Home  >  Love Couch  >  Better Love

33 Emotional Needs in a Relationship, Signs It’s Unmet & How to Meet Them

Healthy relationships require some fulfillment of needs. So, what are emotional needs in a relationship, how can you meet them, and what happens when they aren’t met?

Emotional Needs in a Relationship

Emotions are the foundation of all relationships, both romantic and non-romantic. We all have needs in life, and when these emotional needs are met by someone, you feel a connection to that person and that connection grows to develop a relationship.

From there, those emotions grow from like to love to trust. These things then become a part of your daily life. You respect each other and listen to each other and those things are needed for you to be happy together.

When you or your partner are incapable of meeting those emotional needs in a relationship, things can go south very fast. Distrust, resentment, and disrespect are just some of the things that can arise when a couple’s emotional needs aren’t met.

[Read: How to know when a relationship isn’t working – 15 things that make it fall apart]

What are emotional needs in a relationship?

Emotional needs are essential requirements for you in order to feel fulfilled and satisfied with your relationship. They make you feel happy, pleased, valued, and content in life.

Although everyone has the same fundamental needs, they will look different for each person and relationship.

Emotional needs in a relationship are what keep both partners happy together, even if each individual partner has their own unique needs. [Read: The 25 must-follow relationship rules to ensure both partners are happy]

The most important emotional needs in a relationship

Although these may not be true for every person and every couple, these are some of the most important ones, and are common emotional needs in a relationship:

1. Acceptance

When you feel accepted by your partner, you feel as if you fit just right in their life.

Acceptance isn’t only about having a partner who accepts you for your quirks but also accepts your family, your friends, and every other aspect of your life into theirs. It’s about feeling a sense of belonging in their life and vice versa.

Acceptance is the foundation of emotional needs because it is the doorway to other needs like trust, security, and effort. Without acceptance, you struggle to feel comfortable and of value in a relationship.

2. Trust

Every relationship requires trust to function healthily. Trust is not something that just happens in a relationship, it needs to be nurtured and taken care of.

Without trust, both partners can feel resentful, jealous, skeptical, and suspicious. These things lead a relationship to become stressful rather than a means to deal with outside stress.

Trust is not only belief in your partner’s loyalty but also surrendering yourself into their care. A couple who maintains mutual trust can manage any relationship difficulties easier since they know their partner will not let them down. [Read: Trust issues in a relationship – 22 whys & ways to get through it together]

3. Security

A committed relationship is built on security. After all, we naturally form relationships to feel secure with one person.

Security is feeling safe and assured that you can believe in your partner to be there for you. This comes in many ways: maintaining loyalty and honesty, establishing and respecting boundaries, having your choices in life supported, and feeling emotionally and physically safe.

4. Communication

Needless to say, communication is one of the important building blocks of a good relationship. Relationships begin when two strangers take the initiative to say “hi.” And it launches a good series of conversations.

A good foundation requires constant and open communication where the couple knows they’re being honest with their thoughts and feelings. They practice active listening when their partner is trying to convey something.

Communication is the lifeblood of a relationship. Take it away and the relationship easily falls apart. [Read: 42 secrets to communicate better and tips to fix a lack of it in your relationship]

5. Autonomy

One of the amazing things about being in a relationship is becoming a unit with your partner. You will grow to share interests, hobbies, friends, and pick up on a bit of their mannerisms. But despite this, maintaining a sense of self is essential to a healthy relationship.

You are your own person with a separate identity from your partner. This is an important emotional need because when you start to lose your autonomy, you minimize your individual wants and needs that may differ from your partner.

Don’t lose yourself or let go of the things you like for your relationship. Even if your partner doesn’t like the things you like, follow them and explore your own interests.

6. Effort

Effort in a relationship may sound vague, but it is the physical and emotional sacrifice you extend for the benefit of the relationship during difficult times. Most people know a relationship will not always be happy and harmonious.

There will be moments plagued by struggles and difficulties. And when these moments arise, both partners must step up and invest effort. It is the only way to overcome obstacles.

Effort is the willingness to go through any form of pain and hardship for the sake of their partner. Because if people just bailed out of the relationship when things get tough, the relationship will obviously fall apart. [Read: Putting too much effort into a relationship – where to draw the line]

7. Comfort

Comfort in a relationship is similar to security or safety. In healthy relationships, both partners need to be able to be themselves in order to be fulfilled.

When you are comfortable around someone, you feel safe to express your interests, let your hair down, and present the way that is true to you. A healthy relationship will make you feel at ease knowing you are loved and supported for the way you are.

Emotional needs like comfort come with time. You should be able to relax and turn off around your partner without fear of judgment.

8. Empathy

To be empathetic means to understand how your partner is feeling. This is an emotional need important in all relationships because it shows understanding, compassion, and often makes forgiveness a lot easier.

For example, let’s say you asked your partner to grab something from the store for you on their way home from work. They get home and you see that they forgot to get what you needed.

After your frustration has cooled down, you put yourself in their shoes and realize that they have been having a hard time lately because of work, causing them restlessness, stress, and anxiety.

Instead of being angry with them, being empathetic helps you better understand their feelings and intentions. You know they didn’t mean to hurt you, and that makes forgiveness and acceptance come easier. [Read: What does a healthy relationship look like? A guide to build one]

9. Prioritization

It’s typical that you want to feel like a priority in your partner’s life. Once your partner fulfills their own needs, it makes sense that you want to be the next in line. By making someone a priority, you reassure them that they are seen, appreciated, and important.

When you’re not a priority in their life, you feel unseen and undervalued. Of course, emergencies happen or something else will need your partner’s full priority momentarily. But generally speaking, both partners are top priorities to one another in a healthy, balanced relationship.

10. Emotional intimacy

Emotional intimacy is the willingness to be vulnerable with your partner by showing them your insecurities, flaws, and weaknesses.

Through emotional intimacy, we show our partners that we are willing to bare and entrust our naked souls in their care without fear of judgment or rejection. This shows a high degree of trust and confidence in a partner.

11. Physical intimacy

Of course, all relationships are different, but a certain level of intimacy comes with all of them. Physical intimacy is the deepest form of contact that romantically-involved people can have in a relationship setting. The act evokes feelings of being desired and wanted.

When you see an elderly couple that has been together for 50+ years still flirting and holding hands, that is intimacy.

When you crawl out of bed in the morning and your boyfriend pulls you back just for one more kiss, that is intimacy. These are the things that keep the spark alive. [Read: Weird but unique ways to build intimacy with your partner]

12. Attention

As humans, we all seek attention – especially in a romantic relationship. You want to know that your partner is giving you undivided attention. This shows that they care about you and are making you a priority.

Without attention, the emotional needs in a relationship can become overwhelmed by external things like work, friends, and stress.

13. Privacy

Even with trust and transparency, an emotional need in most relationships is privacy. In most cases, you cannot have privacy without trust and vice versa. The thing about trust is that it isn’t all about communication but it thrives on faith.

Privacy is a part of independence and individuality in a relationship. It not only shows that you respect and are empathetic when your partner needs space, but it shows that you feel supported by your partner to do your own things too. [Read: 18 bad habits that’ll make your partner want to leave you]

14. Companionship

Yes, even romantic relationships require companionship. It isn’t all about passion and sparks. A lot of relationships are built on shared and enjoyed company. We want our special person to be there for us during the highs and the lows.

Even with intimacy and comfort, companionship is a human need we all crave.

15. Commitment

Commitment means something different to everyone. It may be something as intense as committing to monogamy, or something as small as committing to following through on dinner plans. There is no wrong way to commit, but commitment is usually something all relationships need.

Rather than being viewed as an obligation, a healthy relationship views commitment as an equal level of agreed-upon dedication to each other.

Commitment is an emotional need in a relationship, and without it, most couples are not on the same page. [Read: Committed relationship – 59 signs & ways to show your commitment in love]

16. Patience

A relationship consists of two individuals each with their own personalities, opinions, and behavior. These differences sometimes cause partners to clash. To survive their differences, patience and understanding are required.

Patience and understanding call for one partner to accept the other has a different set of opinions and personality from theirs. No one in the relationship is absolutely right or wrong just because they see things from a different point of view.

By being patient with your partner, you show them that you respect them and care about them enough to put in the effort to be understanding of them. [Read: 16 secrets to a perfectly happy relationship]

17. Passion

Romance and passion are the metaphorical “spice” that defines a relationship. Some people may say that these are optional compared to the previous needs mentioned, but they are equally important.

The differences between roommates and lovers are the cheesy, romantic, and passionate moments the couple shares.

We are not saying that all relationships should be full of romantic moments that seem like a movie. But an occasional gesture of romance is still needed to give the couple a lover’s high and keep the relationship from going romantically bankrupt. [Read: Passionate love – what it is, the signs & why it’s so strong & scary]

18. Quality time

Quality time allows a couple to share experiences and know their partner on a deeper and more intimate level.

By giving a part of their time to the relationship, both partners strengthen their bond through shared experiences and memories. [Read: Cute date ideas – 15 really sweet date ideas to try with your boo]

19. Space

The need for space in a relationship may initially seem like a surprise. But it is a basic need that keeps a relationship afloat.

Providing space in a relationship means you’re both individuals while still being part of the relationship. It recognizes that your partner has their own plans, preferences, and goals that may or may not be in line with you.

Without space, one or both partners will feel suffocated which may lead them to a breakup. Giving space in a relationship calls for both partners to allow them to do their own thing, have a different set of friends, and have their own plans while still being part of the relationship.

20. Value

Knowing you matter to your partner is so vital. You know how you feel about them, but it is an emotional need in a relationship to understand your value. You have to know your place is important to them.

This can be offered with a simple “thank you” for some and others need more. Most of us need to know our partner appreciates us for what we do and that we are there. Without that, we are stuck in relationship limbo. [Read: 25 warm ways to say “I appreciate you” & show your appreciation without words]

21. Shared goals

Finally, a relationship needs shared plans, goals, or ambitions. It is the lynchpin in a relationship that gives both partners something to look forward to.

As relationships grow old, the people in them look for a future where they can invest all their time and effort. A relationship cannot get stuck in the “getting to know” phase forever.

Sooner or later, one or both partners will ask for the direction their relationship is headed. And for the relationship to fully mature, couples must set plans and goals for the benefit of their relationship. [Read: 17 signs of a supportive partner who encourages you & your goals]

A few things to keep in mind

Now that you understand what emotional needs are in a relationship, there are a few things to keep in mind when wondering how to meet the needs of your partner while having your own needs fulfilled.

1. Emotional needs aren’t set in stone

Although we all share the same fundamental needs, everyone prioritizes theirs differently. This is because we all have different preferences and ways of showing emotions. But as time changes, so do our feelings.

It is typical for the intensity of your needs to fluctuate. Just because an emotional need for you at this time is physical intimacy does not mean that will be your prioritized need in a week’s time.

This is also true as you go through different partners and phases in life. What you needed from your past partners might look different than what you need from your current partner. This is because as we grow and navigate through life, our experiences shape our emotional needs.

2. People prioritize different emotional needs

Because everyone has different upbringings and values in life, emotional needs differ for everyone. What some people need, others may not, and vice versa.

For someone confident in their self-esteem, they may not need reassurance in a relationship but rather independence and trust. Someone who does struggle with trust issues might need verbal reassurance and appreciation.

This is completely normal in healthy relationships as long as each person communicates and finds compatibility in their needs. [Read: Healthy relationship expectations that define a good love life]

3. No one has to meet your needs

Some people put a lot of pressure on their relationships to meet all of their emotional needs. The thing is, all of our emotional needs cannot be met by one person. That is why we have family, friends, and jobs outside of our relationships.

These relationships offer us accomplishment, loyalty, and pride separate from our romantic relationships. But, when you are in a relationship, certain emotional needs do need to be met in order for that relationship to add to your life instead of draining it. [Read: Why am I codependent? 37 reasons & signs you overstep boundaries in love]

What happens when emotional needs aren’t met?

Emotional needs are at the core of every relationship. When these needs aren’t fulfilled by yourself, your partner, or outside parties, your relationship has potential risks for failure. [Read: Why relationships fail – 25 reasons why love can fall apart entirely]

Although your emotional needs shouldn’t be solely fulfilled by your partner, they should still provide support and add value to your life in ways that benefit you.

If emotional needs in your relationship aren’t being met, you and your partner may be seeking attention from one another in unhealthy ways, such as picking fights, making demands, or through passive-aggressive behavior. [Read: How to stop being passive-aggressive & get out of the toxic state of mind]

Signs emotional needs aren’t being met

Additional common behaviors couples experience when their emotional needs aren’t being met are:

1. Anger

2. Sadness

3. Resentment

4. Frustration

5. Social withdrawal and isolation

6. Undervalue your needs

7. Frequent fighting

8. Seeking fulfillment outside of the relationship [Read: What is emotional cheating?]

9. Valuing your partner and relationship less

One or many of the signs that your emotional needs aren’t being met can worsen conditions like stress, anxiety, depression, and addiction. Overall, unmet needs lessen the quality of a relationship and life.

Take responsibility and ask for what you need

It’s a habit to subconsciously begin to minimize our unmet needs. However, this behavior actually worsens the chances of having your needs met.

The key to breaking the isolation and frustration that you may be experiencing is to take responsibility and communicate what you need from your partner.

If you find yourself often wondering, “Why am I not good enough for my relationship,” take a step back, inhale a deep breath, and pause. Make the effort to retrain this thought. And instead, ask yourself “What emotional needs in my life aren’t being fulfilled?”

How to communicate your emotional needs aren’t being met

As much as we love to think our partners are mind-readers, they aren’t. So before you put the blame on your partner’s shoulders, take a look at yourself first. Have you communicated clearly *or at all* with them about how you’ve been feeling?

Our partners can’t know what we want if we don’t voice it to them. Try using these steps when communicating your emotional needs aren’t being met:

1. Pinpoint your objective

The first step in discussing your emotional needs with your partner is to have a clear goal in mind. Take this time to look inward and really identify what it is you need and want.

If you can’t talk about your own needs with yourself, how are you supposed to talk about them with your partner?

Throw all your shame out the window and be upfront and honest about how you’re feeling and what you want to achieve.

2. Be a team player

You and your partner both want an emotionally fulfilled relationship – remember this. Just because your needs are being unmet does not mean your partner is your enemy. You both are on the same team. [Read: Why you keep having the same fight & secrets to break the unhealthy cycle]

3. Express softer emotions

We know, it can be difficult to stay calm when your needs are unmet. But you will need to set aside your frustration, sadness, and anger for softer, calm emotions. This allows you and your partner to see things objectively and feel comfortable assessing the relationship.

4. Use “I” statements

Avoid using language that targets your partner or puts the blame on them. Instead, use language that expresses how you feel and why. Phrasing your sentences in this way reduces accusations, assumptions, and defensiveness from both of you.

For example, avoid saying “You make me angry because you don’t listen to me.” Instead, a phrase such as “I feel upset when you ignore me because I feel like I am not a priority” expresses your thoughts better.

When using “I” statements, explain how YOU feel, what behavior makes you feel that way, why it makes you feel that way, and possible solutions. [Read: How to communicate with your spouse without resentment or fighting]

5. Be direct with what you need

Put your insecurities aside and be direct with how you’re feeling and the solutions you’re looking for. The only true way your partner can understand what you need is if you ask for it. So, ask for what you need.

When you are direct about what you need, whether you’re looking for understanding, attention, privacy, priority, or any other area of improvement, your partner will be able to help you if they know exactly what aspect of the relationship needs improvement.

6. Welcome their perspective

One of the most important parts of communicating your needs is hearing your partner’s perspective. So, be welcoming of their perspective, their input, and any assumptions they might have had up to this point.

They might have assumed your needs were being fulfilled when they actually weren’t. When you discuss this and they are aware of your unmet needs, you can then work toward a solution that is compatible for both of you.

Remember, healthy communication requires input from both partners. You both need to feel able to express how you’re feeling and what you need from each other for your relationship to thrive. [19 ways to be a much better listener in a relationship]

7. Get out of the weeds

After you and your partner have come up with solutions for how to fulfill your needs, be sure to check up on one another from time to time.

The only way to be sure you’re fully out of the weeds is to continue to communicate your feelings. This is especially important because your needs are likely to change over time.

How to become comfortable with unmet emotional needs

After you have identified your unmet needs, discussed them with your partner, and practiced solutions together, you may find that you still feel unfulfilled.

1. Widen the resource list

If you are depending solely on your partner to satisfy your emotional needs, it might be time to widen the resource list.

It is important to know that your partner can’t and isn’t responsible for fulfilling all of your emotional needs, so it’s perfectly normal to find other ways to get your needs met. Identify what kind of support you’re desiring and the resources you may be able to get it from.

If you’re needing acknowledgment in the workplace, turning to a work friend or professional in the field is an option. The same goes for family and friends.

We all have people in different aspects of our lives, so be sure you’re reaching out to the right person to fulfill your emotional needs. [Read: Secrets to make lifelong friends & create a bond that lasts a lifetime]

2. Take more responsibility for yourself

When your emotional needs are met, your life feels more balanced. This is what makes relationships with your partner, your friends, your family, and your colleagues so enriching and fun. However, you can’t expect the people in your life to fulfill all of your needs all of the time.

If you set expectations for the people in your life to satisfy your needs, you will surely be let down. The truth is, only you are responsible for having your needs met. [Read: Codependent friendship – the bad signs & why it’s unhealthy for you]

Setting expectations to have your needs met by others leads down a dark avenue of dependency. Being dependent on others for emotional fulfillment is damaging to a relationship as it puts too high of expectations on others and it holds back your emotional growth.

It’s important that you take measures to fulfill your own needs. Activities like journaling, exercising, and therapy are great starts.

Emotional needs may seem complex, but they are the key to having a happy, energizing, and balanced life. Identifying your emotional needs and discussing them with your partner is the first step to healthy communication and a fulfilling relationship.

[Read: The 25 sweetest gestures you can use in your everyday life]

These emotional needs in a relationship are vital to the health and happiness of everyone involved. If you can prioritize these fundamental needs, your relationship can be an unending source of joy.

Liked what you just read? Follow us on Instagram Facebook Twitter Pinterest and we promise, we’ll be your lucky charm to a beautiful love life. And while you’re at it, check out MIRL, a cool new social networking app that connects experts and seekers!

Vinod Srinivas Serai
Vin Serai
Vin Serai is the founder of LovePanky.com, and has delved deep into the working of love and relationships for almost two decades. Having dipped his feet in almo...