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Free marriage counseling: Make Emotional Needs Known

Understanding your partner necessitates knowing what are his or her emotional needs as well as your own emotional needs so you can then inform your partner about them.

When you understand what your partner's emotional needs are, and he or she yours, then it is possible to find positive ways to fulfill them. On the other hand, if there is a need, but it has not been identified or shared, it may then express itself in a negative way (with anger, rejection, moodiness, etc.).

There are three ways emotional needs are expressed or not expressed:

1. Assertive communication — emotional needs are known and expressed. For example, a husband proposes a date with his wife so they can spend time together. They get a babysitter and spend an enjoyable evening together. He knows he wants more attention, and he gets it.

2. Passive communication — needs are known but not expressed. For example, a wife feels frustrated because she is unable to arrange the needed quality time with her husband. She knows she wants more attention but has no way to acquire it.

3. Emotional needs are concealed within the sub-conscious mind — emotional needs are not know and not expressed. For example, a husband becomes jealous when he sees his wife giving attention to one of their children. He feels neglected, but is unaware of his need for more attention and therefore he cannot express what he wants and then possibly get it — he only reacts in a negative way.

Complete the following exercise

You may want to print this exercise for ease of use. Click the Print Friendly button above. From there you can also format this exercise into a PDF file or email it to a friend. Note: Printing from a computer works best.

1. Identify needs. Separately, each partner is to underline his or her primary emotional needs from the list below. As mentioned above, you may not be fully aware of your emotional needs. However, when you take the time to reflect, it is possible to more fully identify what they are.

2. List ways to fulfill these needs. Next to each underlined "emotional need," list 3 or 4 ways they can be met with your partner's help.

3. Inform your partner of your emotional needs. Share the list with your partner. Take turns discussing each of the listed items that identify your emotional needs (the ones you underlined) and your partner's needs and the suggestions to fulfill them. When you partner shares his or her list with you, ask questions until you understand fully what his or her emotional needs are and how you can help him or her get them met.

Emotional needs:

Control to avoid chaos









Feeling cared for









To be a hero






Feeling loved






Not to feel abandoned












Healthy lifestyle



Commitment to stay together















Not to feel rejected


















Additional emotional needs not listed above: