Whose Needs Are Most Important in a Relationship?

How often have you heard or read relationship advice recommending that you concentrate on your own needs? That is not bad advice in the sense that you need to take care of yourself in order to be there for the other person. But it can be taken to an extreme. Concentrating solely on oneself leads to the inevitable question of whose needs are most important.

Here’s the unfiltered truth: in any relationship, no one person’s needs are more important than any others involved in that relationship. It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about a couple, a family of four, or even a group of good friends. Everyone’s needs carry equal weight and importance.

Special Needs Do Come Up

This isn’t to say there aren’t circumstances when a special need comes up, a need that temporarily takes precedence over everything else. It happens. But across the totality of a relationship, anyone who feels their needs are more important than everyone else’s is doomed to harm that relationship if nothing changes.

At Relationships & More in Westchester County, NY, couples often talk about some pretty common needs they don’t feel are being met:

  • Emotional security
  • Financial security
  • Mutual support
  • Physical and emotional intimacy.

The list could be continued, but the point is well made. When people in a relationship feel their needs are not being met, they have one of two choices. They can dig in their heels and demand that those needs be met, or they can collaborate with everyone involved to find solutions.

Neediness and Selfishness

Let’s move forward by going back to one of the foundational points of this post: the modern belief that we should all be looking after our own needs first. We speak of it in terms of self-care, me time, and other euphemisms designed to mask the truth. But let us discuss what it really means.

The person only focused on their own needs is, by definition, needy. And needy people are either terribly selfish or headed in that direction. This is the trap of approaching a relationship with the mindset that it will meet your needs. That’s not what relationships are about. They never have been about having your needs met.

Selfishness and the Blame Game

Selfishness is an ugly animal that produces ugly children. A selfish person who is convinced their needs are not being met is generally quick to blame others. They don’t feel fulfilled in their marriage so it must be their spouse’s fault. They cannot find happiness as a parent so it must be the kids’ fault. It is obviously their employer’s fault that they hate their job.

This comes up so often in marriage counseling that it’s quite predictable. Relationships & More therapists can recognize this tendency within the first few minutes of a couple’s first session. Once the blame game starts, selfishness rears its ugly head.

Others’ Needs Matter

The obvious lesson in all this is that the needs of others actually do matter. In any relationship you find yourself in, you are not the only one with needs. Everyone else has needs to. Their needs are as equally valid and important as yours.

This suggests that perhaps focusing mainly on our own needs is the wrong way to go. Take the couple in marriage counseling. If they both change tack, committing to meet the other’s needs, what would happen? Both of their needs would be met and that would be that. But when both focus on their own needs instead, neither of them find what they are looking for. Therein lies the trap that so many relationships get caught in.

Written by