If you google this question, you’ll mostly find articles talking about women’s emotional needs in romantic relationships.
I have nothing against that. However, a romantic relationship is a part of your life, not your whole life. And so, your needs are probably beyond just what you might need/ want in romantic relationships!
If you’re a woman reading this article, you’ll get a nuanced understanding of the different aspects of you that you might want to bring awareness to and nurture.
If you’re a man reading this article, I hope you’ll get a deeper understanding of women as whole beings and not just as your romantic partner/ mother/ sister/ daughter/ friend.
Emotional Needs For Women
Everyone – across genders and identities – has emotional needs, however, as a cisgender woman, I’m here to speak my truth from my experience. Women’s emotional needs, in addition to the 3 core human needs of safety, love, & meaning, are – the need to be seen, the need to be appreciated, the need for fairness, the need to be me, and the need for exploration. The article shares more nuances like the intergenerational conditioning of patriarchal systems. It also shares a simple 3-step process – the ICE Method – that guides you on how to meet your emotional needs.
Emotional Needs Of A Person
There are various theories on basic human needs from the traditionally famous Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to the pop-psychology famous Tony Robin’s 6 Human Needs to the lesser known ones like the Self-determination theory.
You can pick and choose any theory you like, but what you’ll eventually realize is that they all fall under 3 core human needs – safety, love, & meaning.
1. Need For Safety
To feel safe and secure, physiologically & psychologically, is foundational to us being able to thrive (vs survive).
The lack of this need is the basis of our anxieties and fears.
Once physiological safety needs are met, emotional safety and security form the building block – having people in your life you can be “you” around – be able to let go, exhale, & ease out.
When you feel emotionally safe, you experience a sense of volition – you feel like you have “control” over your own life and choices, without feeling the need to seek approval from others.
When you feel safe you can also start going deeper into yourself to understand whether the choices you’re making are the choices you want to make, or you think you should make because others would want you to.
You can check in with yourself, “Am I the one not giving me the permission to be me?”
When you feel safe you feel comfortable being with yourself – cultivating the much-needed intimacy with yourself – some privacy & solitude with your thoughts, without overthinking; having conversations with yourself, and instead of the usual busy-ness connecting with yourself.
This would lead to a sense of Self. Having a strong sense of self – knowing who you are, what you value, and what you want – is the foundation for how we show up in the world.
This sense of self is an ever-evolving journey, which begins to reveal itself when one feels safe & secure.
2. Need For Love
This need encompasses meaningful relationships with people who see you, & can be there for you when you need them, the sense of feeling loved and cared for by others, being paid attention to, feeling like your existence matters to others, feeling like you’re part of a larger community – like you belong.
When you want your lover to pamper you, to make you a priority, or when you want those who matter to you to understand you, or when you choose an identity that’s more than just you, like a nationality, or a life choice (zero waste living, veganism) – you’re looking to fulfill the need for love, belonging, & connection.
I believe different people can access this need differently. For some, it can be fulfilled through cross-species engagement, & for some others through engagement with nature.
Many times when this need is unfulfilled one tends to compensate for it by investing all their energy & resources into the next need – the need for meaning.
P.S. For me The Forty Rules Of Love (amazon affiliate link) by Elif Shafak has been the brightest, most beautiful light that’s guided me toward understanding love.
3. Need For Meaning
One looks for a sense of achievement & contribution in life.
It’s not about random achievements – they might give you a false sense of upliftment. Achieving what’s important to you, what your being aligns with is what will fulfill this need for meaning.
Goals in life are really important for a happy life as long as they are aligned with your sense of self. Only then do they make you feel like you’re growing, expanding, & evolving. And only then do you feel its fulfillment.
Contribution plays an equally important role here – to contribute to something more than you, something more than the basics of living life – could be a cause you’re working towards, or children you’re raising, or your own evolution – something that allows you to give to more than just your mundane day-to-day.
5 Needs Of A Woman
Every single human has emotional needs in the broad realms of the three core needs mentioned above.
Within these, I believe, the top 5 emotional needs for women (specifically cisgender women) are:
Note: I don’t see myself as a bra-burning feminist – no offense to them, but that’s just not me.
At the same time, while men might have similar needs, we cannot ignore the patriarchal narratives all around the world – underdeveloped, developing, & developed countries alike!
This narrative, in & of itself, creates a deeper longing for some needs to be met, for women.
1. The Need To Be Seen
It’s intergenerational for many women around the world – to not be seen for who they are, but only for what they are in relation to someone else (usually a man).
“He married her”, and “She’s married to him”. Do you see what I’m saying?
You’re probably already aware of all the subtle patriarchal shoots spread everywhere.
Can we change the narrative? Can we see her for who she is? Not for the great or not-so-great mother/ daughter/ sister/ wife/ partner/ friend – but for her.
So many women I’ve interviewed and worked with have shared not feeling seen.
If you’re a woman, I want you to know that this need of yours is valid & legit. I want you to be able to own it. I know it may not come easy to own it, but know that you’re not alone.
P.S. Trauma reshapes both body and brain, compromising one’s capacities for pleasure, engagement, self-control, and trust.
The Body Keeps The Score (amazon affiliate link) completely changed the way I looked at inner wounds and healing, and transformed the work I do with my clients which in turn has significantly impacted several lives!
I can’t recommend the book enough! Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, the author, and one of the world’s foremost experts on trauma, has brought in his three decades plus of experience tying it with scientific research written in a way accessible to all!
2. The Need To Be Appreciated
Since we aren’t seen, it’s difficult to appreciate us – how do you appreciate what you don’t see?!
The need to be appreciated is deeper in women because we feel so unseen, so many times, and in so many spaces!
Can we change this narrative for ourselves, my dear women?
Can we begin to see us for us, and appreciate us – not because we got promoted, not because our child excelled, not because we threw an amazing party – but because we are. Period.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely no problem in appreciating promotions, etc. It becomes a problem when our self-worth gets tied to externalities.
3. The Need For Fairness
Patriarchy and biased treatment, more often than not, go hand-in-hand. Despite many avenues, policies, movements, & mindset shifts, we still don’t have equal pay for equal work.
At times it’s jarring to me that despite the long road we’ve walked, there are still so many inequality gaps everywhere, gender being just one of them.
This need for fairness for women, in many ways, is based on our need for safety – because unfair, biased treatment can mean losing resources needed for physiological safety.
Holistic Well-Being Consult Call
In this 90-minute 1:1 space, we’ll explore your current overall well-being status – physical, emotional, mental, relational, and spiritual.
We’ll identify key areas to work on that will lead to growth across all aspects of life.
We’ll then create a 90-day integrated Holistic Wellbeing Plan, fully customized for you, to implement.
4. The Need To Be Me
For generations, women across the globe have not had the chance to discover who they are. They’ve had to mold into who they were meant to be.
Despite my background, my inner work, and all the continual practices, I notice the unconscious societal conditioning seep in everywhere!
For instance, when I cook for my spouse & me, I feel very uncomfortable not making at least 3-5 different dishes! You might wonder why it is so if you’re a man, or not from an India-like cultural context!
Courtesy of the inner work I do, I can see that this anxiety comes from unconscious conditioning and that I can choose to not follow it, and instead follow me – find what I want, what I value, & what makes sense to me.
Without nurturing this need, women may feel confused, they will repeatedly doubt themselves, and get caught up in internal conflicts, possibly leading them to feel trapped in the day-to-day humdrum.
5. The Need For Exploration
For the need to be me to come to fruition, I need to be able to explore. I need to be able to let go of said & unsaid expectations, I need to be able to check in with myself to see if it’s me who’s holding myself back thinking I must be/ do a certain way.
Without being able to explore – both the inner & the outer worlds – women might find themselves feeling frustrated, incomplete, & dissatisfied no matter what else they have going for them.
It might feel like something is missing.
P.S. If you want to uncover problem areas and pressure points that may be restricting you, and (re)discover yourself, I strongly recommend taking a look at Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way (amazon affiliate link).
At times women just want to be pampered and taken care of! This, I believe, comes from a combination of needs: the need for emotional safety & the need for love & belonging.
Huffpost’s article, Why Strong, Independent Women Just Want to Be Taken Care of (Sometimes), talks more in-depth about this point.
How To Meet Your Emotional Needs
Many cultures and societies don’t encourage people, especially women, to look out for themselves, to take care of themselves. They’re expected to take care of others and be constant givers in all relationships.
For a happy being, one who feels nourished enough to be able to contribute to others, both things are equally important – taking care of yourself & contributing to others and society.
We can only truly give & nourish others from a space of abundance.
Symptoms Of Unmet Emotional Needs
When your emotional needs are not being met you might experience some, many, or all, of the following symptoms:
- Feeling stuck, or as if you’re somehow trapped.
- Not sure what you want, often feeling frustrated/ dissatisfied/ worn out, as if going through your days completing the to-do lists but feeling pointless, purposeless.
- Regular or constant self-doubts and inner conflicts.
- Feeling unrecognized/ unappreciated.
- Feeling disconnected – from self, others, work.
- Feeling like no one understands you.
- Not feeling close to anyone, or feeling like you don’t belong.
Though this isn’t an exhaustive list, my hope is it may help you recognize some potential patterns in yourself.
The ICE Method
ICE is the way to go to meet your emotional needs: It’s a simple 3-step process as mentioned below:
Step 1. Identify
First and foremost identify the emotional needs that are most undernourished for you in this phase of your life. It’s okay if there’s more than one.
Step 2. Choose
Next, pick one – doesn’t matter which one – start with one, start small, and go all in to nourish & cultivate it.
Let’s say you pick the need to be seen. Start cultivating practices that will enable this need to be fulfilled.
For instance, start a bedtime journal where you write down every single thing you did in the day, and then you say to yourself, “I see me.”
This will take you anywhere between 2 – 10 minutes a day. One need, one small action, will take you a long way!
Step 3. Expand
As you cultivate the one small practice, soon you’ll start feeling comfortable to add to it.
In our example above, you may add to your night ritual sentence, “I see me. I’m proud of me.”
Next, you may start standing in front of the mirror, and repeat the same sentences.
As you feel more comfortable you can start reaching out to family & friends asking them questions like, “What are three things you appreciate about me?”
Soon enough, you will have expanded your sense of fulfillment of this need, & you’ll realize that working on this one need has helped you nurture multiple other ones too!
Wrapping It Up
- Every single human has 3 core needs: safety, love, and meaning.
- In addition to this, women, given remnants of patriarchy, have other specific needs – to be seen, to be appreciated, fairness, exploration, & to be themselves.
- There are several signs that might point to unmet needs like feeling stuck, purposeless, disconnected, unappreciated, etc.
- ICE – Identify, Choose, Expand – Method is a simple process that acts as a guide to help you nourish your unmet needs.
Women-specific needs mentioned here are some of the most unmet needs that I come across in women.
I’ve myself been a woman with many unmet needs. It’s taken years of steady deep inner work to identify, nurture, and cultivate the fulfillment of many of these needs.
And the work is always continual and evolving!
If you’re ready to deep dive into yourself to resolve emotional stuckness, heal relational wounds, and cultivate a deeper relationship with yourself and your partner, I’d love to see if I can be of support.
Book your Inner-Work Strategy Call with me to explore your current emotional-relational struggles and put together a bit of a roadmap for your situation.
Let me know, in the comments below, how these needs land with you. Which ones do you nurture, and which ones need to be tended to?
Also, I would love to hear if there are other needs that you feel make the top 5 for you!