Trying to meet your partner’s needs is ‘the most horrific advice I could imagine’


Hal Runkel is a family therapist and the author of “Choose Your Own Adulthood.” In this video, he explains the difference between needs and wants in a marriage. Following is a transcript of the video.

In terms of romantic relationships, the worst piece of advice is that you are supposed to meet one another’s needs.

That is the most horrific piece of advice I can imagine because what that means is that you are a needy person. And you need the other person to express their neediness to you. And our relationship is going to be built on each other’s willingness and ability to meet the neediness of the other.

 That is not a recipe for a good relationship because two needy people, think about it. When’s the last time you actually respected an emotionally needy person, much less found them attractive? The reality is I only need breath and water and food and shelter and that’s all I need. And clothing. I don’t need my wife. Which frees me up to want her.

I could do life without her. I don’t want to do life without her. I want to do life with her. I want her to want me. I can’t force that. But I’m not going to tell her, “You know what? I deserve this because I’m so needy.”

That does not attract. That repels. You know what attracts is, “I don’t need you, and I could live without you, but that’s the last thing I’d want to do. I want you, I want you in my life with me.”  

That enables a relationship to go through seasons where you’re not at equal functioning. Where you’re not able to equally meet each other’s needs like when my wife got cancer the first time, or the second time, or when I’ve had 6 surgeries and she had to nurse me through in these long seasons.

You say to meet each other’s needs equally during that. You can’t. And that’s not what you signed up for. I signed up to say, “I do,” regardless of what state she’s in. I said, “I do,” and that means I’m going to want her, not need her, and she’s signed on to do the same.