to work on to make a better relationship and a stronger marriage or partnership. Men, as a general rule, prefer specific instructions. They tend to like it when you say, “I feel cherished when you bring me flowers. My favorite is yellow tulips.” Or, “I feel taken care of when you open doors for me or take out the trash.”
The key to expressing our emotions is to first get crystal clear on what you need. Then ask very specifically for what you want. This makes it much more likely that your partner will be able to fulfill your needs in a way that really satisfies you. We don’t all have the same set of needs but tend to assume that we do. Your partner may have a completely different set of needs. So, what works for you may not work for him or her.
If you aren’t sure what your top four emotional needs are, you can take the free Emotional Index Quiz and find out.
Feeling an emotional disconnection isn’t inevitable if you take action to get your own needs met. In fact, this one simple step has the power to turn relationships around if you start before too much negativity builds. The good news is that you don’t even need to rely on your spouse or partner. You can get your emotional needs satisfied by asking your friends and family. This takes the pressure off your spouse, making it more likely he/she will actually want to meet your needs. If we have to do something, it feels like a burden. If we don’t have to, then we may feel more inclined to do so.
Just as experiencing an emotional disconnection pulls your relationship apart, emotional satisfaction and fulfillment brings couples back together.
A few rules or boundaries help ensure your bond stays intact over time:
Rule 1. Build love by satisfying one top need every day.
Happy, healthy relationships are fortified by small acts of tenderness and kindness. Successful couples regularly perform small gestures that show they love and care for their mate. It might be that you bring your spouse a cup of tea in bed when you wake early. Or maybe you hold open the door or compliment your partner on their appearance and regularly acknowledge their accomplishments. Again, once you know what your partner needs, you can tailor your actions and words so that they are truly effective and really hit the spot. This is the quickest way to rekindle love that may be dwindling slowly away.
Rule 2. Don’t tell your partner what to do.
Too much nagging can destroy the love in any relationship, which is why it is so important to put in place the simple relationship rule: Don’t tell your partner what to do. Your partner is a grown-up and knows how to load a dishwasher or put the laundry away. It may not be the way you prefer to do it, but there are no doubt hundreds of different ways to get things done around the house and these little battles are better left un-fought. If the division of household chores is getting you down, then read the blog, Fair Play: Fighting Fair in Relationships. Once you’ve divided up the household chores more equitably, it is easy to stop nagging as you know who is in charge of what and it soon becomes very obvious when one person isn’t doing their appointed task (as laundry or trash starts to mount up).
Rule 3. Never criticize.
Criticism can drive a wedge between you, making you feel unappreciated and unloved and ultimately, it can destroy your relationship by driving you further apart over time. The solution is simple but not necessarily easy: Put in place a boundary right now that you and your loved one never criticize each other. If you ask for specific feedback, that is fine, but you may be better off getting feedback from someone outside of your spouse or romantic partner. Criticism is meant to be constructive, but in our love relationships, it doesn’t work. Keep your love sacred and protect that loving feeling by banning all critical remarks.
The key to long-lasting love is to maintain that strong emotional connection. The easiest way to do that is to satisfy your own and your partner’s personal and emotional needs. To learn more about creating and maintaining healthy relationships, both personally and professionally, you can take our Relationship Course and raise your Emotional IQ.