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Different needs in a relationship are common, but if they cause problems in the relationship, you may need more help. Here we look at what different needs in a relationship are and how you can get more support.

What does it mean to have different needs in a relationship?

In a relationship, different needs mean that each individual has their own unique wishes, expectations and demands on their relationship and their partner.

These needs can vary widely and include emotional, physical, social, economic and intellectual aspects.

Understanding and meeting these varying needs is crucial to the health and satisfaction of the relationship, but sometimes more support may be needed for both parties to be satisfied in the relationship.

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Examples of different needs in a relationship

Here are some examples of different needs that may be present in a relationship:

  1. Emotional needs: This includes the need for love, belonging, appreciation, support, safety and security. Partners often seek emotional closeness and want to feel loved and valued by their other half.
  2. Communication needs: A desire for open, honest and respectful communication. This includes being able to share thoughts, feelings and experiences, and to listen and be understood by the partner.
  3. Physical needs: This can include sexual intimacy, but also other forms of physical closeness such as hugging, kissing and hand holding. Physical closeness helps to strengthen the emotional bond between partners.
  4. Social needs: includes the need to spend quality time together, participate in joint activities and share a social circle. It can also include the need to have their own social lives and space outside the relationship.
  5. Intellectual needs: Involves sharing or respecting each other’s opinions, values and interests, as well as stimulating each other mentally through conversations, discussions and joint intellectual activities.
  6. Financial needs: Relates to expectations and agreements around money management, budgeting, saving and financial goals within the relationship.

Navigating and balancing these different needs involves mutual understanding, communication and compromise. Conflict in relationships often arises when there is an imbalance or misunderstanding of these needs. Actively working to understand and meet each other’s needs can strengthen the relationship and increase feelings of satisfaction and happiness together.


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What can happen in a relationship with different needs?

In relationships where partners have different needs, failure to address these differences can lead to misunderstandings, communication problems, feelings of neglect and inadequacy, trust issues, reduced intimacy and increased stress. At worst, these challenges can result in separation or dissolution of the relationship. To avoid these negative consequences, it is crucial that couples actively communicate their needs, show empathy, make compromises and, if necessary, seek professional help to strengthen their relationship.

How to manage different needs in a relationship?

To manage different needs in a relationship, a combination of communication, understanding and flexibility can be helpful. Openly discussing each other’s needs and wants is fundamental to building a strong and healthy relationship. Active listening and empathy are important, which means trying to understand your partner’s perspective and feelings. Compromise plays a key role; it is about finding a balance where both partners’ most important needs are met while both are willing to give and take.

Prioritization helps couples to focus on the most critical needs first, while it is still important to maintain healthy boundaries to protect the well-being of the individual and the integrity of the relationship. In some cases, it may be beneficial to seek external support from a therapist or counsellor to navigate through more difficult challenges and develop effective strategies for dealing with different needs. Working together to create joint solutions and being open to adapting and growing together is key to successfully managing different needs in a relationship.


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What is couples therapy?

Couples therapy is psychotherapy that helps couples resolve conflicts, improve communication and strengthen their relationship. It is suitable for couples in all relationship types and focuses on addressing issues that affect the health of the relationship. In therapy, the couple works with the therapist to understand the core issues, improve communication, manage disagreements and strengthen their relationship.

This involves exploring the history of the relationship, improving the expression of thoughts and feelings, addressing specific problems such as finances or parenting, and developing conflict management strategies. Couples therapy is valuable during crises like infidelity or major changes, and the goal is to help the couple understand what is best for them, whether that means staying together or separating in a healthy way.

The therapist acts as a neutral, supportive and objective party who helps the couple navigate through their problems without taking sides or placing blame. Seeking couples therapy can be a powerful step towards revitalizing a relationship and building a stronger, more fulfilling future together.

Treatment for relationship problems

Couples therapy begins with initial sessions where the therapist gets to know the couple and their challenges, followed by setting joint goals to improve the relationship, such as better communication or conflict management. The work phase focuses on developing communication skills, resolving conflicts, working through emotional issues and introducing positive behavioral changes, with active input from both partners. The process ends with an evaluation and a plan to maintain and improve the relationship further. The therapist’s role is to guide and support the couple through this process, where the couple’s involvement is crucial for success. Couple therapy aims to provide insights and tools for a stronger and more satisfying relationship.

Different methods of couple therapy

There are several different approaches to couple therapy, each with their own theoretical basis and techniques to help couples improve their relationship. Here are two evidence-based approaches that are commonly used in couple therapy:

1. Integrative behavioral therapy for couples (IBCT)

IBCT aims to help couples accept the irreconcilable differences between them and work on increasing closeness and understanding by improving emotional acceptance and empathic communication. The method combines behavioral changes with acceptance strategies. It is an evidence-based approach, meaning that it has been shown to produce good results in research and is a further development of cognitive behavioral therapy for couples.

2. Emotionally focused therapy (EFT)

EFT is a method that focuses on strengthening the emotional bond between partners by exploring the emotional responses that underlie the couple’s interaction patterns. The therapy helps couples identify and express their underlying emotional needs and learn to meet each other’s needs in a more satisfying way. EFT is an evidence-based approach that has been shown to produce good results in research.

Each method has its own strengths and may be more or less appropriate depending on the couple’s specific situation and needs. There are also other methods such as the Gottman Method, other couple therapies and literature that can be helpful in learning more about relationships. Many couple therapists use a combination of these methods to best address the couple’s unique challenges.


12 common questions and answers about different needs in a relationship

What are needs in a relationship?

Relationship needs mean that each individual has their own unique desires, expectations and demands on their relationship and their partner.

What are the different needs in a relationship?

Needs can vary widely and include emotional, physical, social, economic and intellectual aspects. They can also vary between individuals and relationships.

What happens when your needs are not met in a relationship?

It can lead to misunderstandings, communication problems, feelings of neglect and inadequacy, trust issues, reduced intimacy and increased stress. At worst, these challenges can result in separation or relationship breakdown, but they are preventable.

How to manage different needs in a relationship?

To manage different needs in a relationship, a combination of communication, understanding and flexibility can be helpful. Open discussion, active listening, empathy, compromise and prioritizing the relationship. You can also seek more help in couples’ therapy.

What is couples therapy?

Couples therapy is a form of psychotherapy that aims to help couples understand and resolve conflicts, improve their relationship and communication, and strengthen the closeness of the relationship.

How does treatment for relationship problems work?

Treatment often starts with an assessment phase to identify problems and patterns. This is followed by an active treatment phase where work on tools and strategies to change patterns is central. Finally, there is a closing phase where the treatment is summarized for further work after the therapy.

What is IBCT?

IBCT (Integrative Behavioral Couple Therapy) is an evidence-based therapy that aims to help couples accept their differences and work on increasing closeness and understanding by improving emotional acceptance and empathic communication. It combines behavioral changes with acceptance strategies.

What is EFT?

EFT (Emotionally/Emotionally Focused Therapy) is an evidence-based therapy that focuses on building and strengthening the emotional bond between couples by exploring and reshaping the negative patterns of interaction that contribute to conflict and distance in the relationship.

Can we do couples therapy online?

It is possible to do couple therapy via video, at Lavendla we have several psychologists and therapists who work digitally.

My partner and I want different things in the relationship, what should we do?

If you want different things in a relationship, you can express your needs and try to listen to each other with empathy. You can try to compromise, but if this is difficult, you can also go to couples’ therapy to get more clarity and support to solve the problems.

My partner has mental health problems, can we go to couples therapy?

If you have problems with depression or other mental health issues such as addiction, it is important to seek help for this separately from couple therapy. These problems often need to be addressed before or at the same time as couple therapy to get a good result.

Where can I seek help?

If you want to go to therapy, we recommend that you contact a licensed psychologist or therapist who works with couples. You can book a first appointment with one of our therapists here at Lavendla. We make the hard things easier.

Treatment for relationship problems with Integrative Behavioral Couples Therapy (IBCT)

Integrative behavioral couple therapy (IBCT) is an evidence-based form of couple therapy that aims to help couples improve their relationship by accepting each other and increasing the couple’s emotional closeness. IBCT combines traditional behavioral therapy techniques with a focus on both change and acceptance. Here is how a treatment with IBCT usually works:

Initial phase

  • Assessment: Treatment begins with a thorough assessment of the couple’s relationship, including their current problems, relationship history, and each party’s perspectives and experiences.
  • Feedback session: The therapist provides feedback based on the initial assessment. This phase often includes discussions about the couple’s strengths as well as areas that need development.

Work phase

  • Focus on acceptance: IBCT emphasizes the importance of accepting unbridgeable differences between partners. The therapist works with the couple to help them understand and empathically accept each other’s needs, desires, and patterns of behavior that cannot be easily changed.
  • Emotional closeness: By encouraging openness and communication, the therapist helps the couple increase their emotional closeness and understanding of each other.
  • Behavior change: Although the focus is on acceptance, IBCT also includes strategies for behavior change. This may involve developing new communication skills, solving problems, and working on improving daily interactions.

Closure

  • Evaluation of progress: The therapist and the couple together evaluate the progress made during therapy and discuss any future steps or continued support.

IBCT focuses on helping couples develop a deeper understanding and acceptance of each other, which can lead to a more satisfying and sustainable relationship. By balancing acceptance with active change efforts, IBCT aims to reduce conflict, increase closeness and strengthen the emotional bond between partners.

Lavendla – Making the difficult easier

Written by Ellen Lindgren

Licensed psychologist

Ellen is a licensed psychologist and has experience mainly in clinical psychology where she has worked with various conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, crises and trauma in primary care and psychiatry. She has also worked with research while studying in the US and with affective disorders and insomnia at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.