Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Last week someone tweeted this image, and my demented mind made a connection. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs certainly wasn’t new to me, Psych 101, but I looked at it with new understanding. Suddenly the question as to why good people cheat was answered for me. The basic concept behind this famous pyramid is that unless the Basic Physiological needs are met, one cannot proceed to the Safety needs. If no Safety, then they cannot proceed to the Love/Belonging, and so it goes up the pyramid.

As I’ve said many times before, there is a better way than lies and deception, but it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that most people just don’t have that level of honesty (with themselves) or courage. They don’t have the communication skills it takes to build true intimacy. In a society where infidelity is the norm and not at all surprising, yet still looked down on and judged, this little pyramid explained some things to me.

Deception and infidelity are a question of morality. Look at where morality is on the pyramid. It’s at the top with other forms of self-actualization. Sex, a need as basic as food, water, and breathing, is at the bottom.

So if sexual needs aren’t being met, morality doesn’t even enter into the equation. In many long term relationships, sex falls by the wayside. It goes from several times a day to several times a week to once or twice a month to months without physical intimacy. And even if there is sex under a feeling of duty or obligation between a couple who have grown apart, in many cases, the need for sexual intimacy, on the third tier of Love/Belonging, is still left wanting.

When people find themselves in this situation, they do whatever they can to fulfill this need. Of course the best course of action is to turn to one’s partner and talk about the lacking need and the importance of rebuilding intimacy, but sadly, fear of abandonment and/or fear of hurting your SO by seeming to suggest that s/he isn’t fulfilling your needs, keeps far too many from trying to bridge that ever-growing gap.

With these basic needs not being met, when someone outside the relationship offers to fill this need, even though one’s morality or values might protest, the more basic need, either of sex or sexual intimacy trumps any form of self-actualization or esteem. After having an affair and getting the more basic need momentarily met, one is flooded with feelings of guilt, questioning one’s self-esteem, and judging oneself by violating one’s own moral code. Because once that the need for intimacy has been momentarily met, the top two tiers come back into play.

There are, of course, serial cheaters, predators, and narcissists who don’t care about the others involved whatsoever, but I’m talking about otherwise good people here.

Again, as I’ve pleaded so many times before, talk to your spouse or SO before you step out. Rebuild that intimacy from the inside, if you want to save your relationship. If you don’t, then find the courage to end it, freeing you both up to find more suitable mates.

~ by omgrey on August 3, 2011.

12 Responses to “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs”

  1. A very interesting article. I’ve not come across this matrix previously. But as a man 14 year monogamous relationship, I can truly relate. Your final paragraph is powerful, and I wholeheartedly agree with you.


    • Thank you, Shawn. I’ve been married for 11 myself, and honesty is what keeps us close and happy. It seems so simple, really, but it proving to be anything but with lots of couples I work with.

  2. Another excellent post, Olivia.

  3. Good stuff Grey. Brutal raw courageous communication always works beautifully well. Other’s feelings are important, but nowhere near as important when you’d otherwise be lying or faking intimacy, huh? Let alone the morality question!

  4. […] Yes. Quite a character flaw in myself, to believe the best in people. I do understand that when basic biological needs aren’t being met, people make unfortunate decisions, but was it really an […]

  5. Interesting. And quite complex – sex doesn’t just sit at the basic level. Obviously it interacts with love/relationships, but also esteem. Lots of infidelity in relationships with lots of love and sex, but something external like a career crisis can knock esteem, and illicit sex be used to prop the ego back up. I guess we can try and deal with a higher order problem like esteem or actualisation by overdosing on the pleasures from the bottom of the pyramid – like comfort eating?

    So glad I’ve found your blog!

  6. I’m not a fan of answers that are “always” best.

  7. […] above giving their SO the respect of a choice. Not all cheaters are predators, by no means. Sometimes they really just don’t know what else to do and fear is crippling them. Sometimes it’s their only way out, but most of the time, they are […]

  8. […] above giving their SO the respect of a choice. Not all cheaters are predators, by no means. Sometimes they really just don’t know what else to do and fear is crippling them. Sometimes it’s their only way out, but most of the time, they are […]

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