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Emotional needs after a relationship break-up

As we go through different stages of lives, our emotional needs can get out of balance and its important that we recognise this and, if we can, make a few changes to help get things back on track. One example might be our emotional needs after a relationship break-up.

My previous few articles looked at the idea that we come into the world with a set of emotional (as well as physical) needs that have to be met if we are to be emotionally healthy and resilient to stress and mental illness. There is broad agreement today about what these needs are and some of the most important are: Security, attention (to give and receive it), a sense of autonomy and control, emotional intimacy (to know that at least one other person accepts us totally for who we are, “warts ‘n’ all”), feeling part of a wider community, privacy — opportunity to reflect and consolidate experience, an emotional connection to others, sense of status within social groupings, sense of competence and achievement and most important, a sense of meaning and purpose — which comes from being stretched in what we do and think.

A Case Study

Over the past ten years I have given out discussion exercises (based on fictional case studies) to groups of adults in the classroom, as part of a Carers qualification. This case study is based on Trina, woman in her early 30s who has recently experienced a relationship break up:

Trina is 32 years old and has recently split up from her partner, a relationship which lasted for 10 years, the last 5 of which they were living together.  She had hoped that the relationship would lead to them settling down permanently together, buying a house, having children but her partner told her that he isn’t ready for that kind of commitment at this stage. She has left the house they shared and moved into a shared house with people she doesn’t know well. She works as a school teacher and enjoys running and cycling. She has a close circle of friends but many of them are now in settled long term relationships and are having children. She is close to her family but they live about 2 hours’ drive away.

Looking at the Emotional Needs Audit, how would Trina score?

A relationship ending can result in all kinds of needs not being met – the most obvious one being the loss of an intimate partner, someone we can really talk to. Trina is close to her family but they live quite a long way from her and although she has good friends living nearby, many of them are now parents of young children and not so available to meet up.

Status-wise, she has a good job, and this will bring her a sense of achievement and financial security, but in other ways, she may not feel as though she is achieving all she’d really like to at this stage of her life. We are told that she would have loved to have been at the “settling down and having a family” stage. There may well be a loss of control, even of meaning and purpose, at least temporarily, as the future that she’d planned has been taken from her. What can Trina do? After a necessary period of adjusting to her loss, she will need to turn her attention to finding new ways to get her needs met. This might start by her becoming more involved in social activities in her local community, or meeting other like-minded people through her love of running and cycling.

How are your own needs being met?

Check out how well your own emotional needs are being met right now! If you would like a free copy of the Emotional Needs Audit, click here:

Need some advice and support?

If you would like to discuss any of the  issues raised in this article further, or perhaps look at ways that you can start to get your own or  your family’s emotional needs met in a balanced way, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.


Book a counselling session today!

See also: Emotional needs of college students, Children’s emotional needs, Emotional Needs Audit