By: Jonathan Pishner
Human beings are social creatures. No matter how much of a loner you are, you’re also designed to need a certain amount of human interaction in order to feel good.
As with all of the Psychological Needs, the level of need and how it gets met vary greatly between individuals. Some people have a high need for Belonging, and for others it is very low.
But we’ll outline the basics and make some suggestions for how you might meet your own Belonging need.
There are 3 major ways most people meet the need for Belonging:
Love relationships (spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, other arrangement)
When all of these are met, your Belonging need is met. In fact, most people still feel pretty good with Belonging as long as 2 out of the 3 are doing well!
These are what everyone thinks about when they think of the Belonging need, and it’s true that most people need some kind of love relationship to get this need fully met. The structure of the relationship doesn’t much matter in terms of feeling a sense of Belonging. Traditionally, the love relationship would lead to marriage, but there are a lot of other, non-traditional relationship structures that work just fine for having love and Belonging.
Most people have some innate sense that having a love partner is important, and they put a lot of effort into pursuing some kind of love relationship.
However, despite their best efforts, many people fail to find a fulfilling love relationship.
Equally important to love relationships are solid, positive friendships. Many people make and keep reasonably good friendships and need no help in this area. People come into their lives organically, become friends, and seldom leave.
There is a small problem with this though. It means that many people meet some of their Belonging need through sheer luck.
To give a demonstration, what happens when a person graduates college, moves to a different city, and starts a job where they don’t much like their co-workers? All of the convenient opportunities for friendship are gone.
Ironically, in the age of social media, many people have lost an important skill: how to intentionally make friends.
The nice thing is that most people don’t need special training in how to make friends. For most, if you simply place yourself around people of similar interests, it is easy to create new friendships.
As always, the problem is solvable. The sad part is that many people don’t realize this. For the first 20 years of life (or more), friends have been easy to come by, through classes, sports, childhood activities, college, etc. And now that you have to intentionally solve the problem, you might not know how. After all, how many classes are taught in school on how to make friends?
Unlike the previous two examples, you’re born with a family, and you’re raised with a family. Whether yours is a blood family or an adoptive family, you still have somewhere to start.
Family has, by far, the most differences across individuals for how important it is to their Belonging. For some, it is more important than friends or even a spouse. And for others, it is barely important at all, with many falling between the two extremes.
When Belonging Isn’t Met
One of the most unfortunate things about Belonging is that many people don’t realize that they can solve the problem if their need is currently unmet. Many people just feel miserable and hope the problem will work itself out.
If you’re missing out on your Belonging need, it’s much more useful to assume it’s a solvable problem.
We’re going to outline the most common ways these problems occur, and a few suggestions you can implement if you choose.
People who avoid or solve these problems in their friendships, family, and love relationships generally have their Belonging need met very well.
1. Getting stuck in negative relationships.
For many, allowing unfulfilling friends, family members, and love partners too much time or attention in your life is what can most harm your Belonging need. In many cases, some people can become truly toxic if you let them.
Just so we’re clear, you’re not required to allow toxic people to mistreat you. Many people are told all of their lives that “family has to stick together” or some other similar script. If someone absolutely refuses to stop mistreating you or adding problems and drama to your life, you have to consider whether they should continue to be in your life.
The sad thing is that many people can be toxic without directly mistreating you. They drag you down in other ways. Maybe they’re just negative and draining. Maybe they get in the way of your positive change, or enable bad habits.
Getting your Belonging need met from negative people NEVER works. If you’re going to keep them in your life, you have to add more positive, supportive relationships to balance it out.
2. Failing to seek out good relationships.
The other problem that you might experience is that you NEED positive, supportive relationships, and you’re failing to seek them out.
This is very common, since most of our relationships come into our life by accident. We don’t choose who we’re born to or who we go to school with, so it’s often not until adulthood that we have to think about being INTENTIONAL about finding friends, or love partners, or connecting with family.
Because we don’t think about being intentional in seeking relationships, we often fail to solve the problem. And that makes us miserable.
While there are whole books written on this subject, I believe most people can solve this problem with two basic ideas.
Be intentional about solving the problem. Don’t wait for it to solve itself. Even if you try and fail a couple of times, taking action signals your brain to focus less on a hopeless issue and focus more on being effective.
Put yourself around people with similar interests. This is why exercise and yoga classes are so popular. People with similar interests gel together more easily, and it is one of the easiest ways to meet potential friends and love partners.
As with all of the other needs, the important thing is to actively pursue meeting you Belonging need. Remember, these are needs, not wants.
Of all the Psychological Needs, Belonging is the one that most often brings people to counseling, especially problems with a love partner.
If you’re having trouble meeting your Belonging need and this article isn’t enough, contact us and we’ll be glad to help you.