Understanding the Emotional Needs of Your Female Partner
One of the keys to being successful in a long-term, committed relationship is properly understanding the emotional needs of your partner. While many women share similar emotional needs, each woman is also unique. Learning what your partner values most—what makes her feel loved and secure—is essential to making the relationship work.
You are not responsible for meeting all of your partner’s needs: "If you are looking to a partner to make you feel worthwhile, to make you feel happy, to rescue you from a bored or unhappy life, if you are seeking someone to make you feel complete or whole -- then you have some work to do, because these are needs that are never going to be met by anyone other than yourself," says Dennis Sugrue, PhD, Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan Medical School.
That being said, we can and should be concerned with our partner’s well-being and meeting the needs that we can reasonably fulfill. While the specific needs of women vary, Dr. Willard F. Harley has identified five basic emotional needs common for women—identified through decades of working with couples in distressed marriages. Some women may not identify with one or more of the needs outlined below—and that’s fine. What matters most is that you are aware of the specific needs of your partner.
Affection: According to Dr. Harley, affection is the expression of care and symbolizes security, protection, comfort and approval. When one spouse is affectionate toward the other, the messages sent include: “You are important to me,” “I will care for you” and “I will protect you.” Without affection, many women feel alienated in their relationship.
Conversation: It’s important to note that conversation is not a need that can or should be met exclusively in marriage. But if conversation is particularly important to your partner then it is crucial that you be the one to meet that need the most often. Good conversation is characterized by: (1) learning about each other, (2) discussing things of mutual interest, (3) ensuring both people talk equally, and (4) giving your partner your undivided attention.
“Men and women don’t have too much difficulty talking to each other during courtship,” explains Harley. “But after marriage, many women find that the man now seems to have lost interest in talking to her at all. If you fell in love because your need for conversation was met by your spouse during courtship, you risk falling out of love if that need is not met during marriage.”
Honesty and openness: Everyone wants an open and honest relationship with their partner, in part because of the sense of security it provides. For many women, if a partner isn’t open about their thoughts, feelings, likes, dislikes, personal history, and even daily activities, trust is undermined.
Financial support: Like many needs, finances are hard to talk about; because of this, many couples have hidden expectations, assumptions and resentments. Some women (and some men) marry—at least in part—for financial security. Others marry before financial security becomes much of a consideration; this need may become more pronounced after they’ve been married for a while, especially after children arrive. Consider what financial security means to each of you. Is it earning enough to buy everything you want, or earning enough to get by? Different couples will answer this question differently, and the same couples might answer differently during various stages of life.
Family commitment: If you do not have any children, this need may not have shown itself yet. When children do arrive, an unanticipated shift may take place. Family commitment goes beyond the basics of feeding and clothing your children. It involves spending time them, teaching values and ensuring their happiness and success. A wife’s love for her husband generally grows when he spends quality time with the children; likewise, that love may be hindered if he doesn’t make that commitment.
Once there is a breakdown or a lack of fulfillment of emotional needs, it can create a thirst that must be quenched. If steps are not taken to address those needs, the relationship will continue to suffer.
If you are unsure of your partner’s emotional needs, seize the opportunity to communicate with her about what they are and how they should be filled. Your relationship will be stronger for the effort.