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On Emotional Deficits and the three kinds of needs in a relationship

I came across an article by Melissa Josue titled "Emotional Attachment Versus Love: Is There a Difference?" She mentions that every relationship has three fundamental needs, which are as follows:

"A. Core requirements are basic needs that are often relationship-breakers if unmet. For example, monogamy and having children might be a relationship requirement for some people. B. Functional Needs are the events you need to happen for your life and relationship to function optimally, such as earning money to pay bills, helping with household chores and child-rearing, etc. C. Emotional Needs are what you need to feel loved, safe and connected."

I want to include two additional points i.e.

D. Intellectual & Spiritual Needs: Need for growth. Need to find value and resonance of ideas in a relationship.

E. Social and Recreational Needs: The need for social connection, companionship, and shared recreational activities. This includes spending quality time together, engaging in hobbies or interests as a couple, and maintaining a social life that complements the relationship.

For now, I'll focus solely on addressing Point C in this post.

Emotional Needs and Emotional Deficits

While all relationship needs are important. It's common for individuals to prioritize "emotional needs" or address "emotional deficits" especially once the foundational requirements (A and B) are fulfilled. Let’s say you earn a decent sum of money as a family and all your physical and functional needs are being met. One may then wonder why are we still unhappy?

From my perspective, financial and functional resources are merely enablers for creating a desired situation or environment for emotional connection and intimacy. But it is really the intent of the partners to mindfully create that connection, understanding, and support that plays a crucial role in enhancing emotional intimacy and satisfaction within a relationship.

For example, a decent income may enable you to afford luxurious vacations but can it enhance emotional satisfaction? And if not, why?

Psychologists emphasize that at our core, there exists a universal longing for a profound and authentic emotional connection. This involves feeling understood, valued, and emotionally supported. This also involves physical touch and expressions of love, and intimacy which are essential emotional needs. This includes gestures like hugs, kisses, and other forms of affection that reinforce the emotional bond between partners.

In my opinion, when the aforementioned emotional needs go unmet, it leaves a significant "emotional deficit" in a relationship, which can show itself as a breakdown in communication, irreconcilable differences, decreased intimacy, a lack of empathy, emotional distance, a dependence on outside validation, etc. While, I would like to acknowledge that the manifestation may vary from individual to individual.

Understanding Emotional Deficits

Imagine that in a relationship, emotions are like currency, and the emotional connection between partners is represented by a bank account. Love, support, and understanding are deposits into this account, while conflicts, misunderstandings, or neglect can be seen as withdrawals.

An emotional deficit occurs when there are more withdrawals than deposits in the emotional bank account. Just like a financial deficit indicates a lack of funds, an emotional deficit suggests a shortage of positive emotional exchanges. Over time, if the relationship account is consistently in deficit, the relationship may experience strain, and the partners may feel emotionally distant or unfulfilled.

Unmet Needs & Its Manifestations

Sometimes, rather than confronting and addressing this emotional deficit, couples may fall into the belief that the relationship has irretrievably broken down. There's a sense of helplessness, with the perception that nothing they do brings happiness to their partner. This can lead to extreme dissatisfaction and unhappiness with one's life and the relationship, ultimately making separation seem like the only viable solution. However, when viewed from a different vantage point, it becomes evident that there is potential for positive change.

Addressing Emotional Deficits: Strategies to Make Up for the Gap

To address an emotional deficit, partners need to make intentional and mindful. efforts to show understanding, and provide emotional support—effectively making deposits into the emotional bank account. This helps restore balance and build a foundation of emotional security and connection within the relationship.

Here are some actionable points:

Open Communication

Foster honest and open conversations about emotions, needs, and concerns. Taking out time when your partner is in a rested state (extremely crucial) and you feel they would be receptive to listening, advance your concerns in a gentle manner. Please remember that if you approach any conversation feeling unsettled and worked up, it is likely that it would end up in a conflict. So here are some tips to keep in mind.

What to Do:

  1. "I really appreciate the effort you put into our relationship. I've been feeling a bit disconnected lately, and I wanted to share my thoughts with you to see how we can work on this together." (Begin with appreciation)

  2. "I love how supportive you are. Recently, I've noticed some challenges in our communication, and I think discussing it together could help us understand each other better."

  3. "I value the time we spend together. There are a few things on my mind that I'd like to share when you're ready. It's nothing urgent, just something I think we can work on together."

What Not to Do:

  1. "You never listen to me! We need to talk about this now." (Accusatory and absolute language)

  2. "Our relationship is falling apart, and it's all your fault." (Negative tone and blame)

  3. "I can't believe you did that again. We need to have a serious conversation." (Bringing up past conflicts and negativity)

  4. "You are always spending time with ____ and you never ever care for me." (Attacking) or"I've had enough, if you don't listen to me now, I will leave you!" (No scope for a compromise/givign ultimatums)

Give Respect to Get Respect: Do the 60 Second Respect Test

I recently heard a talk by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, Ph.D., an internationally known public speaker on the topics of marriage, parenting et all. Dr Emerson has developed a 60-second respect test. In the talk, he asked the participants to try this experiment. Next time, they are together to tell their husband or partner that "I really respect you and would like to tell you all the things I respect about you and walk away." He says that based on his experience and participant feedback, almost all husbands and partners follow their wives/partners to the room or call her back, intrigued to know what it is that she wanted to say and what those things are.

It was his statement that made the most impact on me. In his talk, he proceeds to ask the audience, "Does he deserve it? Maybe Not. But ask yourself - Do you deserve love or do you need love?" He says, based on this data, a wife “needs love just as she needs air to breathe,” and a husband “needs respect just as he needs air to breathe" (p. 37) (See Psychology Today).

Some other strategies are:

  • Empathy: Cultivate empathy by understanding and appreciating each other's perspectives.

  • Regular Check-ins: Periodically assess the emotional well-being of your partner through sincere check-ins.

  • Counseling: Seek professional guidance or therapy for structured support.

DO NOT FORGET THIS: <the essentials>

  • Individual Self-Care: You come first. So take care of your well-being before addressing conflicts in a relationship. It is improtant to find some peace in the chaos.

  • Setting Boundaries: Setting boundaries is like creating a safe space for yourself. It's about clearly expressing what feels right and prioritizing your well-being.

  • Positive Affirmations and Creative Visualisation: Express love, appreciation, and positive affirmations regularly. Ultimately, we all have a craving to be appreciated and acknowledged. Appreciating our partner's small gestures would go a long way in fill the emotional deficits in the relationship.

In conclusion, I want to emphasize that these thoughts are reflections emanating from personal experiences, social interactions, and my legal experience and engagement with people from all walks of life and not from any professional background in psychology or relationship coaching.

If you're grappling with relationship challenges or are struggling with emotional abuse, my suggestion is to seek the support of a qualified professional. They can offer tailored insights and strategies to navigate through tough times, guiding you toward a more fulfilling connection. Remember, asking for help is a strong and proactive step, and there are professionals ready to assist you on the path to a healthier relationship.

In Good Faith,


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