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How to Get What You Need in Relationships

how to get what you need in relationshipsAre you looking for more emotional support? More connection? More intimacy? More personal space? More expressions of concern, validation, love?

The first step to getting is knowing; the second step is asking (or insisting.) My last blog post was How to Know What You Need in Relationships, and now it’s time for Step 2.

1) Know your audience.

Is your partner someone who’s simply oblivious to your needs, or perhaps unskilled at relationships, or maybe preoccupied by personal issues? Or is your partner someone who has demonstrated awareness but simply not cared?

The reason I ask is because you need to think about the amount of emotional risk you’re assuming by having a conversation about your needs. You need to decide how guarded to be, and what’s the right style for you.

If your partner doesn’t know but would care, then you’ll probably choose one style. If your partner does know and doesn’t seem to care, then it’s another.

2) Consider what’s been successful for you in the past.

If you’re someone who’s good at assertiveness with work or with your friends, then you might already have an assertiveness style that you simply haven’t applied to your partnership. Build on successes, and do what’s already worked.

If you don’t really speak  your mind with anyone in your life, it might not be a lack of skill at these types of conversations but simply a lack of practice and a lack of will. Think of any skill-based activity in your life, and the learning curve. When you try, you’ll improve.

3) Write out what you want to say.

I know, it sounds cheesy, and you probably won’t actually read it. But if you’re unpracticed, maybe you will want to give your partner a letter and then have a follow-up conversation. That might feel less daunting.

Or maybe just by being entirely clear about your feelings, you’ll know where to start in the actual verbal conversation. Clarity always helps.

You can also get practice by bouncing it off a trusted friend or family member.

4) Decide on your delivery.

Non-verbal is as important as verbal (maybe more so.) Even if you say something forceful but you don’t seem to mean it, it’s the same as having said something much weaker.

If you want to ask for the love you need and deserve, if you think that you’re dealing with someone you can trust with your feelings, then a vulnerable delivery is consistent with that. You might even lead with something like, “This is really hard for me, and it might not come out perfectly…” You want to minimize your partner’s judgment and increase their openness.

If you’re going to insist on the love you need and deserve, with a partner who’s previously exhibited a lack of concern and caring for your well-being, then you want to square your shoulders, look him right in the eye, and tell him you’re unhappy and you need things to change.

Body posture is very important. The way you position yourself can enhance or detract from your confidence. So start there, and you might find the words follow more easily.

5) Review the outcome.

Often people think they’re going to just speak their mind and change will come. Your partner has been doing certain things for a long time. They’re habits. Habits take a while to break.

You have to be prepared to give reminders. Be willing to have the conversation again, and again. That might be what it takes. But over time, if your partner is truly invested in your happiness, the changes will happen.

If they don’t, then that’s information for you about how your partner sees you and the relationship, and you might need to revise some of your assumptions. Or you might need to consider leaving and finding another relationship that’s more likely to give you what you need.

But don’t ever forget: You deserve to have your needs met! Now  sit up straight and own it.

 She’s also a novelist. Please visit her author page for details.

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How to Get What You Need in Relationships

Holly Brown, LMFT

Holly Brown is a marriage and family therapist in the San Francisco Bay area. She has a private practice in Alameda ( ). She is also a novelist ( Her latest is HOW FAR SHE'S COME, a workplace thriller which received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly: "This provocative tale will resonate with many in the era of the #MeToo movement."

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APA Reference
Brown, H. (2016). How to Get What You Need in Relationships. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 13, 2020, from


Last updated: 12 Aug 2016
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