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What makes you feel loved?

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Written by Jill Fischer of

We all have a need to feel loved.

But what does that mean, really?

What exactly do we need in order to feel “loved”?

Researchers have studied this question and have found the answer. This blog is about LoveNeed Number One, which is this:

We need to know that someone has our back. We need to know that we’re not alone with the hard stuff.

When unmet, this basic love need fuels many arguments between couples. The issue itself may seem minor, but the meaning it holds in terms of Love Need Number One is huge. It is often disguised as the “who does what” argument, as in:

“You don’t help out around here. I do everything.”


“I’m working so hard to make ends meet. And what are you doing? You’re off spending money!”

Big statements. Tough ones to hear, if you’re on the receiving end.They are all about Love Need Number One.

Man lifting cardboard boxes on white with clipping path

Although it’s not being said, what your partner is really feeling is, “I’m feeling really alone with this hard load. I need to know that you see and value what I’m doing, and that we’re in this together. I need to know we’re team-mates, that we’re pulling shoulder to shoulder with this hard thing.”

That’s a very different message than the critical accusations above.

“Being in this together” doesn’t necessarily involve doing something radically different in terms of action, although it could. What it absolutely means is that you need your partner to tune in to the difficult feeling of carrying the load alone, and to care that you are feeling that way.

 Here’s what that could look like:

“Wow, I’m so sorry that you’re feeling that way. I don’t want you to feel for a moment like you’re alone with this stuff. I know that what you’re doing is hard. I so appreciate what you put into our lives in this way. What can we do to help you to feel less alone with it?”

A response like this speaks volumes to your partner if Love Need Number One is triggered. It says that you get it, that you care, that you want to be there for him or her, and that you are interested in finding ways to carry the load together.

 Let me give you a personal example:

When it comes to finances in my relationship, I am the one who prefers to make sure we reconcile the bank statement each week, do a monthly budget, and even a yearly budget. It makes me feel like we’re on top of this important area of our lives.

My husband is inclined to take a less structured approach. Not irresponsible by any means, but less focused on these details in an ongoing way, although he too appreciates the sense of security that comes with being on top of it.

We have learned from experience that I can start to feel resentful if I don’t get signals from him that he is keeping this part of our lives on his radar. My feelings of resentment are a clue that my Love Need Number One is showing up—the need to know that I’m not alone with the hard stuff of our lives, which in this case is managing the finances.

My knee jerk reaction when I’m feeling this way is to make critical statements like, “I’m the only one who cares about this. If it wasn’t for me, our finances would be a mess!”

Once I learned about that it is Love Need Number One that is behind these statements, I was able to talk with him about it in a less angry, critical way.

I let him know that when a period of time goes by when he doesn’t bring up the finances at all, I start to feel alone with it, like it’s really all my job. I let him know that it really reassures me when I know that he cares about and is thinking about it, too.

The first time I tried this he got defensive. Since it certainly wasn’t his intention to make me feel alone and burdened–that was the last thing in the world he wanted me to feel—it was hard to hear even those softer feelings.

But when I reassured him that I know that he loves me and cares about me, that I realize he didn’t intend to give this message, but that this is just a place where I go in my brain at these moments, he was able to listen with empathy to my feelings.

Loving couple cooking together

Then he quietly put into motion an idea he came up with to help himself remember this important emotional information that I had given him.

He put an alert in his cell phone for Monday evenings, which is our evening to do our finances. The alert prompts him to suggest that we sit down and do the finances together. That is MUSIC to my Love Need Number One’s ears!!!! The message it carries for me is, “I am with you; I am thinking about this, too; we are in this together.”

Sometimes we’re just too busy or too tired to do it, and together we decide to postpone a week. But that one small shift has made a huge difference in this area of our lives. The little “bing” that goes off on his phone on Monday evenings has become a reassuring love message for me!

Next time you’re feeling resentful of your partner, go inside and ask yourself if perhaps you’re feeling alone with the burden, and think about how you can talk with your partner about this in a non-accusing way.

Likewise, if your partner is sharing some resentment with you, try to hear it in terms of Love Need Number One. Rather than getting defensive, put out a guess that perhaps he is feeling alone with this burden, and that it is important to you that he know that you are there and that you care.

See what happens!

About Jill Fischer

Jill Fischer, LICSW, is a seasoned couples therapist with thirty years in the field. She is a certified supervisor and therapist of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, and is certified in the Gottman Method. Her private practice in Lebanon, NH, is devoted exclusively to couples.
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