How to Meet Emotional Needs

(5-7 minute read)

Why Understanding Emotional Needs is Important

You may feel misunderstood or like your relationship is unfulfilling. Well, you are not alone. Many couples go through times like this. Some can get through it, and then those hurt feelings come right back. Others can figure out a solution that helps them get through many of the hard times. One of those solutions that keeps on working is creating an emotional connection with your spouse.

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In her book, Hold Me Tight (2008), Dr. Sue Johnson explains, “Basically, feeling connected means feeling in touch with someone who cares about us. Most people acknowledge that children need to feel a safe attachment to an adult who cares for them. The reality is that adults also need a secure attachment to another adult. Each of us has an innate need to feel safely attached to another person who will be there in our times of physical or emotional need. When we enter into a committed relationship, this need actually intensifies due to the hope that this one special person will consistently be there for us. Specifically, we hope that this one adult will meet our emotional needs...”

If you, like many others, don’t fully understand how to create an emotional connection with your spouse, follow these three steps:

  1. Discover Your Emotional Needs

  2. Know Who Is Responsible for Meeting Your Emotional Needs

  3. How Your Emotional Needs Can Be Met


What are your emotional needs? Do you need more affection? Someone to recreate with? Do you need more commitment? More financial support? Men and women have a variety of emotional needs. Oftentimes, a man and woman will also have opposite emotional needs. Willard F. Harley, Jr., clinical psychologist and marriage counselor, wrote the book His Needs, Her Needs.

Willard writes that when he has his clients list their top five emotional needs, they will typically have one of these 10 emotional needs as their top ten needs:

  • Affection

  • Sexual Fulfillment

  • Intimate Conversation

  • Financial Support

  • Honesty and Openness

  • Physical Attractiveness

  • Recreational Companionship

  • Domestic Support

  • Family Commitment

  • Admiration

Take the time to think about what means the most to you in your relationship. When you feel anxiety, anger, or jealousy, what core needs aren’t being met. When you’re hurt, afraid, disappointed, lonely, ashamed, again, what core need or needs aren’t being met?


When you think about who you want to meet your emotional needs, who do you think of? Do you expect your spouse to meet all your needs? If they could, that would be really nice.

However, your spouse can’t meet all your emotional needs. Expecting your spouse to perfectly meet all your emotional needs will lead to disappointment. Because your spouse isn’t perfect, they will never be able to perfectly meet all of your needs.

In this video, Will Smith shares about when he and his wife, Jada, recognized that they could not expect each other to make each other happy.

From the video, we learned that Will and Jada Smith were able to make themselves happy before their relationship. But, during their relationship, they suddenly expected each other to meet all their emotional needs and be the one source of their happiness. This caused them unhappiness.

You may relate with that as well. The beginning of you and your spouse’s relationship was likely easier that it is now for several reasons. One of those reasons is because you both came into the relationship with the ability to take care of yourselves, most emotional needs included. Then, once married, you probably, like many do, unloaded onto your spouse the responsibility to take care of all your needs.

Your spouse probably did the same thing to you too. Though unhealthy, it’s normal. Many people do that without recognizing it.  

Now that you recognize that not your spouse, but you have the responsibility of getting your emotional needs met, it doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. It is vital to effectively learn how to help your spouse help you. The first piece of that, as mentioned above is discovering your emotional needs.



Now that you have made a list of your top three emotional needs, and you know who is responsible for getting your emotional needs met (hint, hint: It’s you!), you have a great base to get your emotional needs met.

Sit down with your spouse and talk about your emotional needs. (Some of you reading this may think but my spouse will never sit and talk – don’t worry, if there is a will there is a way! Have treats during the conversation, give your spouse a heads up on why you want to talk about emotional needs, start out good and tell your spouse two or three great things you recognized them do this week, etc.)

Make sure your spouse understands what emotional needs are, you could even read this post together “Why Meeting Emotional Needs is Just as Important as Good Communication.Explain to your spouse what your top three emotional needs are and how you feel they could be met.

Some emotional needs you may be able to meet in other healthy ways, while some are best met in marriage. An example of this is something my husband and I discovered last year:

One of my husband’s greatest emotional needs is recreational companionship – especially while mountain biking. He has recognized this need as a big part of his life since childhood. He is an adrenaline junkie too.

He has explained how much it means to him, so when he’d ask me to go, I’d usually try to. It was fun, but our pace is the complete opposite. I go slow while he likes to go fast. Even though he would always wait for me, one time, I tried to go fast enough to nearly keep up with him. It was a bad idea and I broke my collarbone.

I learned the painful way (quite literally!) that I can’t meet all of his needs on my own. During my recovery, he reached out to more of his friends to go on rides with him. I realized that his needs could also be met by his friends, not only me. Hallelujah!

Now, he’ll meet his fast paced adrenaline needs with a buddy or his brothers, and I can be with him on the gentler rides to meet part of the more important need for recreational companionship.

Some emotional needs don’t need to be met by your spouse and can be a great way to involve other friends and family members in your life. Rather than relying on your spouse to meet your emotional needs, find out how your needs can be met. When your needs need to be met within your relationship, involve your spouse and teach them how those needs can be met.

Many couples still need help discovering and expressing their emotional needs to each other.

Because Cache Valley Counseling recognizes the help many couples need,
the therapists here are trained in Emotionally Focused Therapy.

To learn more about setting FREE Discovery Visit to meet with one of our therapists, follow the link below.