Updated: Jun 3
'Needs?' But Doesn't Having Needs Within A Relationship Make Me 'Needy' or 'High Maintenance'?
The answer to this is NO. We all have personal needs that we require to be met, for us to feel safe, secure, respected and loved within romantic relationships. They can be simple things like needing consistent contact, or a partner who can be deeply understanding of emotional connection. When our basic needs are not met by our partner, we can often feel knocked off centre, fearful, lost or ungrounded. If we are unable to communicate this in an effective way, problems can begin to occur.
I remember that I used to put my partner's needs first before my own, which often left me in a state of inner turmoil and anxiety, as I wasn't honouring the things that were important to me. I didn't want to be that annoying girlfriend who was always moaning, or seem like I was demanding too much incase my partner left me. And guess what? They did leave me. But not because I was asking for too much, but because I lost myself by spending all my time trying to please them. Learning that my needs matter has been a game changer in how I now approach relationships and intimate situations with new partners. Rather than thinking: "oh my god, does he like me? I really hope he likes me." I'm thinking: "Do I like him? And can he meet my needs?" I tried to seek approval from outside of myself, rather than looking inward for the fierce love that I needed.
By communicating your needs to your partner at the beginning of your relationship (or even after you have been in a relationship for a while, and realise you are not being met) you can get a really good idea of how the relationship is going to be, by their response. They may listen intently and respond in a positive, loving, mature way and then communicate their needs to you. Or, they may look a bit shifty and uncomfortable and change the conversation. They may even want to talk more deeply with you so that they can really understand you. Whatever their reaction, see how it feels in your body and heart. This will be a really good sign of whether the relationship is going to be full-filling for you or not. Whatever happens, just take the this journey one step at a time.
How Do I Work Out What My Needs Are?
I invite you to find a pen and a piece of paper and make a list of things that YOU need within a romantic relationship to feel secure. These will vary for every single person, there is no right or wrong. Maybe take yourself out of your usual environment so that you can clear your head and really tune into your feelings. Walks in nature are excellent for this! Taking the time to acknowledge your needs is an act of fierce love and will create some massive shifts in your life. Here are a few examples to get you thinking and feeling:
Deep Emotional Understanding and Connection
Sensuality and Slowness
Encouragement and Support
Acceptance of You as You Are
Space and Independence
Adult Attachment Theory
You may also feel drawn to uncovering your particular adult attachment style. Exploring this may give you some clues into the things that nourish you and help you to thrive within a partnership. Learning which attachment style you resonate with will also highlight the things that trigger your attachment system and cause upset and pain.
Understanding a bit about adult attachment theory can really help us to understand ourselves and to find and sustain loving relationships, whilst getting our needs met. According to the brilliant book: "Attached" by Dr Amir Levine and Rachel S.F Heller, each of us behaves in relationships in one of three distinct ways:
Anxiously Attached - these people require lots of closeness, intimacy and reassurance in relationships or they can often slip into worry, anxiety and panic that they will loose their partner. They can often find it hard to communicate their needs for fear of upsetting or being rejected by their companion. They are often very committed, caring, loving and loyal individuals.
Avoidantly Attached - these people require a great deal of space within relationships and can often feel smothered or trapped if there is too much intimacy or closeness. If they feel trapped they can push their partners away, not open up emotionally, become unavailable, not respond to messages in hope that their partner will give them space. They are often quite independent, strong and require freedom.
Securely Attached - these people tend to feel comfortable with intimacy and closeness, are clear communicators, make their partners needs a priority and have pretty grounded and stable attitudes towards the relationship. For an anxiously attached or avoidantly attached person, it is often best to build a relationship with a secure person as they will calm their nervous system and be able to give them the intimacy or space that they need.
If you fancy going deeper into this, then I highly recommend the book "Attached" (listed above) as it has amazing tools to help you work out your attachment style and your partners attachment style. It also has case studies, tools and tips to help you navigate your relationships, realise your needs, communicate them and form loving and stable relationships.
How Do I Effectively Communicate My Needs To My Partner?
Opening up and truly communicating the things that are real and true for us can feel really scary and vulnerable!! Especially if it isn't something we are used to doing within relationships. One of the most effective tools I have found, is trying to believe that your partner or potential partner will always meet your request in a positive and understanding way. Doing this really helps to eradicate the fear behind being honest and vulnerable, and gives you a boost of confidence knowing that you are asserting yourself in an act of deep self-love.
Here are 5 ways to effectively communicate your needs to your partner:
Be Honest and Vulnerable - Be emotionally brave, open and honest about your needs and what is important to you.
Focus On What is Important to You and Don't Blame - when communicating your needs it is really important to get across what is important to you without blaming or shaming your partner. Take ownership for your experience and feelings and try using words such as "I feel..." "I need..." "I want...", "when you do......it makes me feel....." By taking responsibility for your feelings and your experience, you are expressing your needs without making your partner feel inadequate, selfish or incompetent. Remember these are YOUR needs!
Be Specific - be really specific about exactly what it is you need. If you try to skirt around the issue at hand your partner may get the wrong end of the stick, or think you have said something completely different to what you meant to get across.
Be Assertive and Don't Apologise - your relationship needs are 100% valid so there is absolutely no reason why you should apologise for them. Be strong, assertive and solid with your communication. Not all partners will see that your needs are legitimate, and that is absolutely their problem and not yours. This will also give you a good indication of whether they are a good fit for you or not. Your needs are legitimate to you, and that is all that matters. There will be someone out there who will respect and honour them for sure.
PLEASE REMEMBER: Learning these new ways of relating and communicating takes practice and perseverance - and you won't always get it right, which is absolutely fine!! Don't beat yourself up if you can't communicate your needs effectively straight away, its like learning a new skill, it takes time :) I certainly still slip up from time to time!
What If My Partner Can't Meet My Needs?
If your partner can't meet your needs or doesn't see them as important, they probably aren't the partner for you. There are ways that you could continue the relationship by compromising your needs for theirs, but essentially you will probably not be happy or living to your full potential. You deserve to have your relationship needs honoured and met, period. Keep looking as there will be someone out there who can in a loving and secure way.
Resources, Books, Audio Books and Podcasts
Here is a list of further reading and recourses to help you on your journey to speaking your truth and communicating your needs:
'Attached' - by Dr Amir Levine and Rachel S.F Heller - this book is all about adult attachment theory, discovering your attachment style and tools/tips to help you move forward with communicating your needs.
Brene Brown Vulnerability - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCvmsMzlF7o
Love Your Lady Landscape - by Lisa Lister - this book is all about empowering women to love their bodies, honour their hearts and speak their truth. An excellent book to help connect to your femininity, inner wisdom and power as a woman.
I really hope that this has helped you or given you some tips on how to honour your needs for connection and intimacy. It's a massively brave step to take, and I am cheerleading each and every one of you!
All My Love
Isla- Rose x