What are Emotional Needs and How they Impact Your Love Life


We love Starbucks. Ya we have sold out and gone commercial but it’s true. Michael loves their Americano’s and Ashley their bacon and Gouda breakfast sandwiches and don’t even get us started on their Holiday Latte’s.


The other day we were at Starbucks pretending to mind our own business, but we couldn’t help but notice a mother and daughter LOUDLY talking to each other. So, of course we had to eavesdrop.


The daughter must’ve had a big fight with her husband. She was venting and asking her mother for advice. The mother sided with the daughter on how stupid the husband was acting and how right the daughter was for being angry. Halfway through the conversation the daughter said she hadn’t yet talked with her husband about any of this.


They basically concluded that men are pigs and that the daughter will have to train her husband better. Yikes!


So tell us what’s wrong with this seemingly harmless situation that happens ALL the time (not just at Starbuck’s)?


Before we tell you, let’s talk about your mental and emotional needs. Cloe Madanes, a world renowned relationship expert and family therapist, writes that we all have six basic mental and emotional needs: Certainty/Comfort, Uncertainty/Variety, Significance, Love/Connection, Growth, and Contribution.


Let’s take a look at these needs in more detail.


Certainty/Comfort – You have a need to feel safe, secure, comfortable, and to experience the familiar and avoid pain.

Uncertainty/Variety – You also paradoxically have a need for excitement, novelty and to feel alive.

Significance – You have a need to feel important, special, needed and wanted.

Love/Connection – You have a need to connect with yourself and others and to experience love and passion. Without love and connection you feel lonely and unfulfilled.

Growth – You have a need to grow because you and your relationship is going either forward or backward. You have a need to grow mentally, emotionally and with other people.

Contribution – You have a need to contribute to other people and to give something of value to others.


In order to be happy, fulfilled and have a great relationship, your mental and emotional needs must be met by two main sources, you and your lover.


The first four needs will be met no matter what. But, the ways in which you meet them might keep you from being happy and having a great relationship.


We’ll explain how this can happen. Let’s say that you have a husband and a 7 year old child. You and your husband are experiencing the same relationship and parenting challenges everyone else does. You meet your needs for comfort, connection, significance and variety by confiding in your male coworker about your challenges. He talks to you about how hard parenting and marriage can be and helps you problem solve. He makes you feel good about yourself. You also meet some of your needs through your best friend because you also confide in her. Finally, you meet your needs for significance, variety, love and connection, certainty, growth and contribution through your 7 year old son. Raising a child is challenging, so you’re always growing and you definitely contribute a lot of value to him. You feel certainty and comfort in knowing you are a good mother. You get a lot of variety because well…. 7 year olds often veer off of routines and you feel a lot of love and connection with your son.


Did you notice where the husband is in all of this?


She isn’t meeting hardly any of her needs through her husband and that is A BIG PROBLEM.


Now, it is okay to confide in others and to have a support system to help you through tough times, but if you want to create a loving and passionate relationship, your lover has to be the primary source you rely on to get your mental and emotional needs met.


Other people meet some of their needs by playing sports, becoming a workaholic, and even drinking. Believe it or not you can meet a lot of your needs through your career. You can feel a sense of certainty and comfort about your performance at work. You can get a lot of variety with all the challenges that present themselves at your job. You can feel a connection with the people you see every day at the office. You can feel significant because you’re needed and an important part of your company. You can also experience growth and contribution through the work you do.


Again, meeting some of your needs at work by itself is good, but when the majority of your needs are being met by people and things outside of your intimate relationship, you’re headed for trouble.


One of the worst habits we see couples get into is meeting their mental and emotions needs primarily outside of the relationship.


That’s what the daughter was doing in the first story. She was meeting her needs by confiding in her mother.


Again, this isn’t a problem by itself, but when she doesn’t turn to her partner for at least a good majority of these needs, she is damaging the relationship.


The key is to turn toward your lover during the good times and the bad. Unfortunately, many people turn away from each other during the good and the bad.


You can think about how you and your lover can directly meet each other’s six needs. Think about what you and your lover could do to help you experience certainty, variety, significance, love and connection, growth and contribution. One of the best and easiest things to do is simply talk with your lover how you could meet each other’s needs on a more regular basis.


Say Yes to Love,

Dr. Michael Arn & Dr. Ashley Arn