Expressing Our Needs

This week I move onto the third part of our recent series on needs! From this, we can turn the human need knowledge gained in part one and the self-knowledge discussed in part two into definable and empowering action. Expressing our needs in loving ways to our partners takes courage and wisdom. Courage because it involves being open and honest with both ourselves and our lovers about what we are experiencing within our relationship. And wisdom because when we say something, what we say and how we say it all impacts on what unfolds as we begin these important conversations.

A very useful NEEDS script goes like this:

1. Start off with a clear and objective description of the situation you want to address. An example of this is: “We haven’t spent quality time together in the past two weeks.” Notice how this is not accusatory or blaming, has a specific time frame, and does not include any analysis or interpretation. Keep it simple.

2. Name your feelings. Try to use “I-statements” that avoid blaming your partner for how you are feeling, no matter how tempting this may be. Also, try adding the intensity of the feeling, as well as the duration that you have been feeling this way. An example of this is: “I have been feeling pretty upset over the past 3 or 4 days.” You can also add something about the interpersonal context in which your feelings are arising. In other words, “I have been feeling pretty upset over the past 3 or 4 days. I think it because of how much I was hoping we would spend time together this weekend.”

3. Include the specific need that you need help from your partner to fulfil. “I need some quality time with you where I feel that we are connecting with each other”. You can also add the specifics of what this connection looks like for you: “I need some quality time with you where I feel that we are connecting with each other. I’d really like us to go out for a yummy dinner and a movie.”

4. Make a request for behaviour change. Here you can ask your partner for some action on their part. Remember to not ask for them to change some aspect of their personality and rather focus your attention on specific and observable behaviours such as “Please would book the restaurant for one night this weekend so that we can go for our dinner?” Consider adding the part that you will play in co-creating a more fulfilling experience for yourself.

You may want to prepare your script beforehand so that you stick, at least mostly, to what you are wanting and needing from your relationship. It is wise to keep in mind that addressing one need and behaviour at a time is best so that you do not overwhelm your partner. Also, consider starting with a small need first and once you and your partner have got the hang of this process you can begin to express the larger, more significant ones. Of course, also try to keep any anger, irritation or resentment contained within yourself as becoming reactive is likely to create the very conflict that you were likely dreading from the start.

Remember as tough as this kind of conversation may seem at first, expecting your partner to intuitively know what your needs are is more likely to lead to disappointment and resentment that negatively impacts both of you in the long term. The more you practise this skill, the more likely you are to feel empowered and fulfilled within your relationship.