“Remember your dreams and fight for them. You must know what you want from life. There is just one thing that makes your dream become impossible: the fear of failure.” – Paul Coehlo
Do you know how to ask for what you want from your partner? Do you even know what it is that you want and/or need in a relationship?
There are ways to get ask for what you want without being a jerk and without coming across as pathetic or needy.
This post comes with a caveat. Just because you ask for what you want it doesn’t mean your partner will be willing to give it. If they don’t want to give you what you need then its time to decide if this is really the person for you or if your request is reasonable.
Step One – Figure Out Your Needs & Wants
Before you can ask for what you want and need in a relationship you must know what it is you want and need and know the difference between the two.
Needs are something that you must have to maintain your emotional health in the relationship and a want is something you prefer.
For example: We all need air and water to survive, but we want things like bread or mashed potatoes. This equates to a relationship need differently for every individual.
My core needs are feeling important, honesty, integrity, commitment, open communication, someone who is unselfish and can connect with me on an emotional level. I want someone who is easygoing, likes to travel, is reasonably in shape, intelligent and funny.
My current boyfriend and I struggle with the open communication and emotional connection part. He isn’t used to opening up to someone and he needs less connection from a relationship than I do. My goal with him is to try and bridge the gap rather than demand and/or expect him to be exactly what I want.
As for needs although he travels its always for work and I don’t get to go and when he is home he doesn’t want to travel because he’s been gone so much. He isn’t the most emotionally intelligent guy and can’t spell to save his life. Normally, these things would bug me, but frankly I could care less. They aren’t deal breakers.
My wants are flexible, but my needs are not.
If you continually push your needs aside to be in the relationship you will eventually become resentful and unhappy and these emotions pile up the more you are headed for disaster or at least to the ending of the relationship.
There are also a list of needs you have as a human which don’t necessarily have to be met in your relationship. For example, I value personal-growth but my boyfriend does not and I’m okay with that, but some people are not. Some people need a partner who will go on a path of personal development with them.
So, sit down and make a list of your Wants. List out anything you need as a human and then decide which you need within the relationship. Below are some examples:
to see and be seen
to understand and be understood
A more expansive list can be found at List of Needs
Wants are those things that you prefer but can live without in a partner. However, problems may arise if your partner doesn’t have any of the qualities that you want.
For example, if you want someone who likes to be healthy, workout, be active and get outside and your partner likes to watch television, eat fast food and never leave the house you may not be a good match. Then again, some people are okay with being completely different so only you can decide what’s okay and what isn’t.
Only you know what you’re about and what you can tolerate and what you can’t. Only you know what you need and want and if you don’t know then only you can figure it out.
Step Two – Expressing Your Needs and Wants
Once you know what you want and need in a relationship you must find a way to communicate your desires with your partner in a way that they will hear and understand and unfortunately, we often think we are communicating effectively when in fact we aren’t.
• Start requests with a positive statement. For starters, tell your partner how much you value them, how much they mean to you, how much you like them or respect them and then make a request.
• Communicate succinctly. Choose your words carefully and limit them to the least amount you need to say to get your point across. I often think I’m saying one thing but people are hearing something else because the truth is that I’m confused about what I’m really feeling. Write it out and edit it if that makes it easier.
• Never communicate when you are angry, frustrated or unclear about what you want. Sometimes it takes me days to figure out how I’m feeling about something and then communicate it effectively. Try to come from a place of love when you communicate.
• Never make it your partner’s fault they aren’t meeting your needs, especially if you have never told them what your needs are.
For example, when my boyfriend is out of town for work he forgets to text me a lot. It drives me insane. I feel completely unimportant and I struggle dealing with it. Instead of saying, “Why don’t you ever text me. You’re being a jerk” I’ll say something like, “I don’t want you to think it’s your fault and I’m not blaming you, but when you ignore my text it triggers my abandonment issues with my family and I feel unimportant, so in the future do you think you could try to reach out every day.”
I can’t control if he does it or not. I can’t control how or if he responds. I can only control how I ask for what I need and decide whether I want to stay if he doesn’t want to meet that need.
• Try to use feeling statements and avoid saying, “I feel that you….”. This statement isn’t expressing a feeling, it’s telling someone you don’t like something about them or their behavior and it puts them on the defensive. Instead say, “I feel hurt.” I feel sad.” I feel lonely.” “I feel frustrated.”
Step Three – Appreciation & Validation
Once you figure out what your needs and wants and you have learned to communicate them effectively make sure you appreciate and validate your partner for their effort.
Whenever my boyfriend is out of town and touches base with me I thank him and tell him it means a lot to me. I try to reinforce his positive behavior and minimize my complaints about the negative.
We are egoist beings. We want to feel special and valued. If you focus on everything your partner does incorrectly, or that isn’t up to par they aren’t going to have much incentive to try and please you.
Relationship expert and researcher John Gottman found that couples need five positive interactions to every one that is negative. We all have an emotional bank and your partner can put deposits in or make withdrawals. Negative interactions are withdrawals and if you take too much out your bank account becomes empty and your relationship fails. If you want to read more about Gottman’s research and his relationship tips ang strategies you can go here: The Gottman Blog
If you and your partner are constantly in conflict or you fail to have enough positive daily interactions, you need to do some soul searching and ask yourself why.
Are your expectations unrealistic? Are you failing to communicate properly? Do you expect your partner to meet all your needs instead of meeting some on your own? Having a partner and being in a relationship is supposed to bring value into your life.
If you are an empty bucket of needs your partner will become overwhelmed trying to fill you up. It isn’t their job. Its your job to make yourself happy first and then look to your partner to be a supplement to your happiness.
I’m not saying all of this is easy or will come all in one day or a month or a year. Learning to value yourself, understand and accept your wants and needs and then communicate them effectively will take time and patience if its something you have never done.
Take baby steps and be patient with yourself. When babies are learning to walk they don’t just stop once they fall down and say, “ah, forget it”. Think of yourself as a baby learning to walk and give as much love and support to yourself for having the strength to try as you can muster.