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How to Identify Your Core Needs In A Relationship

Written by Natalie Maximets
Natalie is a Certified Transformational Life Coach and Content Writer for OnlineDivorce.com with experience in self-development, family building, and psychological well-being.
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We all start relationships because we need to love and be loved, to feel appreciated and safe. But these are not the only basic needs each person seeks in a romantic union. So, what are the rest of the valuable things?

The problem is that we can rarely formulate our core needs in a relationship because we never thought about them. As a result, we start dating a new person hoping they’ll make us feel good, but it never happens.

To avoid another romantic disappointment, you should start identifying your relationship needs. When you have a clear structure of your needs, you’ll find it much easier to gravitate to the right partners instead of wasting time on dead-end relationships.

So, how to know what’s right for you? Read on to find out.

Core Needs in a Relationship: What Are They?

Human needs can be categorized into several types, such as physical, financial, emotional, etc. However, the majority of relationship needs are psychological.

The basic ones include the following:

  • Affection (romantic gestures, words of love, and sex)
  • Respect (your opinion matters to the other person)
  • Appreciation (receive gratitude and praise)
  • Security (physical and emotional safety)
  • Loyalty (partners are faithful to each other)
  • Trust (transparency in all aspects of life)

You can also have a hierarchy of those concepts and decide which are fundamental and which are more or less flexible.


For example, trust and loyalty are your top priorities, and you want your partner to follow them. So, if someone lies to you or cheats, that’s a dealbreaker.

At the same time, you are used to speaking about your feelings but don’t mind that your partner doesn’t share much because they’re reserved or shy.

Essentially, each person has to determine their needs for themselves and look for a partner who has similar values.

Can Basic Relationship Needs Differ From Person to Person?

We all value similar things fundamental to building a lasting relationship, such as love, passion, support, etc. But do we appreciate them to the same extent?

Obviously, the answer is “no” because different people have their own hierarchy of needs. It means that one specific need, such as raising kids, can be not as important as emotional comfort in the couple for one person but be a priority to another.

What does it depend on? Studies show that the distribution of values primarily depends on age.[1] But there are other factors, such as family traditions, culture, education, social circle, and personal traits.

Even though core needs like support and compassion are present in every person’s belief system regarding healthy relationships, their importance may vary from one individual to another.


How to Determine Your Relationship Needs?

When you know your core needs, you can determine the people you want to engage with by consciously or unconsciously comparing your needs and the other person’s ability to meet them.

Without a clear value system, you can lose yourself in a relationship and do things you don’t enjoy.

But fear not. The following techniques will help you get on the right track with determining your core needs.

1. Identify Your Love Language

Love languages are a concept first described in the 1990s by Gary Chapman, Ph.D.[2] Essentially, these are how we receive and express affection in our relationships.

If you can identify your love language, you can better understand your basic needs in a relationship.

There are five love languages:

  • Physical touch
  • Words of affirmation
  • Quality time
  • Receiving gifts
  • Acts of service

To find out which of them is your go-to language, choose one thing that is the most significant in a relationship from the options below. Each option corresponds to the previous list of love languages.

What matters to you most:

  • Walking down the street holding hands, cuddling, hugs, and kisses
  • When your partner says words of love or compliments and praises you
  • Spending most of the evenings and weekends together
  • When your loved one often surprises you with gifts
  • Care and actual support, such as help with chores or breakfast in bed

Each love language can be translated into core needs: physical touch is physical intimacy and sex; words of affirmation equate to emotional support; receiving gifts means attention; acts of service are done through help and support, and quality time means attachment.

How to Identify Your Core Needs In A Relationship

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How to Identify Your Core Needs In A Relationship
Determine which love languages are closer to your heart

2. Decide What Currently Makes You Happy or Mad

You can use a simple exercise to figure out what you appreciate or can’t stand in a relationship. So, let’s start with identifying the things you enjoy.

Write “I love it when / It’s great when” on a piece of paper at least 10 to 15 times. Then, come up with a suitable ending. You can use current or past relationships as an example. The things you wrote are your needs.


If you can’t clearly define what’s most important to you in a relationship, try a reverse approach. It means pointing out the qualities or actions that you consider unacceptable. And again, take a piece of paper and write “I can’t stand/hate it when” several times and complete each sentence.

For instance, let’s say you wrote, “I hate it when my partner leaves dirty dishes in the sink.” It means that you appreciate tidiness as a trait in your loved ones and want them to perceive cleaning as rewarding work, not as a source of frustration.

Go through the entire list and add more phrases like that when you remember something else. At this point, you can write as many things as you want. Later, you’ll learn to differentiate between fundamental values and desirable but not required ones.

How to Identify Your Core Needs In A Relationship

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How to Identify Your Core Needs In A Relationship
Write “I love it when…:” or “It’s great when…”
How to Identify Your Core Needs In A Relationship
Write “I can’t stand…” or “I hate it when…”

3. Set Your Priorities

Now, when you have a list of needs, it’s time to decide which are the must-haves. It’s okay to have many standards and strive for perfection. But unfortunately, you won’t likely find a person who will fit all requirements.

The following method should help narrow your needs to five to seven critical things. For now, you have approximately 15 of them on the list from the previous chapter. So, write your needs on small pieces of paper and lay them in front of you on a table or other surface.


Now, imagine that you’re crossing a river, but to enter the bridge, you must leave one item behind. What’s it going to be? Repeat the same exercise until you have five to seven things without which you can’t imagine a romantic relationship. Of course, the number can be higher depending on your personality.

The last step is to order your concentrated needs by their importance. It’s an effective way to determine which items you will be looking for in a relationship in the first place and walk by if they aren’t present.

How to Identify Your Core Needs In A Relationship

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How to Identify Your Core Needs In A Relationship
Decide which are the Must-Have items for your needs.

4. Discuss Your Needs With Your Partner

The conversation is an effective way to check a couple’s compatibility and see if they view things similarly. In addition, it will help compare your values and boundaries and determine if you share them.

When should you start mentioning your core needs? Things like having kids and spending money are a little awkward to discuss on the first date. Others, such as vacation preferences, are safe to talk about anytime.

Generally, you’ll need to wait for the 4th or 5th date. In the meantime, ensure chemistry and emotional connection before discussing serious topics. Otherwise, there’s no point in wasting time matching the values.

Naturally, your partner will disagree with several things or their priority. Many dissimilarities equal fewer chances for this relationship to succeed in the long run.


But before you decide to break up, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can your partner adjust to your beliefs over time?
  • If they can’t, can you bend your own rules?
  • Is this specific need you disagree with outweighing the current relationship?

If the first and second answers are “yes,” don’t rush to call it quits. There’s still hope to find common ground.

How to Identify Your Core Needs In A Relationship

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How to Identify Your Core Needs In A Relationship
Schedule for this discussion with your partner now!

5. Analyze Your Current Relationship

If you’re currently dating, you can analyze the existing romantic relationship to determine what is important to you.

Ask yourself the following questions and write down the answers:

How to Identify Your Core Needs In A Relationship

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How to Identify Your Core Needs In A Relationship
What do you like about your partner’s actions? For instance, they respect your opinion or give you space when needed.
How to Identify Your Core Needs In A Relationship
What is missing in your relationship? Perhaps you often feel alone, or your partner does not pay enough attention to you.
How to Identify Your Core Needs In A Relationship
When was the last time you felt inspired in a relationship? What was happening? For example, your loved one refused to go to a bar with friends to spend time with you.
How to Identify Your Core Needs In A Relationship
What has worried you or made you nervous lately? Maybe you feel that your partner hasn’t been honest or noticed some signs leading you to a thought they might be cheating.[3] It means that you value honesty and transparency.
How to Identify Your Core Needs In A Relationship
What is your role in this relationship? For example, you may favor the traditional model when one partner leads and the other follows. Or, maybe you prefer to split decisions and obligations down the middle.

The answers to these questions will reveal your genuine opinion about an ideal relationship’s components.

Can Core Needs Change With Time?

Basic needs and values do change over time despite their universal nature.[4] It can happen gradually with aging or spontaneously if a person faces significant life events. Social media and advertisements also have a great impact, especially in young and middle adulthood.

One interesting consequence of altering at least one value is that the others also begin changing to fit it. It doesn’t happen in one day and typically takes a year or two. It means that you will be a different person in ten years or so with a slightly different value system.


So, be wary of that and check into your needs from time to time.

Final Words

Building a happy relationship begins with mutual sympathy and continues and strengthens if the couple has the exact core needs. That’s why it’s so important to identify them early on. It will help weed out unsuitable partners and focus on finding the right person.


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