Preferences, Demands And Emotional Security

This week Wise Heart looks at the specific preferences we have for meeting our needs and the possible underlying insecurities around our tender needs. This dynamic often leads to demands (or explosion) which ends up costing us even more needs.  Learn more about this dynamic and phenomenon through the lens and consciousness of Mindful Compassionate Dialogue so you may tend to your needs and the needs of others with greater flexibility, creativity and harmony. Next week we’ll explore and dive a little deeper into the concept of Tender Needs.

P.S. Don’t miss another blog, receive our weekly blog directly in your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter at the bottom of this page.

When you’re living with your partner, little preferences can turn into demands. One part of you thinks it’s silly, but another part of you goes on insisting that they do it your way.

Preferences could be defined as particular ways (regardless of how effective they actually are) to meet needs; that are preferred simply out of habit or because they’re familiar and comfortable.  Insistence on small preferences typically arises from a place of insecurity. When you insist that your partner do something in just the way you do it, it’s a cue to check in with your thoughts, feelings, and needs.  You might be thinking, consciously or unconsciously, that they don’t care about you or that your needs are not important to them.

This is a conflation of needs and strategies.  From a state of insecurity, your thinking becomes confused. You imagine that the only way you will know your partner cares about you is if they do things your way. This is a form of enmeshment and is toxic for your relationship. When your partner offers to do something your way out of the autonomous generosity of their heart it is a contribution, and hopefully is received with gratitude rather than the idea that they are fulfilling a duty.

Insecurity typically revolves around one or two “tender” needs. Intentional and conscious attention to those needs will help you release and relax your insistence upon particular preferences. From a place of security, you can become flexible and responsive to the situation at hand. You can let go of little bits of misattunement with your partner, because you trust that caring is present even when there is an occasional lapse of attention or difference in preferences.

But when attunement and consideration are lacking more often than they are present, the emotional bond with your partner weakens and you naturally feel insecure about it.  Without mindfulness, old patterns of reactivity (like making demands) take over in an attempt to manage insecurity.

Ideally, with mindfulness of your experience and genuine care for your partner, you address this feeling of insecurity directly by checking in about what’s happening and what needs are up for both of you.

This kind of check-in might be avoided because you don’t want to consider the possibility that your partner is leaving the relationship.  Knowing that you can tolerate the end of a relationship allows you to choose to be fully in it. One aspect of being fully in a relationship is the skill and willingness to attend to a sense of emotional security through direct communication and consistent behaviour.

Emotional security doesn’t grow in a relationship because there is agreement about preferences.  Emotional security grows with consistent emotional responsiveness: an ability to express warmth and caring, offer empathy, embrace differences, offer mutual support, engage in shared vulnerability, and exchange affection.

As your practice evolves, insisting on little preferences and making demands hopefully become important cues for you to check in with your feelings and needs and a sense of emotional security.  From this place of self-connection, you can take direct action to take care of your needs in harmony with the needs of your partner.


This week watch for a moment of grumpiness, complaining, or demands about things not being your way.  When you notice it, check in with your need for caring. Ask yourself if you are needing reassurance that you are cared about? Or, perhaps, simply recall and put your attention on all the ways others are caring about you.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s blog.

Thank you for reading, for being here, and for being you.

With love.

If you would like to learn and cultivate the relational competencies, communication skills and emotional capacity needed to move beyond past painful and unhelpful relationship dynamics and instead create compassionate, skilful and thriving relationships with yourself and others, have a look at our upcoming Mindful Compassionate Dialogue course.

You are also invited to join our free biweekly Empathy Circle, where you can learn and discover what empathy is, and more importantly, practice giving and receiving empathy, allowing you to be deeply seen and heard in whatever challenge or celebration you’re navigating. If you’d like to experience a powerful coaching conversation, book a complimentary 1:1 Coaching Call with me.

Do you like this post? Share it:

1 comment

Leave your comment