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MASLOW AND MARRIAGE: How Does Your Relationship Rate on the Hierarchy of Needs? (Part II)

In my last blog post, I introduced Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” and explained how it relates directly to marriage.

In that article, I covered the first three levels of Maslow’s model:

  • Physiological Needs;
  • Safety and Security; and
  • Love and Belonging.

If you missed it, it’s worth going back to capture the basics, but in summary, Maslow’s idea was that one must accomplish the aims of each level before ascending to the next.

From a relational perspective, this requires us to address the basics before we can expect more or grow into greater levels of intimacy with our partners.

In today’s article, I’ll be wrapping things up with an exploration of the final two levels of the model:

  • Esteem; and
  • Self-actualization

Read on!



When people talk about esteem, they are often referring to “self”- esteem, which is connected to how they feel about themselves. Using this definition, you can still have a high level of self-esteem even if you are not actually esteemed by others.

However—in the context of an intimate relationship—our sense of esteem can be generally impacted by how we feel about the relationship and specifically informed by our perception of how our partner feels about us.

For example, ask yourself if you feel that your partner:

  • Values the ways you are different and unique?
  • Places importance on your relationship and time together?
  • Is trustworthy, reliable, and dependable?
  • Respects your feelings and opinions?
  • Supports your goals (individual or shared)?
  • “Fights fair” when issues arise?
  • Repairs damage from conflict quickly and lovingly?
  • Allows you to make choices that are best for you?

If you answered “Yes” to each of these questions, the likelihood is that you feel great about both yourself and your relationship, and thus have already reached the Esteem level of Maslow’s model.

If not, you may have more work to do.

Respect is often at the heart of the matter, whether the lack of Esteem in your relationship has to do with you or your partner. Hurtful conflict, damaged trust, and other disappointments tend to cause respect to erode over time unless these issues are addressed head-on.

(We have worked with countless couples to repair this kind
of damage.  Get in touch if you’d like to learn more.)

Disrespect—or a lack of respect—can manifest in a variety of ways that include neglect, bitterness, sarcasm, “bickering”, staying away from home, and withholding sex or affection, so be on alert and raise the topic of respect with your partner at the first sign of trouble.

Building a strong atmosphere of esteem and respect in your marriage is possible but depends on your ability to practice new behaviors—however uncomfortable—until you achieve mastery.

Curious about mastery?  Check out this article about
how mastery relates to an overall increase in confidence.
And here are a few ways increase the respect factor in your marriage.
(Tips which, while holiday-themed, are applicable year-round)!


Once you reach a high level of Esteem as a result of a mutually-satisfying and nurturing relationship with your spouse, you are primed to reach the next and final stage of the model, Self-Actualization.

Using Esteem as a springboard, Self-Actualization refers to the ability to reach your full potential. It requires mastery of the previous four levels that came before it and is something that looks different for each person and couple because we are all motivated by different things, such as:

  • Becoming a great parent
  • Reaching your potential in your chosen career track
  • Expressing yourself through art, writing, music, etc.
  • Finding spiritual purpose and peace with God
  • Experiencing different cultures and natural wonders
  • Contributing to humanity in a meaningful way

As you might imagine, few couples ever reach this stage because it depends on not only being able to do so on your own—independent of your partner—but creating a self-actualized version of your relationship as a result of your partner having done the same.

If you and your better half are ready to make some changes but aren’t sure where to start,
here are some ideas about how to continually develop your skills.
And remember: it’s important to begin DOING something new rather than to simply TRY something new.
Read our Yoda-esque blog about this crucial distinction.

If you are willing to put in the effort, you can discover great fulfillment in your marriage. It’s a joy to identify a shared goal as a couple and use this as a theme or mission statement for your lives together.

If you and your mate have reached this stage, congratulations! Recognize the hard work it took to arrive, do something special to celebrate, and be willing to give back to other couples who are still on this journey.

If you have not yet reached this stage, know what you’re not alone and commit to working toward whatever level if next for you.

If you still need to address a lack of Safety and Security (level 2) or Love and Belonging (level 3) in your relationship, consider giving us a call. We have helped many couples ascend this ladder and go on to live fulfilling and happy lives together and wish that for you too!



GET SUPPORT: Are you ready to take your relationship to new heights?  Get started here!

JOIN THE CONVERSATION: Which stage of Maslow’s model do you believe you and your spouse are in right now and what will it take from each of you to move to the next one?



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