Everyone is genetically programmed with five basic needs. Choice Theory explains these needs -- survival, love and belonging, power, freedom, and fun -- and attempting to get them met, motivate all our behaviors and affect our relationships.
Brand new babies are born with survival methods. They cry and suck. When they cry, someone, usually their mothers, takes care of them. Besides getting comfort and nourishment, a strong bond grows between babies and their mothers. Children soon acquire additional techniques for getting their needs met.
Intensity of needs varies from person to person and can be characterized by numbers on a scale of 1-5, five being highest. Over the years, my need for survival has changed. I’ve fluctuated between 3 and 4, depending on my life stage and what became important to me. When I began riding my motorcycle, I’m sure friends and family thought I hovered at one. I figured a 4 since I took a motorcycle safety class, always wore protective gear, kept my motorcycle in top repair, and practiced my skills.
Survival involves physical safety, financial security, and emotional stability. Judy’s need for survival surpasses mine. She is our health watcher, organizing our annual exams. She logs the results of every blood test and examines the trends. In financial matters, she’s the one who watches the market and investigates options. We laugh together as she says, “I have a high need for safety,” while checking the doors and setting the alarm system at bedtime.
How can two people who are not at the same level of a particular need get along so well? Because I realize Judy’s a five on survival, I know when we’ve entered the house after taking a dip in the spa, she must be sure that the back patio door is secured. I step away and allow her to lock it herself. If I leave an open window, she says, “Just tell me that you’ve opened a window, and I’ll make sure it’s closed.” No drama; no making it personal. And no taking it personally.
Each partner’s behavior is about them and what they need, not about the other one. It’s essential to recognize this and not become offended or get angry at behavior that is an expression of the need. Then the couple is able to communicate, see the value in each other’s concerns, and carry on without blame or criticism.
Think about your close ones and their behaviors. Try to assess their need for survival on a scale of 1-5. Does one child save his money in a piggy bank while another spends all his or gives it away? Does a good friend choose to risk having health issues by ignoring her family history? What about a cousin who jogs and watches her diet?
Where are you on survival? Understanding one’s own and each other’s needs, and behaving accordingly, is key in maintaining successful relationships.
~ xoA ~