Why is it so hard to ask for what you need in a relationship?
We all need all sorts of expressions of love from our partner – support when we’re down, physical affection, laughter, compassion, positive feedback, understanding, listening, putting us first.
And we need help at different times – help getting things done and sharing the load, help with a family member, navigating a tricky work situation, problem-solving and running errands.
We also need alone time, time to exercise and hang out with friends, read a book or watch Netflix.
If what you need doesn’t come your way, why is it so hard to ask for it? Here are a few possible reasons why we get stuck:
Maybe there’s a fear of rejection. What if my partner turns down my request? What if he’s not interested or motivated to give me what I need?
Maybe we’re scared of being judged. What if she thinks my request is not so important? What if she criticizes me and says there’s something wrong with me for wanting that thing?
Maybe we don’t want to be seen as ‘needy’ at all. What if it annoys him when I ask for help? What if he’s turned off by my making a request?
Maybe I believe that my partner should know what I need without my asking for it. I’ve hinted a few times that it’s important to me – why doesn’t she get it? If she loves me, why isn’t it natural for her to give me what I need?
If you’ve had any of these emotions in the past, they don’t feel good and you probably don’t want to have them again. You might respond in a number of ways:
o You may take control and demand to get what you deserve.
o You may criticize your partner before they have a chance to turn you down.
o You may stop asking for what you need.
Any of these responses may lead you and your partner into a negative cycle of attacking, criticizing, and withdrawing. It’s not where you want to be in your relationship.
I believe that you deserve to receive the expressions of love that you need from your partner. And your partner deserves to receive support and help from you too.
With those beliefs in mind, I encourage you to keep asking for what you need. Try these three steps and start a positive cycle of requesting, giving and appreciating.
First, share the feeling or reality that lies behind your request. I am frustrated, overwhelmed, lonely, I have a deadline, etc.
Second, make a clear and specific request that is realistic for your partner to fulfill. Give your request a time frame and action and don’t expect your partner to guess what you need and want.
Third, say thank you. Show gratitude and appreciation when your partner acts on your request. Even if they fulfill it only partially, try to notice the part that was done and not criticize the part they didn’t get right.
Be ready to play the other role as well. You are also a fulfiller of your partner’s requests. Keep learning about what your partner needs. Explore, ask questions, look out for ups and downs, remember what was hard for them and meaningful for them in the past.
See the fulfilling of requests as an opportunity to grow and become a more generous and loving individual.
It’s always important to remember that new steps in a relationship take practice. Asking for what you need is not easy (or everyone would do it all the time) and it is like a new ‘muscle’ that you need to tone until it gets stronger. Consider one thing this week that you need from your partner and take three steps to make it happen.
I’d love to hear how it goes!
If you want to get better at asking for what you need and looking out for your partner’s needs, sign up as a couple for my Summer Special: Communication Workshop for Couples