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What do you do if you need your husband to help carry in the groceries or if you need longer than five minutes of foreplay before sex? Do you speak up and ask for what you want? Or like so many of us, do you just assume that by now, he should know exactly what you need while secretly, you feel resentful?
Yes, now that you are (mostly) happily married, the uncertain days of dating are behind you. But your fantasy about marriage may be colliding with reality, says therapist Michelle Skeen, author of the book LOVE ME, DON’T LEAVE ME: Overcoming Fear of Abandonment & Building Lasting, Loving Relationships. As you’ve probably already figured out, there is no happily ever after unless you put some work into the relationship—starting with developing the healthy communication skill called Need Expression.
What is Need Expression?
A common fantasy about our perfect match is that he will be a mind reader, that he will know what you need without you telling him. Unfortunately, all that assumption will get you is chronic feelings of disappointment. It may seem self-evident, but it bears saying explicitly: The best way to get what you need is to ask for it.
Of course, it’s harder than it sounds, especially if you have a history of putting the needs of others before your own, feeling that you aren’t deserving of having your needs met, or not identifying what your needs truly are. Or maybe the times you have expressed your needs, it hasn’t gone so well. Developing the ability to communicate your needs is trickier than it may appear.
Keep in mind though: Expressing your needs doesn’t always result in your needs being met. What you want to do is eliminate the miscommunication that occurs when you expect your partner to anticipate them. By following these tips, you’ll become a pro at clearly expressing your needs and and you’ll deepen your relationship, all at the same time.
6 STEPS TO COMMUNICATING YOUR NEEDS
1. Identify your need.
This sounds easy but sometimes we just have a feeling that something is missing but we don’t know what. It’s important that you take the time to really think about it so that you can correctly identify it and then be able to communicate exactly what it is.
2. Unpackage the problem.
Is your need in reference or response to a “now” situation? Or is it weighted down by, or packaged with a need, that went unmet for years? How much are you asking for? Is your need “in the moment” and realistic or is it in the past with memories of not getting the care, reassurance, love, or understanding that you longed to receive?
3. Don’t point fingers.
Your need should not blame or assign fault to your partner. Here is a blaming statement: I need you to not act so distant and cold with me when you get home from work. Here is a healthy need expression statement: When we get home after work, can we make some time to reconnect?
Insider Tip: Remember, just using an “I” statement doesn’t mean that it is void of blame, criticism or negativity.
4. Don’t be negative.
Your need should not be pejorative or judgmental. I wish you weren’t so messy will probably lead to a defensive reaction. A statement like, I’d love for us to talk about a way that we can work together to keep our home from being so messy will be received more easily.
5. Be specific.
Make sure that your need request involves something tangible. Turn I need you to be more affectionate into Can you please hold my hand while we watch TV?
6. Keep it real.
Don’t ask for too much at one time. This is a step-by-step process. And, remember to stay present about your needs or you will find yourself in a chronic state of disappointment. No one can compensate for your past unmet needs.
Michelle Skeen, PsyD is a therapist and the author of LOVE ME, DON’T LEAVE ME: Overcoming Fear of Abandonment & Building Lasting, Loving Relationships (New Harbinger, 2014).
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It’s love month and you’ve still got time before Valentine’s Day to assess whether the guy in your life is romance-worthy. We get it. Sharing some sexy on February 14 is a wonderful thing. But in all the excitement to meet someone new, it’s easy to fall brain over heels for the wrong guy. And yet, if you don’t give men a chance, you’ll never find The One. Of course, we all have our off days, but most often, we’re on our best behaviour on those precious first dates, so it’s easy to get fooled by what looks and sounds like Prince Charming.
Need help deciding if he’s a Dude or a Dud?
There’s no time to waste. Of course, if he’s a stalker, or controlling or mean, you’ll know it right away. The more subtle hints are harder to spot. So take notes with these expert tips and warning signs that will help you decide if he’s just not right for you. They are all courtesy of therapist Michelle Skeen who wrote the book LOVE ME, DON’T LEAVE ME: Overcoming Fear of Abandonment & Building Lasting, Loving Relationships. Simple, and smart, you’ll find these easy to keep in the back in your mind (and heart).
HOW YOU KNOW HE’S JUST NOT RIGHT FOR YOU
4 THINGS YOU NEED TO DO
First, take action so that you won’t be blindsided by the 5 signs that he’s not right for you.
1. TAKE NOTES
Make a list of behaviours that give you cause for concern. If he shows patterns of being unpredictable (cancels plans, changes plans), unstable (changes friends frequently, no solid base), or unavailable (you’re getting intimate with his voicemail), then he’s not the guy for you. Take note of the absolute deal breakers when finding a mate and don’t deviate.
2. GIVE 3 CHANCES
Use the 3-strikes-you’re-out rule for eliminating the wrong guys before you get too invested. Keep track of the consistent toxic behaviors that will create roadblocks to a healthy loving relationship.
3. FOCUS ON VALUES
One of the important components of a healthy, loving and lasting relationship is to be with a partner who shares your values. If you value health and fitness and he is a big party guy who doesn’t go a night without drinking, it’s not going to be a great match for you in the long-term.
4. STAY GROUNDED
Dating someone new is an exciting experience, but expectations can be high when there is a lack of knowledge about the other person. It’s easy to fill that void with what you hope is true. Stay in the moment, and keep your expectations realistic.
5 SIGNS YOU NEED TO WATCH FOR
As you’re getting to know this new someone, here are some behaviours that signal you need to hightail it in the other direction.
1. He’s the black-and-white thinker.
This guy views life in extremes and has strong opinions about everything. In his opinion, there are good people and bad people. Period. That means he’ll have a very hard time getting your point of view and is bound to leave you feeling devalued when you cross him.
2. He’s the Don Juan.
This guy is constantly flirting and engaging other people when you are together. You’re talking to him and he’s looking behind you for something or someone more interesting. He requires too much attention to be satisfied with one person, no matter who she is. So be warned. He will leave you feeling not quite good enough.
3. He’s the Externalizer.
This guy thinks everyone in the universe is the cause of everything that befalls him. He can’t consider his own actions because he’s got no insight. Examples? You’ll hear him calling the cop an idiot for giving him that speeding ticket, and his boss a loser for firing him. Give him some time and this guy will be blaming you for the fact that his life sucks.
4. He’s the “Ex” Talker.
This guy cannot stop talking about his ex, who invariably is the worst person alive. Seriously, this woman was a monster. In fact, not only is the ex to blame for everything that went wrong in their relationship but she’s pretty much caused all the grief in his life. Stick around long enough and he’ll soon be pointing fingers at you, too.
5. He’s the Idealizer.
This guy will put you on a pedestal and worship you. He just can’t seem to believe how perfect you are—the way you look, the things you say, everything you do. Stay tuned for the inevitable, though. Unfortunately, it won’t be long before he’s knocking you off his imaginary pedestal as he struggles with the unavoidable fact that everyone has flaws.
Michelle Skeen, PsyD is a therapist and the author of LOVE ME, DON’T LEAVE ME: Overcoming Fear of Abandonment & Building Lasting, Loving Relationships (New Harbinger, 2014). Read it to start recognizing behaviours that are harmful to relationships, so you can get closer to the loving and lasting connections we all deserve.
Read it on BrazenWoman.com