Marriage Has It’s Basic Needs. Do You Know Them?
It’s been on my heart now for awhile to write about this. I believe that marriages can be touched and lives can be changed going back to some basic realization about human needs and incorporating that philosophy into our love relationships – especially the relationship with our spouse.
Abraham Maslow, a great psychologist, came up with a handy, dandy chart representing the needs of mankind – crossing all cultural barriers and delving into the very core of human nature. If you have ever taken a psychology class, you may know it from college as “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs”. It looks like this:
In a healthy marriage, your spouse is a major contributor to meeting these five most basics needs of life. At the bottom of the pyramid, our needs are greatest. That is why it is bigger than the rest. As we progress to the top, those needs build on the needs that were first fulfilled beneath it. So you can see that physical needs are our first concern. We must first have food, water, etc. before we move on to concern for the next level of need. Notice that on this chart, sex is included as a basic physical or physiological need. It is not optional, it is essential to how we were created.
Progressing up the chart (or pyramid), we then move to safety needs. After our physical needs are met, we are next concerned about safety. Safety involves many things, but in marriage, it means that you come home and function in an environment where you feel safe with your spouse and that you feel secure and protected by them. Isn’t it interesting to see that sex comes first, and then we think about safety? Probably why so many affairs happen. Safety also involves your physical property, knowing you have a home to come home to. This is why those in threat of losing their home experience dysfunction in other areas of their marriage (at higher levels of the pyramid). If the very essence of your survival is threatened, it is more difficult to get past the more social and emotional issues.
Moving up, we see Love/Belonging. Once our physical needs are met, and we feel safe, we then seek affection and to feel loved. Notice again, sex is on the chart! So not only does sex fulfill a basic physical need as human beings, but it plays a double role in fulfilling our need to be loved and feel like we belong. Wow! No wonder we have so many problems in our society surrounding sex! Your spouse is designed by God to meet this physical and love need. This ”bonding” is essential to your marriage and vital to you moving up the pyramid.
When we feel loved, we can then move on to being confident, gain and give respect, and set and reach goals. It is interesting to note that we cannot get to this level until the first three have been achieved. Certainly there are examples of human beings that have deviated from this chart, defied the odds, and succeeded despite unfortunate circumstances, but those seem to be the exceptions and not how we as humans function as a whole. Esteem comes after you feel love, after you feel safe, after your basic physical needs are met.
At the top of the pyramid you are now able to think clearly, be creative, solve problems, and focus on what is morally right. So being deprived in your marriage of any of the basic needs is a pretty big deal! Hopefully, this chart can help you put things in perspective and give you a new look at how to solve problems you may be facing in your marriage.
It is common for couples to stop or reduce sexual activity in times of conflict. But based on what we know about human needs and behavior, doing this will impact both you and your spouse on two major areas of basic human need – physical and love/belonging. And that can’t be a good thing!
Instead of pulling away from each other, we should be looking for ways to increase the intimacy, increase the feelings of love/belonging, and increase the amount of sex happening in our marriage!
It is not fair or reasonable to expect a good marriage when you are not meeting the basic needs of your spouse. You can only look the other way for so long until the pyramid begins to crumble. Do you need to rebuild your relationship? Start at the bottom of the pyramid and work your way up! Ask yourself, “How can I meet this need for my spouse?”
While we do have responsibility for ourselves in many aspects, God put our spouse in our life to be our partner, and we are not supposed to climb this pyramid alone. You cannot begin to address issues at the top of the pyramid until you look at what is happening at the bottom. That is your foundation. Build a solid foundation first, and you can then stack the bricks one at a time upward until all of your needs are being met and you reach a level of contentment that is pleasing to both of you.
Maslow did not segregate this chart based on gender. It applies to both women and men. How we go about meeting these needs may vary between the sexes, but having them met is key. Let’s start there and we will be on our way to a more satisfying and fulfilling marriage, as God intended it to be.
I say, how about you bring home some Chinese food, eat it in bed, have some great sex, work up a thirst, drink that big glass of water next to the bed, take some deep relaxing breaths, hit the bathroom for a quick potty break, and then snooze like a bear! That should take care of pillar one. At least for the day, right?