Feeling hurt that your partner recently failed to understand something that you wanted? Rather than staying mad, take a moment to reflect on whether or not you actually asked your partner for the thing you wanted. As I often emphasize in this blog, your partner is not a mind reader, and miscommunication is one of the biggest sources of relationship issues. To prevent these misunderstandings and find more satisfaction in your relationship, you and your partner should use the following steps to intentionally and clearly ask for what you want.
- Banish your fears of rejection. One of the main reasons people often hold back from truly asking for what they want is because they worry that the other person will say no. This can be an especially big concern for someone who worried a lot about rejection from their parents in their childhood and internalized that childhood wound as an adult. To help get past that fear, remind yourself that it’s not wrong to ask, even if your partner does say no or asks for a compromise. You can ask for anything, as long as you’re flexible and understand that your partner is free to say yes or no.
- Remember that asking is a request, not a demand. You’re requesting something of your partner, not telling them that they have to agree, so make sure that you use the proper tone. Don’t be accusatory (e.g. “Can you help me clean up the house since you’re just sitting around?”) and don’t set an ultimatum (e.g. “You need to get along with my friends or else we can’t be together anymore”). Be respectful and you’re much more likely to get what you ask for.
- Say what you really mean. Don’t just try to guess what your partner will agree to and adjust your request, or use vague terms that don’t really explain what you want. Be clear and concrete, even if it takes you out of your comfort zone. For example, many couples (even those who have been together for years) struggle to talk about what they want in bed but would have a much more satisfying sexual relationship if they just explained to their partner what they want.
- Be firm. Pay attention to your inflection when you make your request—don’t let your inflection rise at the end so that it sounds like you’re asking a question, and don’t let your volume drop so that your request fades away. At the same time, don’t let your request sound aggressive. Speak calmly and matter-of-factly.
- Give your partner a chance to respond. Your partner should listen respectfully while you speak, so return that courtesy by listening to your partner’s thoughts on your request and their own wishes. Once you both understand what the other person wants, you can work together to make sure you meet each other’s wishes or find a reasonable compromise.
If you’re still struggling to ask for what you want after trying these steps, talk to your partner about making an appointment with the Houston marriage counselor or attending a couples workshop in order to work on your communication skills.