How To Identify Your Needs In a Relationship

couple at dinner

I was talking with a client recently about dating and old patterns of behavior that no longer work for us.

He has been in the dating scene since his divorce several years ago and has been really working on understanding what he needs in a relationship. He is finding that his needs get clearer once he is in a dating relationship, because it allows him to really look at what makes for a good match – and eventually a long term commitment. He gets to test out what he thinks he wants and discover what really matters to him in the long term.

He is beginning to understand his needs in relationships and how all the pieces of the puzzle need to fit together in order to form a relationship that works for him. What is new to him is the piece of self reflection. It is often difficult to navigate our own insecurities, shortcomings, and admitting when we find ourselves being selfish, silent or “god for bid” needy in a relationship.

To be clear, those qualities that we find hard to acknowledge, let alone admit or voice, are actually not the problem. Because every single human being on the planet can be/has been at times selfish, passive aggressive, and needy in a relationship.

The problem that my client and I have really nailed down in our sessions together is not being able to admit – and come to the table – about the issues we struggle with in a relationship. My client was dating a woman who on paper looked great and for the most part was responsible, successful, and attractive. However, when it came to understanding her triggers and taking ownership of her own behavior, she was not able to see her part of the equation. She blamed, demanded, and could not see her own insecurities.

My client was a bit disappointed and shocked, because she checked off many of the things on his “list” of what he was looking for. Unfortunately, the most essential priorities on his list – his non-negotiables – were not being met. She lacked good communication skills and did not have the ability, or even the desire, to take a look at and work on her own neediness. If we are not willing to at least acknowledge these behaviors, it will often undermine our relationships.

He ended up breaking up with her because of this, and while it took a couple of months to really see and understand things for himself, it taught him a great lesson. There was no blame, she just wasn’t a good match for him. The experience helped him find clarity and identify his own needs, his wants, and what is really important to him. That didn’t become clear until he went through this experience and was able to identify what did not work for him.

So, it wasn’t a failure or mistake, because it was a great opportunity for him to learn his own insecurities in a relationship and know what he absolutely needs in his next relationship.

That is what relationship coaching is all about. Becoming clearer and more confident about yourself and what you need and want in a relationship, and being able to say “no” to something that doesn’t work. This also makes it easier to embrace and own your needs and neediness, so that you can move through them.

What is The Difference Between Needs and Neediness?

So how do we differentiate between “Needs” and “Neediness” in a relationship? Check out the helpful list below.

Needs Are:

  • Normal, valid, and important
  • Present in healthy couples and individuals
  • Necessary to thrive and have a good life
  • Best met by taking responsibility and initiative
  • Most effectively met by clear communication
  • Ability to voice needs clearly tends to attract others

Unmet needs stimulate action, while met needs result in contentment. The ability to voice your needs clearly tends to attract others. Being open and honest about your needs is key to a healthy and successful relationship.

Neediness Is:

  • Driven by emotional issues that are not often conscious
  • Born from desperation
  • Blaming your own issues on others
  • A result of being in a helpless/victim position
  • Never being satisfied and always needing more

Neediness is often a major turn off and can repel others. Having needs in a relationship is normal and healthy, but constantly needing reassurance, always placing blame on your partner, and always needing and wanting more is not.

In my relationship coaching program, I extensively go through how needs are necessary and help us get what we want to have in our life. We are not often taught to have needs, let alone voice our needs, so often times we deny them. This denial leads to us becoming needy. If you partner with me for relationship coaching, we can identify signs of neediness and also explore your needs – and how to ensure they are met in a relationship.

Contact me today, or call me at (312) 213-2395 to learn more about my 3 month relationship coaching program and set up a free 30 minute free strategy session!


Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards –Soren Kierkegaard.

Being Your Own BFF Lays Foundation for Relationship Success

It’s not unusual for clients to begin my relationship coaching program in a somewhat fretful state. Having spent years devoted to their careers, they eventually came to see the lack of balance in their lives.

Some name what they feel as an “inner emptiness.” Others describe their lives as being without a lot of personal meaning, beyond what they contribute professionally or philanthropically. Even those with good friendships feel something is missing.

Naturally, because these women are so results-oriented in their careers, they suspect a romantic relationship may be the answer to their personal dissatisfaction. What they come to learn is that finding someone “out there” (or online) is not where the relationship coaching process begins. It starts with the connection with yourself.

Begin the Journey

As a relationship coach (and marriage therapist), I heartily believe that having good relationships with friends and family – and for most of us, being in a successful, long-term romantic one – are super important components of a good life. Yet the true basis of a fulfilling life is the relationship we have with ourselves. Being our own best friend.

Regardless of circumstance, this means giving ourselves the time and attention to figure out what we need and want, optimally before we start looking for a mate. I can say from experience that it is the most rewarding (and at times, admittedly, the hardest) journey of our lives.

We start the trek by taking the attention off the nameless partner we hope will complete us, and bring our focus back to ourselves. Once we’ve gotten to know ourselves better, “warts and all,” as they say, we can build a life that feels enriching and complete, whether we find a partner or remain single.

And for many, that lifelong inner journey does eventually lead to finding the man or woman of our dreams.

Be Curious

One very practical way to befriend ourselves is to participate in activities that bring us joy.

I remember when I was newly divorced and single, it seemed as if all I did was work, take care of my two young children, volunteer at school and go on an occasional date. Given how small my life had become, I was desperate for a relationship. I was convinced a partner would fix what was wrong with my life.

So I started seeing a relationship coach to find “the guy.” Instead, my coach started me on a process to find myself. Defining what I needed and wanted from a future relationship, I came to learn, was a bit further down the line.

In the meantime, I needed a richer and more fun life as a single mom. But I didn’t have a clue what might bring that about. Not long after, I went on a date that turned out to be life-changing. But it wasn’t the guy. Him I dumped. But swing dancing? I was in love!

It was fun and freeing – and it was something I could do by myself. I started going to clubs to dance, took lessons and before you know it, I had made new friends and expanded my world considerably. My life felt balanced – and I felt satisfied and proud for finding a hobby I adored. Most surprising of all? I didn’t feel desperate for a guy anymore. It was from that place of balance and satisfaction that I got clear about the type of partner I was looking for.

Imagine the Possibilities

Some of my clients have been so wrapped up in their careers (or been busy being single moms taking care of their children) they have no idea what activities might be fun for them. If you fall in that camp, ask yourself these questions:

      • What did I like to do as a kid?
      • Have I ever said, “Someday I want to try ____?” If so, what was that thing?
      • What makes me laugh and feel joyful?
      • What do I do that feels enjoyable – even if I think of it as a part of everyday life?


Your interests and passions may be buried, but they’re inside you. The good thing about exploring this aspect of yourself is that there’s virtually no way to go wrong. If you don’t have a bona fide passion, try something that sounds interesting to test your hypothesis. If that first choice isn’t satisfying, move on to something else.

Let’s say you’ve always admired your neighbor’s garden. You could take a class at your local botanical garden or sign up for a plot in a community garden. Sure – you might find out you don’t like the idea of getting dirt under your fingernails, but you could just as easily end up with a basket of edibles and a few new friends! Or, if you once liked crafting, stroll through a hobby store and see if any materials catch your eye or evoke a happy memory.

Another super low-cost and low-risk way to explore happiness-producing pastimes is to attend a “Meetup” on a topic of interest in your city. A single Google search for “Meetups in Chicago,” my hometown, produced multiple pages of results on activities from hiking to harmonica hoe-downs!

Remember, the goal here is not to become an expert…you’re simply looking to activate your feelings of pleasure and enjoyment. When you engage in activities that are fun and add value to your life, you’ll feel satisfied, accomplished and connected. That’s happiness.

When you find that, my hunch is the “hole” you now think is the lack of a partner will start to fill with self-regard and, eventually, self-love. The biggest bonus of all is that once you’re personally fulfilled, you’ll probably feel a lot less pressure once you do start dating in earnest. Finding a partner will simply be an added blessing to a life you already love.

Sue DeSanto, LCSW, is a relationship coach with a proven three-month relationship coaching program for helping people gain the clarity and confidence they need to be in a successful relationship. She offers interested singles a no-cost 30-minute strategy session to help them determine if relationship coaching is for them. Call sue today at (312) 213-2395 for your free strategy session!

Tips for getting clear about finding your true love NOW.

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