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Understanding what you Really Need in this Relationship

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

Understanding Needs from Past Relationships
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The relationship you have today is built on your experience of relationships from your past.

Couple looking back
Exploring the Past and Unmet Needs

"I just don't remember ever playing with my dad" says Deshawn in couple counseling. "I mean, my parents were married. And they seemed pretty happy. But he was like an old-school kind of dad. He came home but then did his own thing. He watched a game on TV but never played with me, and never came to my ball games. I just got the feeling like I wasn't important. I think that left in me a real need to feel significant. It's likely why I became a doctor. And when Neece made me feel so important when we started dating, I felt like I was finally home."

Deshawn's experience is common. We all have relationship needs in life, and most people experience a gap between what they need and what they receive in relationships. Perhaps the relationship needs started in childhood with a self-absorbed parent like Deshawn experienced. Or perhaps there was a loss, poverty, conflict, or smothering. Adult relationships can affect us too, whether that is pain from past relationships or even traumas. Our experiences shape our underlying needs in life.

Understanding our needs from the past is an important part of growth and most couple counseling. This worksheet gives couples a chance to review and consider what areas of relationship needs may have shaped their interpersonal stance.

Five Human Needs: Connection, Autonomy, Security, Significance, Growth

The worksheet will pose some questions about the five relational needs. All humans have relational needs. You might ask yourself

  • Do you trend towards trying to meet all your needs alone, without any help from your partner?

  • Or do you trend towards trying to get your partner to meet your needs and looking to them too much?

This adds another layer to discussing your needs- how do you usually try to get those needs met? Do you make direct, clear and undemanding request for your needs? Or do you tend to never ask for help? Or do you tend to ask for help in a way that it ends up overwhelming your partner? Perhaps you whine, complain, or even criticize your partner in a poor attempt to get your needs met?

Approach this exercise with humility. Everyone has unmet needs. Share with your partner a time when your needs were unmet in the past. There's no need to protect your parents, grandparents, or past partners. Honest sharing with humility will create a bond.

Protect each other. This conversation should happen in a nest of protection and love. Once you share a vulnerability like this, it makes you further vulnerable to each other. You can respond by protecting your partner's vulnerability which leads to life, love and growth. Criticizing, condemning, or minimizing your partner's vulnerability can be deeply damaging to your relationship. Respect this is their experience and real emotions.

In Hope Focused Couple Counseling, we recommend this intervention as part of the exploring patterns module and often paired with a genogram, or discussion of previous marriages/significant relationship experiences.

Hope Focused Counseling

  • Intake and Feedback/ Conceptualization

  • Stabilization of conflict cycles (if needed)

  • Increasing bond by exploring patterns

  • Increasing bond by communication and conflict resolution skill building

  • Increasing bond by repair, forgiving and reconciling

  • Consolidating gains and planning for long-term future



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