Love is a Verb: 10 Relational Needs You Can Meet in Your Marriage and Household

By: Lisa May, Executive Director of Live the Life South Florida
When needs are met, we feel loved. This Valentine’s Day, you can gift your spouse and/or child(ren) with greater awareness and receptivity toward their emotional and relational needs. You won’t be able to find this gift at your neighborhood Walgreens, but thankfully Lisa May, Executive Director of Live the Life South Florida, is here to share how you can prioritize this in your relationships.

Should I get one of those cards that sings when you open it? Ooo, what about flowers with these chocolates? Oh wait, what if I went BIG and got them a gift card for a massage AND dinner reservations for their favorite restaurant?!

We’ve all been there — trying to figure out what gift will best show the depths of our love for another individual on February 14. Don’t get me wrong, I love a box of Dove Chocolates just as much as the next girl. But what if we’re missing the mark when it comes to how to make our loved ones feel valued? I challenge you to look beyond the physical expressions of love and instead consider how you can express it through meeting the emotional and relational needs.
I challenge you to look beyond the physical expressions of love and instead consider how you can express it through meeting the emotional and relational needs.
We all have needs and were designed to be dependent. We're physically needy; we need food, clothing, water, and shelter to survive. We're spiritually needy; man needs communion with God, freedom from guilt and shame, forgiveness, mercy, and grace. We’re intellectually needy; we're born with intellectual capacity, but we need instruction and information. We’re also emotionally and relationally needy; I think we all know what this kind of neediness looks like!

There’s no denying it — God created us for an intimate relationship with Him and others. Many of our deepest and most powerful desires are wrapped up in our desire to have our needs met through relationships. We want to feel safe and content. We want to experience passion and excitement. We long for acceptance, being seen, and appreciated for simply being who we are.

When our needs are met, we feel loved. However, when our needs go unmet, we feel pain. And when we feel pain, we pursue pleasure, which very often takes us places that ultimately brings us back to pain. Rather than going down that difficult road as an individual or a couple, we can aim to be INTENTIONAL about meeting the relational needs of our spouses and/or children.
There’s no denying it — God created us for an intimate relationship with Him and others.
Some would argue against this and say that we can meet our own needs or that only God can meet our needs. But if we explore the Scriptures, we'll discover that most often, He instructs and chooses to involve others in fulfilling our physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual needs. Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” But in verse 14, Paul says, ‘“Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.”

David Ferguson, a renowned psychologist with Intimate Life Ministries, has outlined 10 primary emotional needs that are noted in Scripture. As you read through them, try identifying your top three and the top three of your spouse and/or child(ren).

  1. Acceptance
    Receiving another person willingly and unconditionally, especially when the other's behavior has been imperfect; being willing to continue loving one another in spite of offenses. “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” —Romans 15:7

  2. Affection
    Expressing care and closeness through physical touch, carefully respecting the boundaries of the other person; saying I love you. “And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” —Mark 10:16

  3. Appreciation
    Expressing thanks, praise, or commendation; recognizing accomplishment or effort. “I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you.” —I Corinthians 11:2

  4. Approval
    Building up or affirming another; affirming both the fact of and the importance of a relationship. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” —Ephesians 4:29

  5. Attention
    Conveying appropriate interest, concern, and care; taking thought of another; entering another's world. “... so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.” —I Corinthians 12:2

  6. Comfort
    Responding to a hurting person with words, feelings, and touch; to hurt with and for another's grief or pain. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” —2 Corinthians 1:3-4

  7. Encouragement
    Urging one another to persist and persevere toward a goal; stimulating toward love and good deeds. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” –I Thessalonians 5:11

  8. Respect
    Valuing and regarding another highly; treating another as important; honoring another. “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him.” —Romans 12:10

  9. Security
    Harmony in relationships; freedom from fear or threat of harm. “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” —Romans 12:16

  10. Support
    Coming alongside and gently helping with a problem or struggle; providing appropriate assistance. “Carry each other's burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.” —Galatians 6:2

I encourage you and your family to also take these free relational needs assessments designed for adults, youth, and children 7-10 years old. After identifying your top needs, share them with one another and ask for feedback on how you can better meet those needs.

As we pursue excellence by aiming to love and serve our spouses and children the way Jesus would, we must remember that we will inevitably disappoint them, no matter how hard we try. Not only are we imperfect and flawed people, but meeting someone’s every need is no human’s burden to bear. Yet, through forgiveness and allowing the Lord to renew us with His daily mercies and sufficient grace, we can work toward steadfastness in our relationships with others, and most importantly, in our relationship with Him.


Lisa May serves as Executive Director of Live the Life South Florida with a mission of strengthening marriages and families through healthy relationship education beginning in middle school through senior adults. Her God-given calling in life is to teach others how to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Lisa is the mother of four children–Amanda, Paul, Molly, and Houston.
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