The Relationship House | The Roof: Getting What You Need

The Roof: Getting What You Need

If you’re new around here, this post is part of a series and we are talking about all the elements (in great detail! lol) of building a strong & lasting relationship house.

Today’s post is on “The Roof”. And yes, this is not how you build a REAL house, from roof down, but we are moving that direction because the most simplistic (or easy to understand pieces) are at the top. As we move down, the pieces become a bit more complex.

So having a roof is great, it keeps you sheltered. It’ll probably protect you somewhat from rain or sun. But it’s obviously, not the ONLY piece. If you were to ONLY have a roof, well… you’re probably not going to survive the elements.

All of that to say, and to reiterate, that you need all of the 5 Golden pieces.

The roof is really about learning an important lesson, which is: everyone has needs, but can be different in how they like a need to be met (aka the strategy).

This is important to realize that your partner is not exactly like you.

When we think things like, “Well if my partner really loved me then they would do XYZ” this is detrimental to the relationship.

However, if we can begin to understand that that’s actually a very misguided belief, then we may be able to become curious. We then might be able to think, “If that’s not true, then what might my partner do in attempt to show me that they love me? And if my partner is not exactly like me, then perhaps I think I’m being loving towards my partner by doing XYZ but maybe that’s not actually the message they are getting…”

Another way to look at this is: when people don’t do what you would “naturally” do, then the tendency is to think that they don’t love you or truly care. But really, this is what happens when you try to fit someone into your “meaning box”. Again, people are not like you, they are also NOT mind-readers, and it’s your job to communicate what things you need & want.

Hopefully, we’re beginning to lay some ground work around questioning the thoughts we have.

If you haven’t already heard of the book The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman (first of all, what rock have you been living under?!), Chapman is a counselor who noticed that there was a major disconnect in the couples that he was helping. He would have people give more compliments, or do more things around the house, but it didn’t seem to resonate with some people — they felt just as sad & unsupported as ever. Then he finally realized that there’s these 5 categories that people were falling into.

The categories are: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Gift Giving, Quality Time, & Physical Touch.

As people were able to “categorize” themselves, it gave their partner more of a roadmap — or in other words, a direct route to the person’s heart. And this is a wonderful place to begin learning about your partner (and yourself!) when it comes to what is going to speak to their heart.

I think that this book is fun, and does a wonderful job at highlighting the differences between people. However, I think this book is really only one shingle on the roof.

As we begin to learn more about attachment styles (that’s coming further down the post pipeline) we’ll begin to see how certain attachment styles tend to have certain love languages vs. it being about the individual (ex: Anxious Preoccupied tend to really need words of affirmation, quality time and physical touch; whereas the Dismissive Avoidants typically like Acts of Service & Gift Giving.) Chapman states that the language is usually fixed unless there’s a major life change, but I have not found this to be true.

Needs tend to be multiple, and not a simple category. For example, You could be getting plenty of quality time with your partner, which does makes you feel better/more loved to a degree, but you can still have that lingering feeling of “it’s not enough” / a need being unmet.

And when in true relationship turmoil/worry those things only minimally make a difference if a difference at all. (We’ll cover why that is in more detail in another post.)

Again, it’s not to say that there is no merit to The 5 Love Languages but it is such a tiny piece in a much grander puzzle. The book does however, perhaps unknowingly, teach a very important skill: the ability to start to become aware of needs.

And this is the lesson: The roof to a strong relationship house is in the giving, asking for, getting, & being able to receive what we actually need.

Identifying Needs

In order to give, ask for, get, or even receive what we need all starts with being able to identify needs.

Being able to identify needs seems to be a struggle that many people have (so if you have ever thought, “What are needs? I don’t even know what my needs are.” You’re not alone!) Many people are so out of touch with themselves and their inner worlds they have no idea where to even begin.

There’s actually hundreds of needs (maybe even thousands), however, they more or less can be put into basic categories because they are essentially different ways of saying the same thing. I’m sure we’re all familiar with Maslow’s hiearchy of needs, and this is a good example of a categorical classification.

However, I personally tend to like Manfred Max-Neef’s fundamental human needs for categories which are: subsistence, protection, affection, understanding, participation, recreation, creation, identity and freedom. And an added one from Viktor Frankl: purpose or meaning.

All humans have the same fundamental needs, but the strategy for getting a need met is where differences can appear.

We already talked about how people need love, and how love looks to one person may be a little different to another (ex: love looks like helping with the dishes vs. sitting on the couch together and having a conversation while doing nothing else). This is what I mean by having the same fundamental need for love while preferring a different strategy to have that need met.

Further, strategy preferences can change for you too. Maybe today you’re needing more connection, and tomorrow you need a little more independence.

And this is what I want you to see when it comes to learning to be in-tune with your needs and yourself. It’s true that you may have some general preferences for getting specific needs met (like quality time for love or words of affirmation for love), but this isn’t an end all be all.

Your specific needs can change day to day, minute by minute. Or even over the course of your life.

This is why I think it’s helpful when first learning about needs to have a general list of needs vs. categories of needs, so that you are able to refer to more specific ways of being, having, doing, and/or interacting.

So really the primary skill we are trying to hone is: self-awareness.

To help you identify needs we’ll look at some general needs and the life buckets in which these general needs may manifest.

General Needs

By looking at general needs (vs. the categories), I hope you can start to identify and resonate with some specific ones.

Remember: there may be needs that stay constant over the course of your life, but it’s also important to remember that needs can change. And you can technically need/want them all.

However, you’ll typically find that some needs are currently being met, while others are not.

So, that’s really the sign post that you’re looking for: “Which of these matter to me right now, and which of these do I feel lack or desire for?” It could be at this exact moment or even at this point in your life.

Start by considering this list of needs and make note of the ones that are currently resonating with you.

List Of General Needs (Not all inclusive)

  • Acceptance
  • Achievement
  • Acknowledgement
  • Admiration
  • Affection
  • Appreciation
  • Approval
  • Assertiveness
  • Attention
  • Authenticity
  • Autonomy
  • Beauty
  • Belonging
  • Boundaries
  • Caring
  • Challenge
  • Choice
  • Clarity
  • Closeness
  • Comfort
  • Communication
  • Community
  • Companionship
  • Compassion
  • Connection
  • Consideration
  • Consistency
  • Contribution
  • Cooperation
  • Devotion
  • Discovery
  • Empathy
  • Empowerment
  • Encouragement
  • Equality
  • Expansiveness
  • Exploration
  • Fairness
  • Freedom
  • Generosity
  • Harmony
  • Hope
  • Humor
  • Inclusion
  • Independence
  • Inspiration
  • Joy
  • Learning
  • Love
  • Movement/exercise
  • Nurturing
  • Opportunity
  • Presence
  • Progress
  • Purpose
  • Reassurance
  • Recognition
  • Relaxation
  • Respect
  • Touch
  • Trust
  • Safety
  • Self-Development
  • Self-Expression
  • Sexual Expression
  • Space
  • Spontaneity
  • Stimulation
  • Success
  • Support
  • Understanding
  • Validation
  • Warmth

Life Buckets

Once you start resonating with some general needs this is putting you on the right track.

So for example, a general need is “safety”. It’s good to know this is something you’re currently in need of. But how can you begin to take action on it? You have to get a little more specific: what is it that you need safety in?

You can have “safety” in the different life categories and they can mean different things – even for individuals specifically. So for example, safety physically may look like you have a roof over your head, or your own place vs. relying on parents, etc. While safety emotionally could mean that you feel seen/heard, you’re able to have self-expression, or even that you get to maintain your independence/autonomy.

Another example would be “love”. And in the relationship category, love to one person might look like helping do things around the house, whereas love to another person looks like spending time together without phones and engaging in deep conversation.

And this is what we want to really dig down to – the specific things/requests we can make (eg having a roof over your head, feeling seen/heard, spending time with your partner, engaging in deep conversation, being able to vent about your day, helping with chores, etc.) Knowing the general need can help you with the specifics and sometimes vice versa can be helpful as well.

There’s many ways (or containers/theories) you can use to try to identify what you need, but I find using the concept of The 7 Areas of Life to be the most effective filter in helping beginners identify the areas in which they are currently feeling lack.

I’ll refer to the 7 Areas as ‘buckets’. I like this because we need to learn to fill these buckets – imagery is an important learning/retention component.

You’ll also notice that some of the “general needs” are in more than one bucket, and that’s because those can apply to multiple things (eg. The need for safety is likely to show up in the physical bucket, the mental bucket, the emotional bucket, etc.)

While you may have a propensity towards one bucket (like being hyper focused on relationships or a career), your life will become unbalanced if all but one is empty. This is where we can see the workaholics neglecting their health & their relationships. This is where we can see the codependents putting so much attention on others, self-sacrificing, and neglecting their other life buckets.

I’ve talked about this before with the pendulum swing, but we are always trying to land in the middle. Peace, happiness, love, all the good stuff is in the balance of the middle.

Bucket #1: Physical

Physical would be anything that is related to your body.

Here’s some general needs in this category: Food, shelter, movement/exercise, rest/sleep, sexual expression, physical safety from harm, health, touch, growth, progress, exploration, affection, etc.

Bucket #2: Mental

Mental would be anything that is related to the objective thinking part of your brain (such as learning).

These are some of the general needs in this category: learning, growth, challenge, awareness, stimulation, self-development, self-realization, progress, achievement, opportunity, expansiveness, choice, success, competence, discovery, curiosity, effectiveness, self expression, exploration, spontaneity, freedom, independence/autonomy, inspiration, beauty, clarity, consciousness, joy, humor, attention, approval, encouragement, etc.

Bucket #3: Emotional

Emotional means anything in relation to how you feel.

Some of the general needs in this category are: empathy, acceptance, respect, self respect, consideration, affection, acceptance, appreciation, reassurance, nurturing, attention, presence, integrity, authenticity, joy, hope, mourning, discovery, clarity, ease, harmony, to be understood, to see and to be seen, support, stability, safety, comfort, order, certainty, trust, approval, caring, validation, etc.

Bucket #4: Spiritual

Spiritual would be a sense of expansiveness, something greater than yourself and/or getting in touch with yourself as consciousness.

Some of the general needs in this category are: connection, belief, hope, expansiveness, purpose, energy, presence, ease, peace, discovery, etc.

Bucket #5: Financial

Financial would be related to money and/or wealth.

Some of the general needs in this category are: stability, trajectory, growth, financial literacy, abundance, planning, security, safety, etc.

Bucket #6: Career & Contribution

What you are contributing to, or working towards/on.

Some of the general needs in this category are: exploration, independence, contribution, generosity, altruism, stability, growth, abundance, security, safety, etc.

Bucket #7: Relationships

This is anything that has to do with family, partners, friends, co-workers, and community. So really you could break this one down into some sub-categories. And yes, this bucket sorta leaks into the other buckets (like emotional, physical, and mental).

But here’s some general needs: to matter, acceptance, participation, validation, progress, connection, trust, to be understood, to know & be known, support, stability, security, belonging, cooperation, closeness, companionship, compassion, empathy, intimacy, love mutuality, nurturing, freedom, choice, harmony, to teach, to give/share, etc.

Getting A Need Met

Ok so we can see how there’s all these needs within the 7 buckets. But how do we actually meet these needs or get them met? Well, we have to FIRST learn how to get even more specific.

Luckily, I made a simple formula that you can follow. It goes like this:

Part 1: When I look at my _______ (Bucket), what’s missing for me is _______ (General Need).

Part 2: How can I gain more ______(General Need) in my ______(Bucket)? What I’m really needing is _________ (the specifics).

First you want to pick a bucket. It doesn’t matter the bucket, you can go through the bucket where you feel/think there is the most lack, or you can just start to go down the list and do an assessment.

Then look over the general needs list. What resonates with you? You could also use your emotions/feelings to help guide you. That would look like asking yourself feeling questions. (Eg When I think about my career, it makes me feel afraid. I feel scared because it seems like I can’t rely on freelance clients/this employer/etc.) You may have to ask several “because” questions to get deep enough.

So let’s take a look at a couple of hypothetical examples just so you can see how this works.

  1. How can I gain more certainty in my career? What I’m really needing is job stability.
  2. How can I gain more safety in my finances? What I’m really needing is savings.
  3. How can I gain more connection in my relationship? What I’m really needing is more time together.
  4. How can I gain more progress in my health? What I’m really needing is a fitness plan and accountability.

Create The Strategy to Get Needs Met

Only once you have the specifics, can you then begin to come up with strategies to get those specific needs met.

There’s essentially two bottom line ways to do this:

1. Meet the needs yourself

2. Ask for support from others

It’s really important to master the skill of self-reliance. So in general, it’s best to FIRST try to meet needs yourself. But I also understand that while you’re learning self-reliance this can be a challenge, and if you have people in your life who can help with a little support then asking is a wonderful option.

What I want you to be aware of is: NEEDING someone to meet your needs is where you lose your power. This is how you become a victim to your external circumstances, and how codependency manifests (aka needing someone else to behave a certain way in order for you to feel OK, happy, good, etc.) And that’s not what I want for you.

On the flip side of this, are the people who are too proud to ask for help. The people who are hyper-independent, and they keep themselves closed off. While this is really a form of self-protection, it keeps these people disconnected and feeling like they can’t count on others.

So plainly put: Some of you are too reliant on others to meet your needs, so you need to learn to try to first meet your needs yourself. While others of you are too self-reliant, and rarely (if ever) ask for others to meet your needs; but you need to learn to be able to rely on others. (These have to do with attachment styles and we’ll go over that in a future post.)

The sweet spot is in the balance. Which looks like knowing how to meet your own needs, not 100% relying on others to meet your needs (especially internal needs), and being able to ask for support while still being perfectly ok if that person isn’t currently willing/capable.

Meeting Needs Yourself

Now that you know how to get down to a specific need, you can really dig into the details. This is going to help you see the strategies that you can implement to meet your needs. The formula looks like this:

Part 3: ______ (Specific Need) looks like ________ (More details that can lead you to what you need to do; aka strategies). And I can achieve that by __________ (strategies).

Admittedly this can be the challenging part. And you will have to come up with the strategies that are going to work for you.

All I can do is perhaps inspire some creativity on this concept.

  • Research it. If for example you are needing job stability perhaps you can research which fields of work tend to be more stable. Perhaps you can research and figure out how to become a marketing master and improve your influx of clients. Etc.
  • List it. Give yourself permission to brain-dump and write down as many ideas as you can come up with. Don’t worry about how “outlandish” they are. The idea is to get into a flow, and just keep writing every single idea down. As you finish the list, you can then look back over it to see if any new ideas get sparked, you can combine ideas, or maybe one idea actually works great.
  • Call in reinforcements. Sometimes having more that one pair of brains can yield better results. Ask a friend to help you come up with ideas.
  • Take action. Sometimes the solution cannot be solved by thinking. Sometimes you have to do. Just start doing and trying things. Fail or succeed, both are good feedback.

I also realize that meeting emotional needs for yourself can feel impossible at first (e.g. connection, love, etc.). Which is why I want to give the disclaimer that your goal is to attempt to fill your buckets as much as you currently can.

Asking For Support For Needs to Be Met

Once again when you know specifically what it is that you’re needing you’ve just increased the chances of getting that need met. This is going to be especially true when you’re asking for support from another person, who typically ends up being your partner.

If, for example, you can see that you’ve been feeling disconnected, and connection looks like sitting down and having your partner listen to/ validate the way you experienced your day then you can actually communicate that! This is going to be much more effective than expecting your partner to mind-read, or allowing negative (and usually false) stories to run in your head.

This could also be an excellent time to look back at those 5 love languages, to serve as a potential guide for general solutions.

Now, if you find yourself thinking you’ve tried asking for help around the house, more hugs, quality time together, or whatever and your partner is meeting you with a ton of resistance, well, it’s because there’s typically an inability to know how to properly ask a partner to help support you. Annnnnd that’s what we’re going to cover in one of the next posts — communication! (Yay.)

Receiving Needs

As I mentioned in the beginning, many people struggle with knowing what their needs are, but another big hang-up in meeting needs is the ability (or inability) to receive. And there’s three things in general that tend to get in the way:

  • Beliefs around worthiness / shame stories
  • Never taught in childhood how to give to ourselves what so we desperately need others, and/or we avoid/dismiss/distract ourselves from our feelings/needs
  • Needs and wounds vs. your authentic self

Beliefs

When you have negative (and false if I might add) beliefs about yourself, such as “I am unlovable”, “I am unworthy”, “I’m not good enough”, or “I’m not capable” this can get in your way of accepting what is being given and what you’re giving to yourself.

These mind narratives often go unnoticed and unquestioned. But if you start to become a witness to your inner world you will start to uncover these false narratives. (We’re going to dive deeply into this in later posts, but if you can just start paying attention to what your mind is telling you, by the time we get to the end of this series you will be so well-practiced that you will be able to make big strides.)

Never Taught in Childhood

As those beliefs were formed in childhood, you had to adapt alternative behaviors to get your needs met. The pain of emotional rejection/abandonment really does a number on our ability to meet our own needs, and this is a result of being neglected so we learned to neglect ourselves. Perhaps you were taught to put others above yourself, or that your needs don’t matter. The resulting behaviors would be an inclination to people please, to repress feelings/needs, cope by seeking internals externally (aka worth, validation, meaning/purpose).

Again, we’ll go into details about this in later posts, but for now you can simply start to witness the current stories and then the resulting behaviors that you engage in.

Needs: Wounds vs. Authentic Self

You may find yourself wondering about the validity of your needs with questions like, “How do I know if my needs are reasonable?” I really like this quote,

“There is no such thing as an unreasonable need, but there are unreasonable assumptions/expectations for how that need must be met.”

Briana MacWilliams

So for example a person may have a need for connection, but the unreasonable expectation may be that they want their partner to text them every hour. Control is a wound strategy, not a strategy from an authentic self.

This is where we can start to differentiate where a strategy for a need to be met is from (aka a wound vs. it being an authentic place of love/fullness).

One stems from a place of lack, of desperation, and makes you feel bad/sad/mad if you don’t get it (aka stemming from a wound) — suggesting your happiness is dependent on this other person’s behavior and/or external circumstances.

While the other is from such a place of wholeness that it makes you happy-ER when you do get it (aka an authentic place) — suggesting that you’re responsible for your happiness/well-being not anything outside of yourself.

If we use the same example about texting, the person operating from the wound (aka a belief that they are not lovable, enough, or capable) will desperately need that person to behave a certain way (eg texting every hour in order to offer continued reassurance).

Alternatively, the person who wants to connect from a truly authentic place may want more frequent communication but doesn’t need it. This will allow them to collaborate/compromise, while staying true to themselves and where they feel the most comfortable.

Another variation could be: a person who wants connection, but is hesitant to reach out for it. And if they do, they may be disappointed by how the person responds (aka making them wrong for taking too much time to reach out), so then they revert to the same old narrative of other’s not being a safe place to have their needs met.

Conversely, the person who is reaching out from an authentic place would give the person the benefit of the doubt, perhaps set a boundary if needed, because the other person’s current response doesn’t affect their belief that they are lovable and deserving of support nor do they believe that they are responsible for the other person’s emotions.

Thusly, needing connection (in this example) is perfectly fine. It’s more about the weight we place on how this need can be met.

Giving to Meet a Partner’s Needs

Each of the things listed below could very easily be a full post on their own, particularly when we consider the very deep levels of a person’s inner world. But for the purposes of this post, we’re going to stay a bit surface level, just to cover the basic ideas.

When it comes to giving it is imperative that the giver is doing so from a place of fullness. Willingly giving because they feel joy when they are enriching another person’s life. This is the kind of giving that benefits both the giver and the receiver.

Because the receiver can enjoy the gift without any worry about consequences which come from giving out of fear, shame, guilt, or giving to get.

And the giver gets to enjoy the self-esteem that results from contributing to someone’s well-being.

Hopefully it is becoming apparent that when people self-sacrifice, people-please, and appease it only leads to suffering for both parties — resentment for the giver (because these are forms of self-abandonment), and withdrawal of connection to the receiver once the giver is burnt out.

So if there were only a few things to really be mindful of when giving they’d be:

  1. Do not give to get — Unconditional love is giving from your fullness. When your bucket is full it couldn’t possibly take anymore in. There is no ulterior motive. Anything you get is a bonus, and if you got nothing in return that would be fine too because you know how to fill your own buckets.
  2. Give in the way that is most meaningful to your partner —Again, The 5 Love Languages may come in handy here. And this is really another form of building those love maps & being attuned to your partner which is what Dr. Gottman talks about and what we covered in the last post.
  3. Always look for the balance — Will there be times in which you have to support your partner a little more? Sure. Will there be times that you have to do something that perhaps doesn’t come natural to you and you have to learn/grow a bit? Absolutely. Will you have to compromise at times? Most definitely. You must become aware of finding the balance in the discomfort vs. doing a pendulum swing and ending up on one of the sides (aka self-sacrificing or being completely selfish). Knowing your own limitations, needs, desires and then being able to communicate and set boundaries is essential to achieving a balance. HOWEVER, do not ever give if it is not willing because everyone involved will end up paying a price.

To Sum it all Up

The Roof concept teaches us that people have different strategies to get needs met. By looking at things like love languages, general needs, and life buckets it gives us a surface level place to start.

Assessing all of the life buckets are a great way to start to bring in awareness to your inner world. And this is the most important piece of insight from this post. While you’re learning all of the things in this series, it’s imperative to understand that the goal is to continue going deeper.

I hope this post starts to put you into the habit of witnessing your inner world and frequently asking yourself, “What is it that I’m needing right now?”

I hope you’re also starting to see that if you only to try and meet your needs externally (aka relying on circumstances and other’s behaviors), you will never feel completely satisfied. (But this is more advanced stuff so, don’t worry we’ll get to it.)

The ultimate goal is to learn how to identify your needs, know how to meet your own needs/fill your own buckets up, ask specifically for support (but still be ok in times that it is not available), be able to receive, know your limitations and be able to communicate/collaborate with your partner.

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