Step 5 – Emotional Needs

Step 5 – Emotional Needs

Emotional Needs

 Client: “Is it wrong to love someone so much, that you forsake your own needs just to make them happy?”

Therapist: “Absolutely.”



When I was researching the 7-Step Infidelity Recovery Method Concept, I came across the work of Dr. Harley from marriage builders. Dr. Harley is also a Clinical Psychologist with vast experience in couple therapy and affair recovery. I really enjoyed his hard line approach, and his higher purpose in saving marriages – a theme which aligns with my own and that of the Infidelity Recovery Institute “Saving the fabric of society – One relationship at a time.”

Dr. Harley’s key concept is that of Emotional Needs, and to quote Dr. Harley…

“You married your spouse because he or she did a great job meeting some of your emotional needs. That’s also why you fell in love. Are those needs still being met by your spouse? And are you still doing a good job meeting your spouse’s emotional needs? If the answer to those questions is “no,” your love for each other is at risk and your marriage is also at risk.”

We all have unique emotional needs, and some needs that we all have in common. When you feel a lack of one of these needs in your life, the pursuit of that missing need can become an obsession until you obtain the object of your desires. Similar to an addiction, the mind alone decides what your emotional needs are. We may not even notice when an emotional need is met or not by our spouse or another; it may just be felt in the change of our mood.

If the need is being met, we are generally find ourselves in a kinder and more loving energy. If a need goes unfulfilled long enough, however, we may get moody, angry and inadvertently punish our partner. Worse yet, if your partner holds an emotional need hostage in exchange for one of their needs, another downward spiral occurs.

When we fail to bond with our partner, several of our primary emotional needs are most likely not being met.

The downward vortex of unmet needs spirals down quickly:

– First we protest that we are lacking such needs.

– We next become depressed and despair over our unanswered need for a relationship.

– Finally, we detach altogether from others and those of the outside world that have so wronged us by not being there for us.

The 7-Step Infidelity Recovery Program includes a section on understanding:

  1. Your own needs
  2. Your partners needs
  3. Coaching to take realignment actions

The goal, is to create an relationship environment where hope and change CAN exist. 

Perhaps you are meeting your spouses needs at the sake of not meting your own. People change as the years roll on. If you cannot communicate to your spouse that you now want something different – as you fear conflict or rejection, then your relationship is at risk. The worst risk is that you will find someone who will share your new interest, and your spouse, doesn’t know the new you, and is now emotionally disconnected. 

Remember, that the 10 Emotional needs introduced by Dr. Harley are the most common emotion needs. You may have a different need which you would place at the top of your list.

The Emotional Needs

Source: “His Needs, Her Needs”, by Dr. Harley –


If you have a strong need for admiration, you may have fallen in love with your spouse partly because of the way he or she compliments or appreciates you. Criticism from your spouse can hurt you deeply if you have this need. All it takes from your partner to fix address this is a few words of admiration.

No one gets together with his or her partner with the expectation of being ignored. There was something about you that she admired, just as there is something about her that you admire. It could have been your intellect, the way you do certain things, the way you pursue your objectives, or even that dreamer’s look in your eye. Whatever it was, it helped you win the love lottery early on.

But admiration is a hungry beast; just because she said it once to you does not mean it lasts forever. No one goes out of their way to say, “I don’t admire you,” they may simply stop giving out the compliments. As such, any stoppage in the flow of praise can be taken as a sign of having lost the admiration of the other. We need reminders, even if it is the occasional, “Have I ever told you how much I like the way you smile?”

Occasional reminders of one’s continued admiration for the other can take the sting out of criticisms that could otherwise deeply hurt a person. This is, after all, the one you love and trust the most, so we be especially sensitive to your partner’s need for admiration.

Give it to get it.

Family Commitment

Besides the greater need for income and responsibilities, the arrival of children creates a new role for both of you in your children’s development. You instantly have a family commitment you did not have before the kids arrived. Your need to teach them, spend quality time with them, and see that they turn out as caring, successful people reshapes who you are and what you do on a daily basis.

Problems arise if the methods for rearing your children are in conflict with what your spouse’s values. If your spouse does not meet the standards and methods you so enthusiastically approve, then you may feel that your spouse is neglecting your children. When your spouse’s participation in family activities meets your goals and future for your children, your love for your partner will increase, depositing a flood of coins into your love bank.

Make sure the domestic goals of you and your partner are in sync with one another. If they are not, the two of you need to talk. Come to some basic agreements before family roles and responsibilities become part of your lifestyle. How do the two of you want to raise the children? How do you want to discipline them? Discuss these issues early, before it’s critical. If the kids are already here, it’s not too late. Set aside some ground rules on how to make a fresh start.

  1. Leave past successes and failures off the table.
  2. Read a book or take a course together on parenting.
  3. Explore strategies and tactics in child rearing one idea at a time.
  4. Study successful parents and get input on what they do.
  5. If the kids are older, get their ‘buy in’ too.


Affection is the expression of care; a symbol of security, comfort, and approval. Affection tells the other person how important he or she is to you and shows, by example, how concerned you are with their problems. Affection can be expressed with a simple hug, or a greeting card that says, “I love you” delivered for no reason other than that you do. It’s not a holiday, and it’s not a “get out of the doghouse” moment; you simply love her. You show affection because:

1) you want to show it, and

2) your partner wants to receive it.

Holding hands, a walk after dinner, back rubs, and so forth, are simple gestures that go a long way for a person with a strong emotional need of affection. When the simple acts of affection are unashamedly and freely given, they cement a relationship.

The lack of affection, conversely can whittle away your bond.

When a child is born, in the process of showing affection to this new life, one often forget the one who helped you create this new life still needs some affection as well. Take consistent time and continue to show affection for one another. Even a brief kiss, a touch, or a word can do wonders.

Sexual Fulfillment

You and your spouse promised to be faithful to one another, to be each other’s only sexual partner for life. You trusted one another to meet your sexual needs, be available and responsive. If you have this need then you are solely dependent upon your spouse to see them fulfilled. In most cultures, there is no other ethical choice.

A sexual need can be different from wanting to make love with your spouse. You want to make love with your partner as a reflection of the deep emotional need you have for that person, but a purely sexual need can predate you’re ever having met. It is a need that can now only be met by your partner, and if it is not met, people often look outside of their marriage to have that need met.

Sex works on more than one level, but at its most basic level, sexual desires are imprinted on humans to propagate the species. It is a chemical desire that remains strong with adults well past the point of being able to bear children. Problems arise when, as is true in many cases, the sex drive of a couple is not in balance.


Conversation is not a need that can always be met exclusively in the bonds of a marriage. We have the need to connect with other people, as well as our mate. However, whoever meets that need best will be depositing more coins into your love bank. Be very wary of your emotional needs being met outside of your marriage. When a spouse isn’t depositing enough coins in that bank, other players may enter the picture to fill that need.

This can easily become an emotional affair.

Emotional affairs can often turn into sexual affairs, but at the core both are the result of unmet needs. Healthy, consistent, vibrant conversation can stave off one person’s need to seek connection outside of your monogamous relationship.

Conversation is more than simply talking. Active listening is vital to making sure deposits into your love bank aren’t counterfeit! It is a mutual exchange on topics of common interest that fulfills the following requirements:

– All participants have an equal opportunity to speak.

– The speaker of the moment has the undivided attention of the others involved in the conversation.

– The conversation is enjoyable by both parties.

The needs of good conversation are not met, however, if any of the following occurs:

– Disrespect is shown.

– Demands are made.

– Someone becomes angry.

– The opportunity is used to dwell on past mistakes.


If inauthentic conversation happens, the couple is better off not talking to one another at all. An unpleasant conversation only ensures there will be less opportunity to meet this need in the future.

After marriage, some women find their man’s interest in talking to them wane a bit. If the need for conversation was fulfilled during courtship, then it is reasonable to assume that the partner assumes this fulfillment will continue. If one of the reasons you fell in love was because of the way you could talk with her, a lack of that need will raise the risk of falling out of love.

“We need to talk,” however, is not the best way to initiate or rekindle that part of your relationship! Instead of forcing the idea of conversation upon a withdrawer, ask a question, start a topic, tell a joke, or share a story. Let it flow naturally. The art of conversation becomes more difficult as we become intimately familiar with our partner.

If you enjoy conversation just to talk with someone, beyond the practical means to an end, and become frustrated when you have not been able to talk to someone for a while, then conversation is one of your most important emotional needs.

Let your partner know.


Recreational Companionship

Before marriage, you probably planned your dates around your favorite recreational activities. When this is an important emotional need for you, recreational companionship can drop a few pounds of those love coins into your bank. To get your relationship to flourish, chose activities you both enjoy. Don’t make the mistake of doing only whatever the one with the greatest need wants to do.

Serving a social need separately can cause the couple to go their separate ways. If the husband joins his friends in his favorite activities, while the wife goes about enjoying her own separate activities by herself, a need is being met, but add to that activities you both enjoy.

By engaging in your own favorite activities, someone is going to be putting love coins into your bank. Wouldn’t it be best if it was your spouse making all these deposits? A couple should be one another’s favorite recreational companion.

Recreational companionship actually combines two needs:

1) The need to be engaged in a recreational activity.

2) The need to have a companion to enjoy it with.

If you crave a certain activity, and require a companion for fulfillment, then you need to include recreational companionship in your list of emotional needs.

This particular emotion need ties into honesty as well. A relationship begins during courting and continues into marriage. When you start sharing recreational activities, be honest from the very beginning what you do and don’t like to do. Saying you “like” an activity during courting just to get closer will come back to hurt you after marriage; you’ll stop doing things together because you’ve discovered there was nothing you really liked doing together in the first place.

If you are already in a committed relationship, don’t despair. Use this knowledge to try new things! People change, situations morph, and you may both discover a new activity you had previously ignored.

Honesty and Openness

Most people want an honest relationship with their spouse, but some people have a particular need for honesty and openness at any cost. People with a high need for honesty feel secure and emotionally bonded when that need is fully met. Those with this need want accurate information on their spouse’s thoughts, feelings, likes, activities, and plans, regardless of what it may mean. Without this level of untarnished honesty, trust is undermined, insecurity can develop, and the person questions the very foundation of the relationship.

When you and your spouse openly share your past, present, future hopes and dreams, then you can make intelligent decisions that take one another’s feelings into account. You feel good about yourself and the relationship. You appreciate it when your spouse reveals their most private thoughts to you. If, on the other hand, you feel they are keeping secrets from you, this can engender feelings of paranoia and distrust. If this is the case, then you have an emotional need for honesty and openness.

Ideally, if you value this need, you must be able to separate honesty from emotion. It is only when you can fully disconnect from the outcome, that one’s need for honesty can be completely satisfied.

Physical Attractiveness

Let’s face it; the first thing that draws most couples to one another is physical attractiveness. We instantly judge and are attracted to specific attributes that turn us on. It could be your partner’s hair or even the shape of a leg.

Everyone has their own view of beauty, but the basics are however he or she looked when they courted, is most likely the standard set for the marriage. Many a complaint in a marriage revolves around the spouse losing their attractiveness, gaining weight, or not taking the time to look good. The entrance of a child into the relationship is a common cause; so busy with being a mother, the woman forgets that she is also a wife. She becomes a sweat suit house bunny, then wonders why the husband has stopped complimenting her. Or the husband, so obsessed with earning a proper living for his growing family, lets himself go, watches his waistline grow, and cares less and less about remaining that attractive young man that he used to be.

The result can be frustration, disrespectful tones, impatience, and things not getting done. You grow apart, and your argumentativeness reduces what attractive qualities are left. You’ve lost respect for your spouse, and yourself as well.

A quick look in the mirror and a sincere focus on your OWN self-esteem is the starting point. Commit to proper nutrition and fitness, and interest about how you dress and look. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but if what you are beholding is important, make sure your spouse knows and add this to your list of emotional needs.


Financial Support

Some people marry not specifically for money, but for financial security. Others marry before the subject of financial security becomes important. When a life-changing event pops up, (a spouse becomes unemployed) and the household income drops, it becomes a consideration to be faced. Whatever the reason, money can influence your relationship and spill over into how you treat each other.

Couples have different views of what constitutes good financial support. Is it good enough to simply get by, or do you have larger goals to aspire to? The same couple may have different answers at different stages in their lives as their needs change.

Many couples have traced the cause of their disputes down to arguing about finances. Couples with secure connections find themselves working on the problem as a team instead of working against one another.

– If a person were to meet your financial needs would they be easier to fall in love with?

– Does a person’s wealth make him more attractive?

– If he were poor and unemployable and told you that you would have to support the both of you, would you still fall in love?

If you find that money will influence your final decision, then you have a need for financial support. Does this sound shallow? Drop the judgment, finances are one of the foundational components for security and the core human need of certainty.

From Joe

“I was working with a couple in their 60’s. During the husband’s entire life he was the breadwinner, while she had been the housewife. They were nearing retirement when the sparks of discontent began to fly. He had worked fourteen-hour days as a security guard, but when he came home at the end of the day, instead of letting him relax she would began to nag him about what else he was not doing. He would then complain that she had not only never worked a day in her life but also made it quite clear that she never wanted to work or contribute financially. He felt that if she was able to contribute and understand what it was like to actually earn some money and give back to the family rather than just taking, he would feel more validated and loved. Even if she volunteered, it would have allowed her to talk a walk in his shoes.”


Domestic Support

In our modern times this one seems a bit old fashioned, yet it exists in the back of every relationship. In days past, it used to be the husband that worked, and the wife that kept the home fires burning. Cooking meals, washing dishes, cleaning house, and childcare were roles that predominantly went to the wife.

Times have changed.

Nowadays many women work, have careers, and gain some pleasure from the man contributing to a well-managed home. In many Western cultures, most marriages begin with both spouses willing to share the load of domestic responsibilities, dividing the household chores between them. For the first time the groom gets some help with chores he’s had to do all by himself, and the wife is glad that she’s not there solely as an indentured servant. Domestic support is not yet seen as an emotional support.

Then the children arrive on the scene.

Children create a lot of needs; financial and domestic, and the old division of labor often goes out the window. Both spouses must share a new set of responsibilities, but who will take the lead? This is when you discover if domestic support is strong issue with either of you. When your circumstances change and a greater need arises that throws off the previous plan, it’s time to discuss a new division of labor, and be ready to make on-the-spot adjustments to your well-oiled machine.

If you find yourself very appreciative of your spouse’s cooking, cleaning, and childcare, and are frustrated when it’s not there, rate domestic support as an emotional need. Then talk about it.


Continue to Step 6


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