Friday, July 13, 2012

Understanding Basic Human Love Needs

Several years ago in the context of a "" relationship, I asked my partner the following questions: How do people really "know" at the beginning of a long-term relationship that it will actually be a long-term relationship? Barring stories from elder relatives, especially those who have been together for say, 25 years or longer, what references do we have for what one might expect at the beginning of a relationship to indicate the long-term future of the relationship? Furthermore, without those kinds of references for comparison, how did either he or I know how to assess our own feelings, and the long-term potential of our relationship?

Since he was not able to offer satisfying answers to any of my questions, I decided to do some research on the internet with "Love" as my search term.

What follows is a greatly paraphrased version of what I found to be one of the most relevant results of that search. It was originally published on a site called "", and even though that source no longer exists, I still like to give the authors credit. The information takes the form of an "exercise" in which you (and a partner, if you have one) determine what are your Most Important "Love Needs". Once you've got that figured out, then you can have a more rational discussion about whether or not each of you is prepared to meet your partner's most important love needs, especially at the level of a "Physically Intimate Friendship" (See Also: Levels of Intimacy and Relationships)

From my current point of view, just figuring out what Your Most Important Love Needs are is an essential piece of "home" "work" - the "work" you do on your own, at "home", and it is something everyone should know about themselves before they get involved in any kind of serious relationship. Furthermore, once you have a better understanding of "love needs" in general, you are in a better position to have a conversation about this subject with a potential partner; i.e. you might be able to guide them through the consideration process so that they can come to a deeper understanding of themselves while you are also getting to know them.

In addition, it should be recognized from this discussion that Love Needs are Real, they are different for different people, and they vary in their level of importance for different people. To expect your partner to deny their own love needs because you are not comfortable meeting them is irrational, and not truly loving. In other words, understanding each other's Most Important Love Needs, and each person's willingness and capability for meeting the other's love needs should Weigh Heavily as individuals looking to couple go through their Selection Process (See Also: On Sharing What Is Most Meaningful). As Terry Gorski points out in Getting Love Right: Learning the Choices of Healthy Intimacy, most relationships fail due to Selection Errors!

I am all about learning to make better choices myself, and the consideration below has been helping to guide those decisions in my own case for a long-time now. Hopefully, readers of this blog will find this information useful as well.

So, to begin...Everyone has certain things they need from their relationships, and those relationships can have varying levels of intimacy and commitment. (See Again: Levels of Intimacy and Relationships if you haven't already.) Just like food, water and shelter, love needs are not things you only want. You NEED your love needs to be met to feel "comfortable in your own skin" as a human being. The mutual meeting of love needs is what is critical for any truly intimate relationship to survive, whether or not that relationship includes physical intimacy.

Although by no means complete, here is a list of "love needs" to consider:

1) Talking
2) Love Making
3) Caring
4) Togetherness
5) Loyalty
6) Looks
7) Money
8) Help
9) Family
10) Verbal Awe/Expression

While you read the explanations, be thinking of how important each need is to YOU:


Unlike the need for sex, Talk is not a love need that is exclusive to an intimate relationship. Keep this in mind: you can experience the feeling of "falling in love" with someone simply by talking to them, because your love need for talking is being fulfilled. If your significant other is not listening and talking to you, and Talk is one of your biggest love needs…you may very well "fall out of love" with that person!

There is such a thing as bad Talk. This happens when the person you are talking to is angry, shows disrespect, or the conversation in general is negative or controlling. This type of bad Talk will hurt a relationship.

When you first started dating someone you were really attracted to, you probably talked all the time. You were both very curious about each other and were finding out everything you could. If you’re like most couples, after a while the Talk slowed considerably. This obviously becomes a problem for the partner whose love need to Talk is high on their love need priority list.

Love Making

This is a need only your partner can meet if you are married or have a committed, physically intimate, monogamous relationship. The need for sex is important for many reasons. Men usually find it physically satisfying while also enjoying the challenge of bringing pleasure to their partners. Women tend to get more out of the emotional part of the emotional-sexual connection, maybe even feeling emotionally closer to their partners during physical intimacy than they do at any other time. Most people who have sex as a high priority love need, will feel better about themselves when they feel genuinely desired by their partners.

There are many different ways to approach physical intimacy. Some people prefer to keep things completely spontaneous, while others may prefer to practice Tantra and/or engage in "planned intimate occasions". If this is a high-priority love need for either partner, then it is important for it not to be ignored merely as a consequence of "life distractions", like children, and work. Having "planned intimate occasions" creates an opportunity to truly let-go of those other concerns for a while and focus on relating intimately. It can also give partners something to look forward to while they are otherwise handling the daily, maybe less pleasurable, responsibilities of their lives.

As with other love needs, it is important to be able to talk with your partner about your intimate needs, what behaviors and actions from your partner make you feel loved and desired. Therefore, talk often about what each of you like and don't like. Ask specific questions; sometimes one partner may feel shy about bringing an issue up, so it’s important to probe. Try to avoid the tendency to expect your partner to read your mind. You are much more likely to get what you need when you are willing to talk about those needs openly.

Also, if one or the other partner has a major problem with or aversion to physical intimacy, and cannot feel comfortable making themselves available to intimacy with a partner for whom physical intimacy is a high-priority love need, then it may be a "deal breaker" for the relationship. The sooner people are honest about that with one another, the better; i.e. it should be taken into consideration as part of the "selection process" referred to above. This does not deny the opportunity for growth and change, but it is also important sometimes to see realities for what they are and manage levels of relationship and expectations accordingly.


Care is showing someone that you love them via your words and actions. Hugging, holding hands, kissing, massaging, or writing a love note all show Care. Actually listening to your partner, without judgment, being compassionate, recognizing their vulnerability, also expresses care. It is important to care if your partner actually feels loved, understood, and appreciated by you, and to acknowledge the differences between the feeling of loving and the feeling of being loved and cared for, honored, and respected.


Going to the movies together, having dinner at your favorite restaurant, golfing with each other, and ordering in pizza are a few examples of togetherness. Obviously, this is doing things as partners instead of on your own. Maybe at one point you only did what the other partner wanted to do (perhaps you weren’t interested in going to an art show but you both went anyway).

It’s important that you both do things together, whether the other partner is 100% interested or not. Alternate your favorite things to do if you have to, just to be together. While it’s necessary for the both of you to enjoy some alone time, you are likely to deepen your relationship while doing things in tandem. If you love going dancing and your husband does not, then he is probably out at a boat show with his buddies at the same time. This is a recipe for disaster if someone of the opposite sex happens to join either of you. Why? Because if you enjoy yourself most while you do these activities but your partner is not there, you risk falling in love with the person who is with you and therefore satisfying your Togetherness need.

(Note: This ties into the idea of being able to share things that are "most meaningful" to each person. It does not mean that you have to share Everything together, but being able to share the Most Meaningful things is important. See again: On Sharing What Is Most Meaningful).


Being loyal in love means building trust, and the only way to do that is to be truthful and open ALL the time. You need to know that you can trust your partner while you’re not together, and that they uphold you in the same manner they would if you were standing right beside them. Unlike the love need to Talk, which could be about anything, the need for loyalty includes discussing very deep feelings and revealing everything important about you. These range from political views, family history to what you did today, what you’re doing tomorrow and any future plans. If your significant other has this need and it is not met or vice versa, security and trust will fade fast. There shouldn’t be anything that you don’t want the other to know about, and if there is, work it out before you get more involved.


Love at first sight? Only if this is one of your most important love needs. Yes it seems superficial, but the truth is this need can be just as important as the others. Weight, clothing style, and personal hygiene are important factors when thinking about Looks. There is nothing wrong with needing your partner to put effort into their appearance. Perhaps they did when you were first dating and have recently stopped? Regardless of the situation, Looks can be an important issue between two people, and again, it is not something either partner should expect the other to ignore, if it is one of their most important love needs.


Money is another love need that may seem superficial; however the actual money (or lack thereof) is important to the relationship, if it is a need of yours (or your partner’s). It brings the security of knowing that financial stability is there. You might make plenty of money, therefore it is not important to you if your spouse does or does not. If you are not content in the financial department, other areas of the relationship can turn sour quickly. It all depends on what you consider “enough” money. Do you want to be extremely comfortable? Or just get by? People have different expectations of the level of income needed to satisfy their love need for money.


Remember, love needs know no gender. This need has to do with housekeeping, things such as keeping things clean and tidy, cooking and washing dishes. This is often a need that is more important to whichever partner does the majority of these tasks. You may take on a lot of the household responsibility, and feel that your partner does nothing to help you out. If you feel overwhelmed, and are not getting any Help, it can creep up on you and result in bitter feelings towards the other.

If this is a need of yours, you feel happy and comfortable when things are as you want them. When they are not, you feel out of sorts and irritated. Some married couples do these chores together at first but slowly slip into routine of one partner carrying more of the work load. If the most important thing to you is that the house is vacuumed daily and you expect to come into an organized home, often times this can’t be done alone, especially where their are children present.


There are two different parts to the Family need. The first is children. Simply put, you have a love need for your partner to be involved with your children. It could vary anywhere from needing them to take an active role in caring or nurturing, or just needing them to uphold the family values and rules (perhaps you prefer to do most of the day to day parenting). Keep in mind feeding, dressing, or watching the children while you run out to the store is NOT the family love need we are talking about. Teaching and spending quality time helping them grow and learn IS. If this is a love need of yours, you must also agree significantly with your partner on the type and method of parenting, whether or not you will use physical punishment can be a major issue, and a very important one to decide on before you have children.

The second part of the Family love need involves extended family. It could vary anywhere from needing them to take an active role in caring and nurturing, to just needing them to back you up in decision making. Taking trips to see your mother and father, spending Holidays with your brothers or sisters, etc., could be very important matters for you or your partner, especially if either of you experience love deeply in the context of family associations.

Verbal Awe/Expression

The need for verbal awe/expression is important to many. As a human, you naturally want to communicate. Do you love getting compliments? Do you hate to be criticized? If you feel that your partner is not vocal about things they appreciate about you or love about you, then he or she is not expressing themselves in a way that satisfies this love need. Expression is defined as an act, process, or instance of representing or conveying in words. You know your partner loves you, but you want them to TELL you this, or SHOW it to you through actions.

This can be a very easy love need to meet for a lot of people, as many times this is how relationships begin in the first place. But, if this is not done the results can be hazardous and potentially fatal to your relationship.... If you need these compliments and gestures, but your significant other stops doing them after you’ve been together or has a problem doing them from the beginning, it can devastate you. Not only will it make you feel unsure about yourself, but you will begin to question things like their fidelity, their interest in you, your importance to them, and the meaning of the relationship.

The bottom line: People tend to "fall in love" because their love needs are being met. However, if in longer-term relationships, one or the other partner stops meeting the others Most Important Love Needs, then the relationship can suffer and even dissolve entirely as people "fall out of love".

With the information shared here (and in some of my other blogs), people can become more fully conscious of what it means to "love" someone, rather than merely experiencing the feelings of "falling in" or "falling out" of love. In truth, loving is a choice. One of the greatest ways to express love to another person is to actively meet their Love Needs; i.e. to make them Feel Loved by your words and actions, that can actually be targeted in very specific ways as outlined above.

This is what love between ordinary human beings is really all about. And although it may not satisfy all of your needs; i.e. it will not substitute for your need to experience true, personal, spiritual, ecstasy (as I discuss here Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love - Part I), it can certainly go a long way to broadening your capacity to have truly satisfying relationships, with varying levels of intimacy, with many of your other fellow human beings.

Given all of the dysfunction, dissociation, and suffering that is what most people are experiencing these days, being able to work-out our most intimate interpersonal relationships, to be able to find more contentment and satisfaction in those relationships, can go a long way towards making the world a better place, a more peaceful place, for everyone.

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