My first rule for people in Couples Counseling is: “Ask for what you want!” This is essential, because it lies at the heart of what is needed in every relationship: communication and getting your needs met. People often don’t communicate what they need in a relationship because of fear. People are afraid for many reasons: someone getting mad at them, being thought of as selfish, fear of being rejected, or judged. Usually our fears are unfounded. Unless we ask for what we want, our fears keep us stuck. Not asking eventually leads to us feeling angry, sad, or resentful. It is better to hear “no”, than to not ask and be stuck in uncertainty.
There is also a common myth in our society that “if they loved me, they would know what I need”. In reality, this is rarely true. People who love us are often busy, distracted, or consumed by their own lives. Not everyone is selfish, but most of us think about our own needs first. In many relationships, communication in the past has been incomplete – you may think you have told someone what you want, but they may not have gotten the message. I frequently hear one member of a couple say “I really had no idea that’s what you wanted!” or “I knew you liked that, but I didn’t realize it was that important to you.” or “You got mad at me once for doing that the wrong way, so I never tried again.” Sometimes a partner just doesn’t know, and sometimes they need reminders and clarification.
Sometimes in relationships we rationalize that “if they’re happy, I’m happy”. However, denying that you have the right to your own needs isn’t healthy. You deserve to be happy too! It is human nature for a partner to get used to being taken care of, enjoy it, and assume that is just what makes you happy. Most people love being taken care of and gradually start to take it for granted. You can take care of someone you love every day, but don’t expect them to take care of you in the same way, unless you ask for it.
So, don’t wait, Ask For What You Want!
This idea really boils down to three basic steps:
1) It is always okay to ask for what you want.
2) It is always okay for the other person to say “No”.
3) and, You may need to have a conversation about it.
Having a conversation (what we often avoid!) – that’s what a relationship is! Asking creates more communicating, interacting, sharing, understanding. Whatever the outcome, we are closer because of that deeper understanding. When we interact in a genuine and respectful way, we are more open to requests and conversations about what we both need in the future. It is easier to understand more fully who the other person is, because they’ve been authentic. We don’t carry around hidden resentment toward the other person, because we opened up. We may hear the answer “No”, but there is more understanding of each other.
Please note, the freedom to say “No” is very important. If you always have to say yes, then you are being controlled. If you are being assertive, and the other person always says No, then you are not a in a healthy relationship. A relationship involves being able to meet each person’s needs, at least some of the time. Last but not least, if you are mocked or scorned or criticized for asking for what you want, then you are in an unhealthy and possibly abusive, relationship.
In short: 1) Ask for What you Want,
2) is always okay to say No.
3) You might want to have a conversation about it.
Whether you get to “yes” or “no”, you will become closer! The more you know and trust your significant other, the easier it becomes to Ask for What you Want!