How many people do you know that obsess over how frequently their girlfriend/boyfriend/date messages them? ‘He hasn’t texted me back yet, what does it mean?’ And yet they have never talked about how often they communicate or why it might be important to them.
We need to speak up for our needs when we are dating, or in a relationship. It allows us to show up as we are, show up for ourselves and confirm that ‘I matter’.
It sends packing those who cannot or are not interested in supporting our relationship needs. We experience the joy of receiving as well as giving and we create room for greater intimacy to develop.
But how do we know what our needs are, what’s the difference between wants and needs and how do we communicate them anyway?
Needs v Wants
Firstly, there are no hard and fast rules here, so don’t stress if you can’t figure out whether something is a need or a want! A need is like bread – we need to eat to live – in the same way, there are things we need in a relationship if it is going to work for us. A want is like honey – it’s going to make the bread taste that much more delicious and we will enjoy it more – but we could survive without it.
An example of a want could be that you would like to have intellectual conversations with your partner. However, if Mr/Miss Amazing comes along and they don’t want to do that, you may decide that you can either live without it or have those conversations with friends.
What are Relationship Needs?
These will be unique to you and arise from your personal values, your attachment style and your beliefs about relationships.
You can reflect back on past relationships to identify what really upset you and what made you really content. You can also consider what you admire in other people’s relationships. Here are a few common relationship needs to get you started:
Admitting mistakes and taking responsibility for actions – this is one of my favourites. If someone can’t ever admit to doing something wrong, it indicates an unwillingness to self-reflect or grow as a person.
Adventure – having new experiences together can really deepen the bond between you and your partner.
Emotional validation and support – you may spend time together and share space, but you want to share your inner world too and know it’s safe with that person.
Communicating truth with love – this is about being honest and doing so in a way that is supporting the relationship, not treading all over it.
Independence – for some people, it’s really important that they can have their own space and do things on their own or with other people.
Humour – there’s got to be some fun it the relationship. You don’t want to spend all your time having serious conversations.
Compassion and forgiveness – we all make mistakes and we don’t want grudges and resentment to build up in a relationship.
Remember, these are just some ideas to get you started. You will come up with ones that are just right for you.
Communicating your needs
Don’t expect your date or your partner to be a mind reader. They don’t know what you need or want unless you tell them. Be clear and direct about it. This is particularly important when dating – many people say to me ‘But I don’t want to come across as needy’. The trouble with ‘playing it cool’ is:
a) it gives the false impression that you don’t have any needs and
b) it attracts someone that doesn’t feel comfortable with your needs or theirs and they are believing your message you don’t have any.
You can communicate your needs in a positive way by saying how you feel when they are met, for example ‘When you are willing to work through an argument with me, I feel safe and valued’, or ‘When you listen to me talk about how I feel, I feel understood and validated’.
Remember to pay attention to your partner’s needs too of course.
Identifying your relationship needs isn’t a science, so just get curious and see what seems right for you. Your relationship needs will vary over time, so what’s important to you now may not be as important in ten years time.
Ultimately you are responsible for getting your own needs and wants met. Don’t be afraid to put them on the table. The right person will respond positively for you. The wrong person will make a sharp exit.
This article was first published in the Life Coach Directory.