A couple sit on a sofa, the woman making a pleading gesture towards the man as he looks away

Relationships: do you know how to ask for what you want?

by Eharmony Editorial Team - October 24, 2011

You are unlikely to get what you want if you don’t know how to ask for it. Here we look at some of the most common areas of difficulty when it comes to being assertive in relationships.

When you do your dating profile you are asked lots of questions to help you clarify what you want from a new relationship (many people find it easier to specify what they don’t want)

At the profile stage it is hypothetical – you are talking about what you want from an ideal relationship. Once you are actually in a relationship it can be much more difficult to be so clear. Most relationships don’t fit the ideal right from the outset but can become ideal over time as you get to know each other and let the other person know what you want and need from them. Being assertive about what you want can feel really uncomfortable when it is face to face and you don’t want too seem too pushy or inflexible.  To be successful, you need to understand the difference between asking and demanding.

The difference between asking and demanding

Often the problem that occurs is that people don’t really understand the difference between asking and demanding. What you are trying to do is establish better ways of communicating so that you and your partner both get what you want and need. Demanding is insisting that someone else gives you what you want, regardless of his or her feelings. You can tell the difference because when you are asking, you don’t mind if the answer is no; when you are demanding, you get upset if you’re request is denied. When you ask for what you want, you need to have a back-up plan in case the other person can’t give it to you.

The importance of knowing what you want

If you don’t know what you want, you’ll have trouble getting it and may experience a life long feeling of missing out which can lead to bitterness and resentment. If you cant express your needs and wants you may also have difficulty asking your partner what their wants and needs are.

In your relationship, asking for what you want in a loving way helps both you and your partner to understand each other. If you don’t know what you want you won’t know if you are getting it? If you don’t know what your partner wants, you won’t know how to give them the best of your love and support. This can leave one or both of you feeling unsatisfied, resentful or frustrated. When couples are asked to state their wants they often discover to their amazement that what they want are quite similar things eg. to be appreciated, to be accepted, to be listened to etc.

Suggestions for getting what you want:

If you have difficulty in knowing what you want and communicating it, try these steps:

1. Get some clarity about what you actually want: You can’t tell somebody else what you want if yopu don’t really know yourself. Before you go to your partner  what you want effectively if you’re not clear what it is, so before approaching your partner try to get one clear sentence which sums up what you are requesting.

2. Create a good atmosphere: If asking for what you want is difficult for you, don’t do it without preparation. Make sure you and the person you’re asking both have time, and invite the other person to sit down and talk with you.

3. Simply state what you want: Don’t dress it all up with a lot of disclaimers just ask, politely, for what you want.

4. Be prepared for them to say no.  It’s important to remember that if you cannot accept a no you are demanding not asking.

5. Listen to the answer. Whether they say yes, no, or something in between, listen carefully to what they actually say rather than thinking you know what they are going to say before they even open their mouth! You need to be clear what the answer actually is rather than what you think it is.

Learn how to say no

It’s not just saying what you do want that is important but also what you don’t want. One of the most important aspects of a happy healthy relationship is emotional honesty. Many people go along with things they are not really comfortable with, especially at the beginning of a new relationship, because they want the relationship to work so badly they don’t feel able to assert themselves. The dating phase is a really good time to practice being emotionally honest. Say if you like or don’t like things. If asked for a preference on something don’t say ‘I don’t mind’, as that leaves the other person with the responsibility of deciding for you, be flexible but decisive.