I’ve been working with couples for a long time. And one of the most frighteningly, vulnerable moments that I watch most couples experiencing — is that moment when they have to take the risk and ask their partner for what they need/want/desire in the relationship.
They may desire to have more help around the house. They may want more sexual intimacy in the relationship. They might need more help with the kid’s homework. Or maybe they just want their spouse to turn off the TV and put the phone and computer away in order to connect emotionally. I’ve heard couples ask their partner for all kinds of things that they desire in the relationship.
I say it’s a risk because you don’t know how your partner will respond.
They may so no. They may not listen. They might reject you.
But they may also say yes. They may really hear you. And you might experience love and acceptance.
But you often don’t know at the outset. That’s why it is a risk. Because it’s unknown and scary. And too many couples avoid the risk in order to avoid the conflict or finding out a truth they didn’t want to really hear (though deep down inside they probably know).
We often don’t know how our partner will respond when we share our heart with them.
But it’s a risk that we have to take.
If we don’t, we may end up waiting for our partner to make the first move, which again, may or may never happen.
I think one of the most courageous acts in a relationship is the courage to be vulnerable and take the risk of letting your partner know how you feel and what you desire in the relationship.
In my work with couples there are three things that I often encourage them to keep in mind when letting their partner know what they need and desire in the relationship:
Minimize Your Expectations
This doesn’t mean you are putting yourself automatically in a negative mindset, believing your partner won’t deliver. Rather, it’s just a way to say to yourself, “I’m not sure what my partner will say. They might say yes. They might say no. But I have to ask. It’s worth the risk. What’s the worst that could happen?” So just enter into the interaction being flexible about the response you may get. Being flexible allows you to better manage your emotions (which is crucial) if you are disappointed by the answer.
Being Grateful for What is Going Right
So many times we are focused on all the negative things happening in a relationship, that often we fail to notice when things are going well. This is especially true for couples who have been in chronic conflict or felt disconnected for a long time. It’s important to be grateful for what has been going well and to acknowledge those things. They help keep us grounded emotionally when we take risks in our relationships. It’s an important skill to let your partner know what is going right in the relationship, otherwise they may feel at times that they can never do anything right, or that no matter what they do, you are never happy. Focus on the gratitude.
Anchoring Yourself to Your Truth
At the end of the day, being a mature adult in a relationship means that we are responsible for ourselves. We have to be able to manage our own emotions. One of the ways that we manage our emotions when we take risks in relationships, is to focus on our truths. So for example, reminding yourself that you are “loved, accepted, good enough, treasured, etc. is an important ability. If you are unable to anchor yourself to that truth, then it’s easy to emotionally lose control, or depend on your partner to fix it. (For more on this idea of finding our truths, check out my last post)
Again, we don’t know what our partners will often say when we want to communicate to them something important in our relationship — a need, a desire, a want.
But it’s our job to have the courage to ask, and if you can remind yourself of these three things and practice them in your relationships…it will make a world of a difference.