6 Human Needs For Relationship Success and Total Fulfillment

Each of us has 6 human needs, not merely desires, but fundamental needs that underlie and

human needs
Happy couple embracing and laughing on the beach

ultimately motivate every choice we make. In order to understand any behavior whether it’s your own or someone else’s, it’s important to understand which of these needs the person is trying to meet.

Most often when relationships and marriages break down, one of the partners is left angry or confused because they believe that they were adequately meeting their partner’s needs. While they may have been meeting many of their needs, they weren’t meeting the needs their partner believed was the most important to them. What you need and what your partner needs may very well be quite different and if you’re not meeting their needs, the relationship will eventually break down or end all together.

Here are the 6 Human Needs of All Human Beings:

The Need for Certainty: The first need is for certainty. We all want to feel safe, avoid pain and feel comfortable in our environment and with our partner. Every human being needs to have some sense of certainty and security like a roof over their head, knowing where the next meal will come from, knowing how to obtain care when they are sick, knowing that their neighbor or partner won’t attack them.

A helpless infant needs certainty as well as the child, the adult, and the elderly person. The degree to which certainty is needed or desired varies from person to person. Some people feel safe living on welfare because they see it as a steady income, other people can only feel secure if they make a million dollars per year.

While we all experience the same 6 human needs, we all find different ways to satisfy those needs. Each of those needs can be met in ways that are either positive or negative. Some ways of meeting those needs are good for the person, good for society or humanity, and others are bad for everyone.

The need for certainty can be met by going to school and earning a degree to ensure the possibility of earning a decent living later in life, it can also be met by doing as little as possible and avoiding challenges and responsibilities. It can be met by stealing from others and hoarding money and material possessions. When people cannot control their physical circumstances they make seek certainty through a state of mind such as religious faith or a positive outlook.

The need for certainty is about comfort, security, safety, stability, feeling grounded, predictability and protection.

The Need for Uncertainty/Variety: The 2nd need is for uncertainty and/or variety and challenges that will exercise our emotional and physical range. Everyone needs some variety in their life. Our bodies, minds, and emotional-well-being require uncertainty, suspense, and surprise.

The person who is caught in the same routine day after day will eventually seek change and look for uncertainty. While a sense of security is reassuring, the excitement that comes from variety is also needed to feel alive. Some people might meet their needs for variety by watching the news on tv, while others may seek extreme sports, or compulsive sexuality. For many people, a major source of uncertainty is to experience problems and create drama.

You can meet the need for uncertainty/variety by reading about different subjects and meeting different kinds of people. It can also be met by risking one’s life through violent behaviors, or engaging in extramarital affairs, by doing drugs, or simply by watching a movie once in a while.

The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the amount of uncertainty you can live with. The more uncertainty you can live with, the more you’ll try, the more you’ll learn, the more alive you will feel. The more certain you have to be about everything else, the less you will have.

Everyone finds a way to meet their need for certainty. The only question is whether or not you are going to find a way that’s obtainable or sustainable. Can you do it in a way that sustains you long-term? There’s a lot of things that you can get but you can’t sustain them.

The Need for Significance:  Everyone needs to feel important, wanted, and needed. As babies we all need to feel that we are the center of the universe. Children in a family will often compete with one another for their parents attention in order to feel special or unique.

Significance comes from comparing ourselves to others. In our quest for significance we get caught up in heirarchical pecking orders and questions of superiority or inferiority. We can feel significant because we have achieved something we set a goal for, we can build something, succeed at something, or we can seek significance in negative ways like tearing down something or someone else.

In its positive aspect, significance leads us to raise our standards. When we are overly focused on significance we will have trouble connecting with others because comparisons focus on the differences instead of commonalities. Some people will meet their need for significance by providing for their family, for others it may come from doing meaningful work, while others need to make a major contribution to humanity. And yet others need immense wealth to meet their need.

On the negative side some people will meet their need for significance by being the worst at something or from having low self-esteem and attracting constant attention to themselves through attention seeking behaviors. People will seek significance by obtaining recognition from others or from themselves. When people feel insignificant they make themselves feel significant by getting angry. They may also meet their needs paradoxically by having others recognize the significance of their insignificance or the size and complexity or their problems. It’s important to remember that for many, helplessness is a power.

The majority of people in the world try to find big enough problems so they never have to beat themselves up for not being enough or so at least they can defend themselves against themselves or to other people when they want to know why they haven’t achieved their goals yet.

Significance can be met through pride, importance, having standards, achievement, performance, perfection, evaluation, discipline, competition, and rejection.

The problems with significance is that in order to be totally significant you have to be totally unique and different. To be totally unique and different violates your need for connection and love because the more different you have to be, the less connected you can be.

The Need for Love & Connection:  The 4th need is for the experience of love and connection. Everyone needs connection with other human beings, and we all strive for and hope for love. An infant needs to be cared for during a long period of time if it’s to develop normally. Infants who are not held or touched will die. This need for love continues throughout our entire lives. It’s epitomized by the concept of romantic love and finding that one person who will devote their lives to us and make us feel complete.

In some cultures, romantic love doesn’t exist, it’s replaced with the love of relatives, friends, and tribes. Some people rarely experience love, but they have many ways of feeling connection with others in the community or workplace. The need to be loved is fundamental to all human beings.

Most people settle for connection because it’s  less scary. They don’t have to put as much out there, and can’t be hurt as bad. They keep it to a certain level of depth, but never go too deep because then they won’t hurt as much. That’s wrong because you actually hurt for a lifetime by never experiencing your true self, always wondering where it could have been, and what it would have been like.

You can get connection by loving someone or by making love. You can get connection by walking in nature, by prayer or by getting really sick so people come and want to take care of you. You can get connection by having a really big problem. Anyone can get connection or love, but very few people get it at the level they want. They aren’t truly happy but they aren’t unhappy enough to do anything about it.

The need for love and connection can be satisfied through performing good deeds and being kind to others, or it can also be met by dominating others who are forced to show appreciation. People can actually feel connected by means of an aggressive interaction.

The Need for Growth: The 5th need is for growth. Everything in life is either growing or it’s stagnating and dying. We need to constantly develop intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. As human beings we grow and change physically as we develop from infancy to adulthood to old age. We grow and change emotionally with every experience, and we grow intellectually as we respond to events and to the world around us.

You must contribute beyond yourself because if life is all about you, that’s only temporary pleasure. Fulfillment stays with you. Fulfillment only comes when you know you’ve grown and when you know you’ve contributed beyond yourself.

Anything that you want to remain in your life- your money, your health, your relationship, your happiness, love- it all must be cultivated, developed and expanded, otherwise it will degenerate. Some people satisfy their need to grow by working out physically or by reading books. Others need to study and learn constantly in order to feel that they are truly growing. While meeting the need for growth, one can either become a better person or a despicable human being.

The Need for Contribution: The 6th need is for contribution or to go beyond our own needs and give to others. A life is incomplete without the sense that we are making a contribution to others or to a cause. It is the nature of human beings to give back, to leave a mark on the world and to contribute to something bigger than ourselves.

Giving to others may mean giving time to community service, making a charitable donation, planting trees, writing a book, or giving to one’s children. Contribution is essential to a sense of fulfillment and happiness. One can contribute to the well-being of many or the destruction of others.


The 6 Human Needs Summed Up

The first 4 needs of certainty, uncertainty, significance and love are essential for human survival. They are the fundamental needs of the personality or ego. Everyone must feel that they have met them on some level, even if they have to lie to themselves to do it.

The last 2 needs of growth and contribution are essential for human fulfillment. They are the needs of the spirit and not everyone finds ways to satisfy them, although they are necessary for lasting fulfillment.

If you’d like to transform your life, ask yourself, “Are you meeting your needs in a way that empowers you or disempowers you? In ways that are neutral, ways that support you and other people, ways that are attainable or sustainable? Anytime you meet at least 3 of these needs in your mind by some behavior, some belief, you’ll get addicted to it. That’s true of something positive or negative.

When our needs for love, growth and contribution are satisfied, they tend to encompass all our other needs. When we focus on something beyond ourselves, most of our problems and sources of pain become less significant. Contribution is the human need that effectively regulates our other 5 needs.

There are contradictions and paradoxes in relation to how to satisfy the 6 human needs. For example, the need for significance is often contradictory with the need for love and connection because it is difficult to love someone who needs to feel important all the time. The need for certainty is contradictory with the need for uncertainty and variety.

Many people experience so much pain in their relationships. Pain happens when your life conditions don’t match your model of the world, but suffering comes when your life conditions don’t match your model of the world and you feel powerless to change it.

Pain is a fact of life, it’s the experience of hurt. Suffering comes from feeling powerless to stop the pain or to change it. Pain is inevitable but suffering is not. Suffering is a choice. We can always do something to change the pain, even if only in small ways. Everything in the world is constantly changing and so the nature of pain changes as well.

Life is about love and not about significance. Life is not certain because no one knows what will happen tomorrow. Life can change in the snap of a finger. What you are called to do is to give the gift of your love. True love is unconditional and love itself is everlasting.

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