Cory Honickman, psychologist, marriage planner and creator of the Marriage Prep Adventure series, offers some expertise on how to nail down your emotional needs so you can communicate them to a partner and enjoy better results in your relationship.
Q: Why aren’t more people aware of their emotional needs?
A: Most people aren’t really conscious of things like that. If you really want to know, you can find out, but it’s not something people invest their time in. They know they have needs, but they don’t consider the fact that they can discover what they are and relate them to their partner in a way that helps to satisfy them.
Q: Are emotional needs mostly universal, or particular to the individual?
A: Each individual is unique, and people’s emotional needs can differ pretty wildly. Some needs are really common, and others only certain people find important. For example, some people think it’s really important to have an attractive partner, while a lot of people don’t. For women, open communication is probably one of the biggest issues; they need to be able to talk honestly to their partner about their emotions. For men, they want someone more flexible who goes with the flow.
Q: Do certain emotional needs cancel each other out?
A: Absolutely. If a man has a need to be with a very attractive woman, and a woman needs to not have to worry about her appearance, then they’re both out of luck. In order to really be compatible, you have to have your emotional needs in alignment.
Q: Are some emotional needs tougher to uncover than others?
A: I think you can figure out any emotional need, as long as you put the work into it.
Q: So where do you start if you want to figure out what your emotional needs are?
A: First, I would make a list of possible emotional needs — this would include things like domestic roles, family, social experiences, spirituality and communication. Then rate those needs from one to 10, based on how important you think they are. Anything that’s a nine or 10 is obviously a very strong need.
Q: Is this easier to do when you’re in a relationship, so that you have someone to relate the needs to?
A: It’s actually more important to do this before you get into a relationship because that’s where everything starts. A big mistake that people make is that they don’t find out who they are and what they want and need in life before they partner with someone. Then they — especially women — try to become what their partner wants. Not only is it easier to be yourself, but it makes more sense. I think you should do your own work before you even get into a relationship. There are a lot of people who meet when they’re young and they don’t get a chance to do that, which is why people who get married in their late 20s have a better chance for success. Once you know your deal-breakers, needs, wants, values and expectations, it’s just a matter of being able to articulate it to someone else.