Making a request - healthy communication

General tips:

  • Ask gently - no demanding or pressuring. "I would really love it if you could..." ,"Would you be able to ___, it would mean a lot to me"

  • Be practical and clear. "I want you to pay more attention to me" is a lot less effective than: "Can we spend some quality time together where we can really listen to each other with no distractions like phones or TV present? How about we make an agreement to go out to dinner one night a week?"

  • Notice your person's efforts to respond positively to requests. Thank them for compromising or for being honest yet delivering their no gently.

  • Evaluate how you respond to requests yourself - do you over-give and then feel resentful or give because you expect to receive? It can be easier to receive a no when we feel okay with saying no ourselves.

  • Have a conversation about requests with your partner when they are calm - do they ever feel pressured by the way you communicate requests? Are there any fears either of you have that get in the way of making or meeting requests e.g. afraid of being controlled, afraid you can't cope without their support, afraid they don't love you, afraid of vulnerability or judgement?

  • Remember that your emotional wellbeing is your responsibility and no person/ partner can meet all our needs. Work out other creative ways to get your needs met where possible - can you self soothe or get this need met through other people? E.g. in a healthy relationship part of our needs for connection are met through our friends and family and we don't rely on our partner as our only source of company and support.

  • It's normal to verbalise our wants in a relationship - we might have come from a household where we weren't allowed to do that but it's healthy to express ourselves truthfully and to request for our partner to help make life easier for us where they can. If our partner is consistently unable to respond to our requests we might need to have a conversation around that: to re-evaluate what our partner is capable of offering and examine if there are any deeper blockages such as attachment issues that are affecting their ability to give and receive love.

Making a request can be one of the situations that can be more challenging to communicate consciously because:

  • We may have had past experiences of feeling rejected and unloved when loved ones dismissed our requests so we feel guarded before we even ask, afraid of what it might reveal about the state of the relationship

  • We might feel afraid that if our partner says no we won't know how to cope

  • We might have been taught to feel ashamed of wanting support and praised for being independent and needless. So it feels vulnerable to even try asking, and our person might not understand and honour that

  • We may have given a great deal of energy to this person and we feel resentful, that the relationship is imbalanced, and that it's only 'fair' for this person to reciprocate.

Some perspectives and approaches we can process inwardly before having a conversation making a request include:

  • We can catch our egos in a story and vulnerably express it as such, which is far more likely to receive a positive response than using anger. E.g. "Why didn't you call? You're so selfish, I was so worried!" vs. "When you didn't call, that was hard for me because my ego made it mean that you didn't care. I love you more than I've ever loved anyone and I get scared sometimes because you could just turn around and leave without warning. When I don't hear from you I wonder, are you coming back? When it's happened to you suddenly before, it can be hard to trust it won't happen again."

  • We can express the importance of our request without demanding. Once again a vulnerable admission that you're scared is more likely to invite supportive responses - even if they have to say no they are more likely to help to connect you to resources that are able to.

  • We can rewrite this story and realise asking for what we want is normal and healthy. once again, communication helps: "It feels hard having to ask this because I'm afraid you'll dismiss my feelings", "I wasn't allowed to have needs growing up so this is new to me but I'm realising that it's important for my wellbeing to ask if you would be able to ___" "I'm still learning how to ask for what I need, so I feel really anxious about this conversation"... We can also bear in mind that if we receive a dismissive response, that person probably dismisses their own feelings and emotional needs - if they aren't in touch with themselves how could it be personal if they aren't able to empathise with ours?

  • Overgiving doesn't improve a relationship. Resentment will build up and the other person may be oblivious that it feels one sided because they give without expectations and are comfortable with creating boundaries and saying no when it would harm their wellbeing to keep giving. Being able to say no and not feel responsible for tending to our loved ones' every want creates an equal relationship where both people can put their wellbeing first and then give from the overflow. Instead of feeling obligated or entitled, we understand that it hurts less when we don't live life with the belief that others owe us, but instead focus on what we want to give, and how much is healthy for us to give.

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