A recent relationship advice book focuses on his needs and her needs. The author “discovered” these top needs from interviewing his patients and others. Of course, this is not science—it is just the opinions of a group of people.
Men stated their top needs as:
- Sexual Fulfillment
2. Recreational Companionship
3. An Attractive Spouse
4. Domestic Support
Women stated their top needs as:
3. Honesty and Openness
4. Financial Commitment
5. Family Commitment
Yes, we have these needs and often look to our partner to satisfy them. A relationship that satisfies these needs feels so comfortable.
But what happens when your partner stops satisfying your needs? Maybe your partner lost his/her job and is having trouble finding another one. Maybe you both are so busy satisfying the domestic support and financial commitment needs that there is little time and energy to address some of the other needs.
Is the solution to make sure there is a change? A change where your partner shapes up and satisfies most of your needs? Or a change where you become so disillusioned that you withdraw into your own world (or maybe into a relationship with someone else)?
Erich Fromm, in his theory of love, stated, “Love is the active concern for the life and the growth of that which we love.”1 Children are dependent on others for their needs to be fulfilled by others because they cannot fulfill many of those needs themselves. So parental love helps a child grow through fulfilling many of the child’s needs.
Erich Fromm went on to state that, “Immature love says: ‘I love you because I need you.’ Mature love says: ‘I need you because I love you.’”2 Adult relationships that are built on fulfilling each other’s needs create dependencies. You depend on your partner to fulfill your needs rather than developing into a person that can fulfill some of his/her own needs.
When you fulfill some of your own needs you have a mature loving relationship that is interdependent, not dependent. For example, you can have some recreational companionship with your partner but you can also have some of it with others and even some of your recreation by yourself. You could also have conversations with others besides your partner so that your dependence on your partner to fulfill that need is not an everyday occurrence.
Of course you are not going to ignore your partner’s needs nor is your partner going to ignore your needs. You just will not feel resentful when your partner demands they be met or when your partner fails to meet your needs. You will, instead, develop a relationship based on looking inside yourself and not always just outside yourself.
Needs also change throughout one’s life. The attractive partner need becomes less as the relationship develops into a deeper connection of minds and hearts. The family commitment need becomes less as the children leave home (unless, of course, an aging parent moves in).
Yes, do connect through understanding and responding to each other’s needs but make sure you are not desperately dependent on each other for need fulfillment. Give the love you have within rather than waiting to get your needs fulfilled through love.
- Fromm, Erich (1962). The art of loving. New York: Harper & Row, p. 26.
- Ibid., p. 41.