Couples With 3 Specific Relationship Factors Overcome Even The Biggest Challenges

They're the foundations of all healthy relationships.

happy smiling couple Hector Pertuz / Shutterstock

We all have relationship needs that are important for us to be healthy. Some of these are particular to us (certain levels of control, trust, or ways of communicating).

But there are basic, universal needs we all have that researchers and psychologists alike have been working on understanding for decades. Those basic relationship needs are all things we cannot provide ourselves, and we rely on others to help provide them for us.


Here are 3 relationship needs couples use to overcome the biggest challenges.

1. Companionship and belonging

Companionship and belonging are our need to share our lives and have a sense of belonging, acceptance, and affiliation with others. It's a need to feel like we have someone on our team, and that we are meant to exist in the same space as them.

When these needs are met, we usually feel contentment, warmth, and security. We understand that we have someone on which we can rely, and that offers a sense of relief.

relationship needs couples use to overcome the biggest challengesPhoto: cottonbro studio / Pexels


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2. Verbal and physical affection

Affection is our need to have care from others expressed to us through words and touch. As human beings, touch is a primal and instinctual need, and lacking any type of affection in a relationship can have dire consequences.

When this need is met, we usually feel happiness and excitement, and have a sense of confidence. Not only does physical affection release feel-good hormones, but is also associated with higher relationship satisfaction.

3. Emotional support and validation

This is our need to be attended to, validated, and supported when we are struggling. When we are experiencing troubles in our personal or work life, we want to know that we have that emotional validation and care waiting for us at home.


When this is met, we usually feel a sense of relief, relaxation, grounding, and efficacy. It makes us more willing to open up and be vulnerable with our partner.



As adults, there is a universal set of relationship needs that remains.

The original concept of these needs was from psychoanalytic therapists who called them “dependency needs,” because we were dependent on others to meet them. Specifically, when we are first born into the world, almost every need except for oxygen is a dependency need.


An infant is dependent on caregivers for food, comfort, and care. As we get older, these needs change because we learn to provide some of these things for ourselves.

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For couples, these needs are ideally met in the partnership. Strong couples are able to be good companions (sharing their day to day lives, personal histories, and interests together), give verbal and physical affection (affirmations, hugs, physical intimacy, compliments), and provide emotional support (being there to help during tough times, validations when the person is struggling).

In a healthy relationship, both members of a couple get used to depending on the other for these needs, and when they are not met, each person starts to become dissatisfied, which ultimately can lead to a breakup.


relationship needs couples use to overcome the biggest challengesPhoto: Gustavo Fring / Pexels

Individuals that are not currently in a partnership need to have these met in other ways. Usually, a lot of this occurs in strong bonds with friends and family.

A good example would be a group of friends or a family that knows you well, gives big hugs when they see you, always has your back, and knows the right thing to say when you are under stress, making you feel like you have an important place in their lives.


Additional Relationship Needs

It is also important to note that these are usually not the only needs people have in relationships, they are just the universal set. Since we all have variations in our family systems and experiences relating to others, almost everyone has some individualized needs as well.

For example, in addition to the basic set, some people have different needs for the amount of control in a relationship, or have specific requests to feel balanced and comfortable in it. Some of these can ultimately be changed if the person wants to work on it, especially if it is due to negative or traumatic experiences in an earlier part of life.



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When Needs Are Not Met

The results of these needs not being met are different depending on the individual on where he or she is in life.

If these needs are not met when we are children, it can lead to longer-lasting problems relating to others. As adults, not having these met adequately leads to feelings of loneliness, and sometimes can move into hopelessness or depression.

Most adults can manage some periods of time without these being adequately met, but it is important for our overall health that they are attended to.


Unfortunately, many family cultures and role expectations dismiss the importance of these needs and instill values that not needing these things is somehow a superior way of being.

When a person holds these values and these needs are not met, there can be a compounded level of shame and distress, which is more complicated to work through. These can also get in the way of meeting the needs of your partner or friends.

relationship needs couples use to overcome the biggest challengesPhoto: Timur Weber / Pexels


Some examples of values or beliefs that interfere with these are: “I don’t need anyone,” “I can always rely on myself,” “I don’t want to burden others with my problems,” “Crying or being angry doesn’t solve anything,” and “I only say ‘I love you’ infrequently because it will mean more when I say it.”

Generally, counseling (particularly for couples) can be very helpful for people wanting to understand relationship needs, and find healthy ways of meeting them in life.

RELATED: 4 Things Couples In The Most Healthy, Secure Relationships Do Differently

Will Meek Ph.D. is a psychologist, and Global Director of Mental Health & Wellness at Minerva University. He was previously the Director of Counseling and Psychological Services at Brown University, and has a private counseling practice in Providence, Rhode Island.