Everyone needs to feel loved and wanted. In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, love and belonging are an important part of the needs of every human. Dr. William Glasser even calls love and belonging a “basic genetic need.”
This special desire for connection includes feeling and being loved, being included by others, being respected, friendship, sharing, cooperation, and bonding with others over a common goal or idea. Furthermore, we seek emotional intimacy with individuals through romance, friendship, or other trusted relationships in our lives.
Our need for love and belonging starts in infancy, as humans require longer than most animals to grow up. During this lengthy period of time, we are dependent on our primary caregivers to meet our emotional and physiological needs, and we form attachment bonds with those that care for us or are part of our family.
If our needs are regularly met, and we feel safe, we grow and thrive in that environment. We learn, even as babies, how to encourage our parents/caregivers to care for us, which reinforces the attachments we have formed and teaches us about people and the world we live in. Later, as we grow and begin to learn to meet our own needs, we still seek out and depend on others to meet the needs for connection through companionship, using that same attachment style we learned from our initial bonding with our parents.
Sometimes, our caregivers do not meet our needs for emotional intimacy or regularly meet our needs for love and belonging. Sometimes parents do not show physical affection - they may emotionally neglect or abandon their child, abuse them, or not provide a safe environment. As people grow up, they may face new challenges that include social or romantic rejection, or family bond disruption through divorce or death. We may struggle with a health condition or live in a location that keeps us separate from our peer group. This may result in one not feeling safe, struggling to meet or make friends, and/or feeling lonely and isolated.
If you aren’t meeting your love and belonging needs, there are many ways you can begin to grow and expand your relationships or seek out healthy new ones.
1. The first step is to take inventory of your personal relationship with yourself, including checking in with your mental and physical health. Can you start small and recognize all of the little things you are doing that are meeting basic needs? Offer yourself permission to want more and be honest with yourself without being too hard on yourself during this process. Remember - you are doing the best you can!
2. Then, ask yourself if depression or anxiety might be a barrier to your connections. Do you need to heal from trauma from your past? From here, maybe with the help of a trusted counselor, you can identify old behaviors and learn to be gentle with yourself and others.
3. Once you have nurtured your relationship with you, you can deepen your relationships with others, increase your social circle, and get involved in your community through new interests or shared values.
You deserve meaningful relationships and are worthy of love!