Only YOU Can Name Your Relationship Needs

Posted July 23, 2012 by Monica O'Connell in Life After Five

The best way to get your relationship needs met is to name them. A recent fight I heard was about phone calls and the expectations about when to call. Often times we make assumptions based on the way we tend to behave. If you always call when you say you’re going to call, you assume your partner/date is the same way. If your partner says they are going to call and they don’t, you tend to jump to the worst. Your partner/date isn’t calling because you’re not important to them. Then you begin to feel sad or angry. Feeling unimportant certainly isn’t a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Then, potentially, the next time you talk, because of your past assumption and anger, you’ll likely think and/or say something like along the lines of, “You should just know to call.” or “I think you should know this by now.” or “It should be obvious.” This is because to you, it is obvious.

This situation is so common and it appears to come from a place of vulnerability. Many people want to be in relationships where their partners know them well enough to anticipate their needs. This is especially true in relationships where people have been with one another for years and it seems almost common knowledge due to the amount of time spent with the other person. I totally understand wanting to have this in a relationship and in a lot of ways, you probably already do without even knowing it. However, once you start saying, “You should just know,” you have passed the responsibility of the entire relationship onto your partner without taking any ownership. Often the two of you begin to fight about what the other person is supposed to know and why they don’t know what they are supposed to know.

It’s a silly fight that leads to neither you or your partner getting your needs met.

YOU are responsible for your needs being met. Replace “You are supposed to know” with naming your need. If you’re in a healthy relationship, I’ve found that 98 percent of the time, your partner would be happy to accommodate your need and had no idea that’s what you needed. Of course, sometimes your partner does know but they need a reminder or they made a mistake.

The couple who were fighting about the lack of phone calls had a great conversation that was sparked by one of the partners saying, “When you say you’re going to call, I need you to do that. It’s how you show me that you keep your word. If you don’t plan on calling, please tell me.” They were then able to explore  more about what this need means in their relationship. In the end, the partner wound up saying “I had no idea this was impacting you so much.”

What needs are you assuming your partner should know? How could you communicate it differently or more effectively?

About the Author

Monica O'Connell

Monica O’Connell is a Licensed Marriage and Family therapist in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In her practice, she spends her career cheering on “Career Girls” as they learn how to get the most out of life. Monica works with arguably some of the most successful, intelligent, inspiring women in the Twin Cities who tackle self-discovery, career success, and what’s getting in the way of their true desires. She shares her favorite moments as those “best described not by words but by the stomach aching, face soreness that comes from spending an entire day laughing with loved ones.”