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One of the scariest things for many people to do—when dating, but also in general—is to ask for what they want. Why is it that we may feel something so deeply, and yet not voice our true feelings? Some of us may find it difficult to define or defend what it is we need. Others may feel that voicing desires may scare others away, make us seem needy, or compromise the power we feel from seeming as though we are OK… Even if we aren’t. Part of being in a partnership is to come with a fully formed (or forming) vision of self. Own it. Knowing what you want and how to ask for it, kindly, is how you attract the kind of partnership that can truly fulfill your needs.
But What Do You Really Want?
What you want can look any variety of ways. It could mean that you’ve learned over time that monogamy makes you feel anxious, boxed in and resentful of a partner. Therefore, setting a clear boundary that expresses your desire to honor and appreciate a partner, but not necessarily commit exclusively to them is an integral step to take in creating your ideal relationship. The same could be said for a lot of other kinds of boundary-setting. If you are someone who has an anxious attachment style, asking—compassionately—for reassurance before you feel triggered will help keep the communication in your relationship productive, as opposed to a byproduct of your own deep fears.
In both of the aforementioned examples, as well as to any way you may personally relate to resistance around asking for what you want, you may be feeling like exposing that truth would compromise the partnership you are building. You may think that discussing polyamory, or revealing an emotional need for reassurance, will send a potential partner running for the hills. It might. But let’s imagine the alternative.
Example #1: The Unhappy Monogamist
In the first example, you build what feels like a beautiful partnership. You have fun, share emotionally, enjoy intimacy. Over time, you begin to feel the inner urge to explore other partners. You still feel committed to this person, but you can’t help but feel like your commitment is in some way holding you back from your real truth. Now you find yourself thinking about cheating and feeling guilty about it, which changes how you show up in partnership. All of this could have been mitigated by an honest conversation about your true nature at an earlier stage in the relationship. when the other person had agency to set a boundary around their own openness to this type of situation. By waiting you greatly deepen the chance of hurting both yourself and your partner.
Example #2: The Emotional Martyr
In the second example, you continually push your anxiety in partnership under the rug. You are determined not to seem needy or overly-emotional. Since your partner does not know your expectations around communication, they communicate openly but less often than would be your preference. You find yourself stressing out constantly when they are out and unresponsive. You get judgmental, hypercritical, and obsessive whenever you feel like you don’t have control. While, yes, this is a place where working on yourself and how you hold your own emotions in integrity in the relationship would be majorly beneficial, you cannot really do so without being honest with your partner.
Finding Clarity Around Personal Needs
So how do we be open and honest in our partnerships? It starts with getting clear on what your needs are. Make a list of times you have been triggered in past relationships. Do you notice any patterns around a space you might have needed to set a boundary but didn’t? What instances have you wanted to ask for something and stopped yourself? Can you feel into why? Doing this kind of self analysis will help you get really good at asking for what you want. It will also help highlight for you some parts of yourself that may benefit from specific things in relationships, from asking for reassurance and exploring polyamory, to having specific needs about time alone or conflict styles that trigger you.
How do we be open and honest in our partnerships? It starts with getting clear on what your needs are.
When actually going to your partner(s) or potential partner to ask for what you need it can be helpful to take any accusation or generalization out of the conversation. Instead of saying “You never text me back,” or “I feel inhibited by your neediness,” you can take a tip straight from vulnerability expert Brene Brown and preface your need with, “The story I am telling myself is…” followed by the truth beneath your request. For example, “The story I am telling myself when you do not text me back is that you either don’t care about me or are in bed with that girl who is on your softball team.” Your partner then has the opportunity to respond with, “Well that’s a crazy story. How can we rewrite it?”
By making the story that the triggering behavior provokes in you the issue, your partner is less likely to feel accused of something (ie. “Are you hooking up with that girl from your softball team?”) And you have more flexibility with naming the deeper issue beneath your need for whatever it is you want without feeling like you are being unreasonable or needy. You are no longer blaming, you are asking your partner to help you work through a story.
The Storytelling Strategy
This strategy can be enormously helpful in asking for what you want in your relationship. Everything from, “The story I am telling myself when you do not make the dishes is that you do not respect me,” to “The story I am telling myself is you care more about work than our relationship,” can be helped with this strategy. It may not be a cure-all, but it will certainly open the door to resolution and communication. It is worth reiterating that mindful dating and relationships means finding solace in having your needs respected by your chosen mate. They may not be able to meet them, but at least you know. Instead of building resentment and anxiety around a relationship that is not in alignment with your deepest truth, you have expanded your capacity to create that with vulnerability and honesty.
Next time you are feeling triggered, feel into where it comes from and try this strategy out. Shifting your fear of asking for what you need will open up a world of doors for you and any partner you find worthy of your time once you start asking for what you want.
Cara Kovacs is a third generation healer, second generation oracle, and Sex, Love & Relationship expert trained by Layla Martin. Named as 2019’s one of “35 People Under 35 To Watch In Wellness” by Wanderlust, she combines modern science with ancient healing and spiritual philosophy to help bring people to truth through love. Past featured events have included Bustle Rulebreakers ft. Janelle Monae & The Big Quiet, Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, Wanderlust Festival, partnerships with Employees Only, Root Mamma, Salt Witch Studios, Soho House, Freehand Hotels, LadyBoss Social Club, Alchemist Kitchen, and more. She is an official card reader for The Poetry Society of New York and has been featured in Time Out, Cosmopolitan, Bustle, and Elite Daily.