There is a saying “you teach people how they treat you”. If you do not communicate (well) to the other person what you want and don’t want, what you like and don’t like, what you are willing and not willing to tolerate etc. they will either get confused as to how to “treat” you or will use their own understanding and treat you the way they think you’d want to be treated.
The reason most men and women don’t communicate these things to the other person is because 1) deep down they do not believe that they are worthy of asking for something for themselves; 2) they are afraid that they may push the other person away; 3) they don’t know how to ask and; 4) they do not believe that they’ll get what they’re asking for. So why set yourself up for disappointment and rejection. It’s easier to beat yourself up because you did not ask than face the reality of being refused something or being rejected.
The really sad part about this is that if you do not speak up and out, the other person will not know how you really feel — and will most likely not even realize that his/her actions are causing you some level of frustration, discontent or pain. The person gets away with so much because you are afraid that if you stir the waters s/he’ll leave.
If speaking about what you like and don’t like will make someone leave, then all you’re doing is just postponing when s/he leaves.
It’s not just that you communicate what you want that is important, it is “HOW” you ask. When the asking comes off as an attack e.g. “why don’t you do this for me?” or depreciation “you don’t have what it takes ….” the other person doesn’t hear anything else that follows because he or she takes the defensive position and will be more focused on “protecting” himself and his self-esteem than working out a compromise.
So how do you communicate to the other person what you want and don’t want in a relationship without saying “you’re not giving me what I want?”
There are many ways to ask but here are three:
1. You can begin with describing to a vision of the kind of future you want.
Just casually talk about it like you are “thinking aloud”. You can start with something that you saw that made you think about… Then you talk about the things you want to see happen in one year or five years etc. This future will include a partner and the kind of relationship you envision for yourself. You are just passing information, let it settle but watch his/her reaction/responses. That’ll tell you what s/he finds comfortable or uncomfortable about what you’re saying.
This is an indirect way, and although it involves less risk because you are not really asking for anything, it’s also has the potential of achieving very little. Nice conversation but that’s all.
2. You can directly tell the other person what you like to see more of e.g. more sharing and accountability, more sharing of feelings, commitment, spending time together etc.
For instance about sharing feelings you can ask, “ John/Mary do you feel that I am emotionally open with you?” If s/he says “yes”, ask him what s/he likes about what you are doing and if s/he has somehow wished you were more open with him/her. S/he might ask, “What do you mean?” Go back to an incident when you felt s/he was letting you in/sharing feelings openly with you. Describe to her/him exactly what that mean to you. Go one step further and ask she/him what s/he thinks about what you just said.
The idea is to first let him/her know what you want and then ask for teamwork in making that happen because you can’t do it on your own.
3. The third option is to do the “We need to talk”.
As you can tell this comes with risk. Men especially fear this “talk” and can get defensive about it. You should be ready for whichever way things go.
The approach you take depends on your personality, confidence and emotional disposition. If you decide to take the last approach, make sure your “need to talk” is coming from a place of strength (self-confidence, self-worth, love etc.) and not from a place of weakness (fear, anxiety, panic, neediness, drama etc). If this is something you feel you need to do to silence something inside, or fill something inside, or hurry up something that was going to happen anyway, it’s coming from a place of fear — and all it’ll bring you in more conflict, and/or pain.