It’s better to communicate your needs to your spouse than say nothing at all.
We all have needs within a relationship. The need for connection, love, and physical intimacy are strong within romantic relationships. But so is the need for clear and honest communication, follow-through on promises, and spending quality time together. And then we get down to the nitty gritty needs such as a woman’s need to have the toilet seat down, and a man’s need to leave his underwear on the floor.
There are some needs we can meet on our own which can strengthen the relationship. Pursuing our own interests, developing friendships outside of the relationship, and nurturing and pampering ourselves are a few of the ways. But there are some needs in a marriage that if left unmet, can fester into resentment.
If we don’t communicate our needs to our spouse, it can create a wall so high that we can’t see each other over it. Our spouse may not be able to or willing to meet our particular needs, but we have a better chance of getting them met if we ask for what we want. Here are some suggestions for doing that.
Be Clear About Your Needs
Before you communicate your needs to your spouse, be clear about what you really want and why you want it. Ask yourself the following questions:
What are your needs? Make a list of your needs within the relationship and identify if they are extremely important, very important, somewhat important, or not very important.
What underlies your needs? Explore your needs to see what they truly represent. For some, the need for sex isn’t about fun and pleasure; it’s an expression of love and without it, they feel unloved. For others, the need to have a spouse call if they are going to be late isn’t about timing and dinner, it’s about feeling safe, secure and worry free.
Can you honor any needs on your own? One way to improve your relationship is to honor your own needs. For example, if you have the need for touch, but your spouse doesn’t, perhaps arranging for a weekly or monthly massage with a local massage therapist or practitioner would soothe you? If you’re feeling lonely or longing for connection, spending time with close friends may satisfy this.
What gets triggered when the need is not met? Another way to become clear about your needs is to notice what thoughts, emotions and memories get triggered when they are not met. If your spouse doesn’t give you a hug when he comes home from work, do you feel sad or angry? Does it stir up memories of being neglected by your parents? As you bring awareness to the pain of your unmet needs, you can heal old wounds.
What are your spouse’s needs? Sometimes when our needs are not met, we forget to take care of our spouses needs. Are you expressing love in a way your spouse can appreciate? Is there something special you can do for your spouse? As you give, you will receive.
Once you are clear about your needs and their significance, it’s time to communicate with your spouse.
How to Communicate Your Needs
How and when you communicate your needs is as important as what you say. Explore the following suggestions.
Choose an appropriate time. If you want to communicate clearly and have your spouse hear you, choose a time when you both feel calm and balanced. Don’t dump your issues on your spouse the minute he comes home from a long day at work. Don’t ask for intimacy when it’s obvious your spouse wants some alone-time for herself. Be wise about when you ask for your needs to be met.
Communicate from a centered space. It’s easier to be heard and understood when we communicate from a balanced, centered space than it is if we are in a place of judgment, blame and criticism. The latter will only trigger defensiveness or attack in your spouse. If you are upset about an unmet need, wait until you’ve had a chance to process your feelings before you communicate. Otherwise you will spew charged emotions all over your spouse, which will muddy the water.
Express your feelings within the need. Explain to your partner why you have this need and how you are affected when it is not met. Stay away from finger-pointing, but instead own your emotions and reactions around the need. For example, instead of saying “You never ask me how I’m doing! You don’t hug me when I’m upset,” try, “I feel neglected and sad when you don’t ask me how I am at the end of the day. I miss connecting with you. If I’m upset, it really helps to soothe me if you give me a hug.” Communicating honestly from your heart will elicit compassion in your partner and lead to a better resolution.
Initiate what you need. Instead of waiting for your spouse to hug you, or ask you how you’re doing, or plan a romantic getaway, or make dinner, initiate the activity and ask them to join you. If you want physical connection; hug or touch your spouse. If you want to talk; initiate a conversation. If you want dinner; start making it or ask your spouse to make it. If you want some romance; plan something romantic. In the end, what’s more important: who initiated it, or the experience of it?
Don’t let your needs fester in the closet. Bring them out, dust them off and share them with your spouse. This in itself will bring dialogue, connection and intimacy into the relationship.
Do you have any questions or further insights on how to communicate your needs to your spouse? Please share below, I’d love to hear from you.