Many people in relationships twist and contort themselves around their partner and forget about the things that they want. Often this happens right in the beginning of a relationship, called the merging phase. Once the merging phase ends, the things you want that are different from your partner begin to show up more frequently. Asking for what you want – knowing how to – is so important because this is the place where most relationships can get a bit rocky.
This is the moment when you start to come into contact with the things you want and at the same time realize your partner might want something different. Here’s where people can get defensive. Instead of feeling threatened by this idea, however, I’d recommend reframing that potential conflict with the idea that you are actually two different people and differences can be a tool for growth. Allowing for autonomy in relationships can improve not only your own self-esteem, but also your sex life. To understand more about how this can improve your sex life, the book Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel delves more deeply into this issue (also watch her TED talk here).
When you ask for the things that you want, be aware that you might not get all of what you want. Your partner might be interested in giving you everything because that aligns with their ideals, or they might not be able to give you any of what you are asking for. Or maybe you will meet somewhere in the middle. What is important here is that you ask. Ask for what you need in your relationships because no one can give you what you are not asking for. The answer is always “no” until you ask.
Let’s take for instance a heated topic such as: “ I want more sex in the relationship.” This is a great desire!
For the person asking for more sex: when you decide to share your desires and needs, choose to share when you will have time to talk about the stated need. Do not pick to share it right as you walk into your folks’ house, as you walk into a party, or a phone call at work. If you are not good about picking out times where you will be able to engage in the idea and discussion process, ask your partner, “Is this a good time for us to talk about some of the things that have been coming up for me lately about our relationship?”
This leads to another important point – when you notice your needs and desires, pick a good time to talk about them but do not keep them to yourself for months at a time. The needs will only fester and become more important to you over time. If you wait a month to share something, by the time you share, it will have become something so big in your head, and most likely resentment will have been building around not getting the need met over the last month.
When you share, talk about how this need feels to you, try as best you can to not use blaming words to describe your needs. Words such as you never, you always, you make me. No one is perfect, not you, or me or your partner. Try to talk about how it is affecting you and how if feels. Let them know why you want this and how it would feel to get it. Be gentle with yourself if you start to get defensive because your need is not completely met with open and loving arms. Read our post on How Not To Argue for more suggestions on phrasing suggestions and requests so the other person listens rather than getting defensive themselves.
For the person listening to their partner’s needs: ALL needs are worth considering! Even if you never intend to meet them. When you are listening to your partner’s needs, before you decide if you want to or can meet them, try to really get what it is they are wanting and why. How will getting this make them feel. Validate the need. I’ll say it again: ALL needs are worth your consideration. This does not mean you need to meet the need, yet your partner has this need and wants you to know it and have a better understanding of them. They are opening up to you, if you want them to continue opening up to you don’t make them feel badly about revealing things about themselves. How you feel about the need can be shared once you really get what your partner is expressing and needing.
Get out there and share your needs!