I have found that there is one great distinction between people who have a close, healthy relationship and those that do not: healthy partners know how to ask for their attachment needs. “Their what???” You might ask. Attachment needs. If you don’t know what this means, read on.
Couples often come to therapy because they are not getting what they “need” from their relationship. As we sort through all of their concerns, I ask, “What is it you need from him/her?” A few popular responses are: “I need him to stop being on his phone all the time” or “I need her to quit interrupting me all the time and let me talk!” I may also hear “I need him to start picking up after himself for once!” or “I need her to stop acting like a ______ (fill in the blank with some level of insult).”
Okay, here’s the thing. These are NOT attachment needs. These are demands. No one likes to be demanded to do anything. In fact, most of my clients say that when they feel their partner is being demanding, they will dig in their heels even more to NOT do the thing that is being asked of them.
Attachment needs are what you need in order to feel safe and secure in your relationship. I’m going to give you a list of needs. Read it a few times. Notice which ones feel the most true for you. Which resonate the most for you.
- to be accepted for who I am
- to be affirmed by you
- for you to reflect good things about me
- to feel close to you
- to feel valued and important to you
- to feel loved by you
- to feel like I add value to your life
- to feel acknowledged and appreciated for my efforts
- to feel reassured
- to know you are there for me
- to be comforted
- to feel safe
- to feel desired
- to feel wanted
- physical closeness (affection, sex)
Oftentimes, partners differ in which attachment needs are most important to them. One partner may need to feel appreciated and valued, while the other knows their partner appreciates them, they don’t really need that. Instead, they really need to feel desired and wanted by their partner; two totally different attachment needs.
Attachment needs are NOT seeing eye-to-eye on every issue, having the same interests, having the same parenting style, having the same sex drive, or having similar personalities. This is good news! This means you can differ from your partner in lots of way, have very different personalities and interests, have different opinions and ways of seeing the world and STILL have a healthy relationship.
Attachment needs are necessary and essential in any healthy relationship. Attachment needs are not being needy. There is a huge difference between being needy and needing your partner. Also, attachment needs are not “having high expectations.” If you are expecting some level of perfection from your partner, this is not an attachment need. You might however, be expecting some level of perfection, because when your partner responds well to you, you feel closer and more secure, which IS an attachment need. Demanding perfection isn’t the way to get that need met, but knowing your needs can help you figure out more effective ways to get them met.
Once you have identified your attachment needs, you have to learn how to ask for your attachment needs if you want your partner to have a chance of listening and being there for you.
What to do:
- Read through this list again and mark three that apply to you.
- Show those three to your partner. In doing so, you are giving them a great gift — the gift of knowing exactly what you need to feel close to them. Usually, partners are very open to hearing and working to meet their partner’s attachment needs. They are not so open to meeting their partner’s demands, however.
- In healthy relationships, partners know how to ask for their attachment needs.
- Demands are ineffective; asking for attachment needs is very effective.
- Everyone has different attachment needs, read the list of needs above and figure out which are most important to you.