Humans are born with physical and emotional needs. While physical needs cater to our survival, such as food, water, and sleep, emotional needs provide meaning to our sense of self. And how we view ourselves and what we come to believe about ourselves determines the quality of our life. To have a positive belief system about ourselves contributes towards a healthy, secure, wholesome life – until and unless those positive beliefs are challenged and newer, negative beliefs take their place (i.e., in a toxic relationship or due to a traumatic event).
To understand emotional needs of an adult, it’s important to first understand emotional needs of a child. Babies and young children have inherent needs to feel safe, secure, and loved. They rely on their primary attachment figures, i.e., usually their mother or another primary caretaker, for their needs to be met. When these needs are fulfilled adequately, children feel worthy, wanted, and loved. Furthermore, these children view others as safe, secure, and trustworthy because of the safety, security, and trust they felt in their primary caretaker. When their needs are not fulfilled adequately, children develop perceptions about themselves as being less worthy, less wanted, and less loved while perceiving others as being unsafe, unstable, and unreliable to be around. These perceptions become a part of childhood wounds.
As children grow older, they start viewing all experiences and interactions from the lens of their belief system. If their needs were not adequately fulfilled growing up, they will view the world from an insecure lens where all experiences will be perceived in a manner which will confirm their fears and negative beliefs. If their needs were adequately fulfilled growing up, they will view the world from a secure lens where all experiences will be perceived in a manner which will confirm their positive sense of self and other.
Unfortunately, if an insecure child continues to grow up without experiencing healthy relationships which challenge their negative perceptions about self and other, he or she will grow into an insecure adult. Insecurities breed fears overtime which grow and thrive in a negative belief system. Because of these fears, there is a frequent desire for certain emotional needs to be fulfilled in adulthood. Secure children who become secure adults also have emotional needs for continued safety, security, connection, and trust, etc. However, the difference is secure adults are not consumed by fears stemming from an insecure belief system, so there isn’t a frequent desire for a need to be fulfilled. Secure adults are also more likely to be proactive in fulfilling their own needs in healthy ways. It’s important to note that to be secure or insecure is not a permanent characteristic of who you are. It is something that is flexible to change in ongoing and future relationships. A secure adult can evolve into an insecure adult whereas an insecure adult can grow into a more secure adult.
So how do emotional needs show up in a relationship and why do they matter? How two adults think, feel, and behave in a relationship towards each other is a result of their belief system, i.e., how they view themselves and how they view their partner. An insecure adult may view their interactions with their partner and their partner’s actions and responses towards them from a negative perception of self and other whereas a secure adult may view all their interactions with their partner and their partner’s actions and responses towards them from a positive perception of self and other. Naturally, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of each partner are influenced from their negative or positive perceptions. The goal towards a healthy and secure relationship is to help in fulfilling each other’s emotional needs while also being proactive in fulfilling your own needs in creative and healthy ways that don’t solely rely on your partner. With time and effort, needs can be fulfilled, fears can be lessened, belief systems can evolve, ultimately allowing two individuals to become secure partners to each other in a relationship.