Do you feel frustrated when you share things about your day with your partner? Do you wish they would stop trying to fix or problem solve, and instead listen and show support? Have you stopped sharing because you know you won’t get what you need?
Couples become distressed when they approach one another to share good or bad news, and aren’t met with the response they were looking for. For example, you just had an argument with your sister. You’re upset and need a hug. Instead of asking for that, you tell your partner all about the fight and notice your partner is getting upset and seems distraught by how upset you are. Next, you find yourself dodging their solutions. Now you are doubly upset, about your argument with your sister and about upsetting your partner or being told what to do. You are left feeling angry and unmet. And all you needed was a hug!
I spend a good deal of time with my clients exploring what it means to ‘explicitly share’ their needs with their partners. It’s a topic that brings up strong beliefs about how things ‘should be’. The realization that their partners don’t ‘intuitively know’ exactly how to respond can bring up raw feelings. Asking for what you need is hard. Explicitly asking your partner to respond the way you need them to can feel even harder.
Do any of these resonate with your own beliefs?
My partner should already know what my needs are. I shouldn’t have to ask for it.
- If I have to ask, it means my partner really doesn’t want to do it.
- If my partner does something because I asked them to, they are doing it just to make me happy.
- I feel resentful that I have to ask for my needs to be met.
- I don’t trust that its sincere if I have to ask for it.
The truth is, your partner isn’t a mind reader. Ask directly for what you need. It may feel strange, but if you don’t, you will feel frustrated, unimportant, resentful and alone. Over time, these feelings can chip away at the secure bond that nurtures you and your loved one.
Relationship therapy teaches you how to share your needs with your partner in a way they can hear. Creating closeness and connection leads to higher levels of relationship satisfaction and healthier lives. Modeling this basic communication skill to your children can pave the way for less assuming and better relationships for future generations.