Why Meeting Emotional Needs is Just as Important as Good Communication

(3-5 minute read)

You’ve probably had headlines thrown at you that said, “How to Improve Your Communication,” “Quality Communication: Solving all Your Problems,” “Why Bad Communication Ruined Your Marriage.” Clearly, a focus on good communication is everywhere!

With all the hubbub about communication, it’s easy to forget about the importance of emotional needs and why they are just as important as good communication. So, what are emotional needs?


It’s pretty easy for us to understand the need for food, water, and shelter for physical survival, but did you know there are similar needs to emotionally survive?  The Medical Dictionary defines emotional needs as “a psychological or mental requirement…that usually centers on such basic feelings as love, fear, anger, sorrow, anxiety, frustration, and depression and involves the understanding, empathy, and support of one person for another.”

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With that in mind, here’s another way to help you understand emotional needs. Think about when you’re hungry. How do you feel? Is your temper a little shorter? Does thinking clearly get a little harder? Does your patience suddenly vanish? Hunger has this way of making someone more ornery, cranky, short-tempered, unable to think.

The hungrier we get, the more severe those emotions get. And if you don’t eat, like the boy stranded on a boat in The Life of Pi, starvation may lead you to become delusional. For those feelings to go away, we need that nourishment from food.

Similar to being hungry for food, an emotional hunger can affect your life and relationships. Running a family and having a healthy relationship is much harder to successfully do when you feel an emotional hunger. It is important to nourish emotional needs.

Even if a couple has good communication, if they aren’t discovering and meeting emotional needs, the relationship may feel unfulfilling or tense. Discovering unmet needs and finding ways to meet them is an important aspect of strengthening a relationship.


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When emotional needs are unmet, that emotional hunger can result in you feeling unwanted, alone, unfulfilled, lacking, overwhelmed, put away, and the list goes on. Those unmet emotional needs bring negative emotions into your life.

One of the quickest ways to recognize unmet emotional needs is if you feel like your needs aren’t being met, chances are, they are not being met. Unmet emotional needs also result in increased tension or exhaustion in a relationship.

Read this post for more on: “Recognizing When
Your Relationship Isn’t Fulfilling Your Emotional Needs

Couples will also often want more time away from each other and may even think about ending the relationship. Just because your emotional needs are not being met, does not mean you need to end the relationship. Rather, it means you and your spouse likely don’t know how to meet your own and each other’s emotional needs. So, it is more important for you to both learn how to recognize and then work towards meeting those needs.


To really understand how to meet one’s emotional needs and build an emotional connection, it is important to identify what your own emotional needs are. To better identify emotional needs, there is a list provided in the book His Needs, Her Needs written by Willard F. Harley, Jr., a nationally acclaimed clinical psychologist and a marriage counselor.

In his book Harley writes that he has his clients list their five emotional needs that are the most important to them. From this, he created a list of 10 emotional needs that couples most often identify as one of their five most important emotional needs. Those 10 emotional needs are:

  • Affection

  • Fulfillment

  • Intimate Conversation

  • Recreational Companionship

  • Honesty and Openness

  • Physical Attractiveness

  • Financial Support

  • Domestic Support

  • Family Commitment

  • Admiration

Harley also mentions that a wife’s emotional needs are often the opposite of the husband’s emotional needs and vice-versa. No wonder so many couples have difficulties with this! It is important for you and your spouse to learn what each of your emotional needs are and how to nourish those needs.

Check out this post to find ideas on “How to Meet Emotional Needs.”

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First, you and your spouse should take some time to think about your emotional needs and make a list of the top five emotional needs important to each of you. Put this list in order of importance. Take time to communicate with each other about how your emotional needs can be met. (This is why meeting emotional needs and communicating are equally important – it takes communicating about emotional needs with each other to know what to do).

When emotional needs are met, similar to being fed when you are hungry, it can stabilize your emotions and relationship. Meeting emotional needs isn’t a one time, check the box, and you’re done kind of thing. Rather, having your emotional needs met is a continual effort between you and your spouse to communicate and work towards meeting emotional needs.

Do you feel like communicating with your spouse about emotional needs is still not helping?
The therapists here at Cache Valley Counseling are trained in Emotional Focused Therapy and ready to help you and your spouse shape a more loving relationship and create a secure bond. Click to learn more about our FREE Discovery Visit to find a therapist who knows how to help you.