Wants & Needs


Relationships blossom when they satisfy our true wants, needs, desires, and yearnings. But they can die a slow death if our real needs are not satisfied. The card WANTS & NEEDS has two key messages: First, know what you want or need. Second, ask for it – directly, verbally, and in a constructive way.

Just knowing what you want or need can be a challenge. As children, many of us were trained to overlook our own needs. Perhaps we were not rewarded for asking for what we wanted, or we came to expect that we wouldn’t get it. We may even have concluded that we were undeserving. Besides that, we’ve long been told what we should want – by parents, society, and the media. We’ve been given food, gifts, and toys instead of direct love and affection. Now we may think we need a big house, a fancy car, or the latest gadget. Because of these past influences, we might no longer recognize – much less ask for – what we really need today.

But as humans, we all have basic needs in relating. We all have needs for safety, trust, respect, support, understanding, acceptance, appreciation, closeness, and even solitude at times. We also have many specific wants.

How can you recognize your true needs? One way is to pay attention to your feelings. Feelings signal what you need. Behind irritation, frustration, resentment, hurt, anger, and other negative emotions are basic needs that call out to be met. Often, however, we get lost in a secondary issue. The complaint “Why don’t you do the dishes, for a change?” may really mean we need more appreciation for what we do. Fights over money may really be about a need for trust or security.

The key to knowing what you truly need is to slow down and listen to your deepest feelings. Go beneath the surface and ask yourself, “Underneath it all, what is it that I truly need at this time?” Let your feelings help tell you the answer.

Once you have clarified what you want or need, the next step is to communicate it to your partner. But out of habit or good intentions, you might hold back. Perhaps you hold back your needs to show you are “strong,” to not bother a partner or “rock the boat,” or to not appear “selfish.” Maybe you think that “If they really cared, they’d already realize what I need” or “I shouldn’t have to ask; they should just know!”

Yet if you don’t clearly tell a partner what you need, you are setting up a situation in which your needs often won’t get satisfied. And that endangers your relationship.

So it’s your job to ask for what you want – and to ask in a constructive way. This means paying attention not only to what you say, but how you say it. Do you make a request – or a demand? Are you clear – or complicated? Are you positive and open – or critical and charged with emotion? These are general things to notice. It may also be helpful to ask your partner for specific ways they want to be addressed. Ask them for feedback about what tends to upset them and ask for ideas on how to talk to them in ways they would prefer.

Finally, can you afford to say what you want – and then be refused? Know that in asking for something, you always give your partner the right to say “no.” But if you never ask, never admit a need, you never give them a chance to say “yes.”