5 Steps to Communicating Needs In Your Relationship

steps to communicating effectively

Asking for what you want: 5 steps to getting your needs met - By Susan Buckley IMF

We all have needs, but sometimes it can be difficult to convey these needs to our partners. We might struggle with how to communicate our needs or approach our partners. Our partners might misunderstand what we are asking for. Or we might simply fear what happens if our partners refuse to meet our needs. Below are five steps to help you through this important process.

Here are 5 steps to communicating needs:

1. Identify your need

Many times when we find ourselves getting annoyed or irritated by our partner, there is actually an underlying need not being met.  Let’s look at fictional couple, Jack and Jill.  Jill gets irritated every time she has to ask Jack to take out the trash.  Jill thinks it just has to do with Jack being bad at chores. She also thinks he is lazy.  However, if Jill looks beyond the surface issue, she finds that every time she sees the trash full, she feels like she is alone in the relationship, that Jack does not see how much she does, and ultimately, that she does not matter to him.  The next time you find yourself feeling deeply frustrated about a seemingly small issue, try and look beyond the issue at hand – you might find there is a deeper need not being met. This is the first step to communicating needs effectively in your relationship.

2. Pick your moment

So you have identified your unmet need in the relationship.  Now when do you bring this up to your partner? This is the second important step to communicating needs effectively in the relationship.  You will likely be reminded of it the next time you and your partner argue.  However, bringing up anything in the heat of the moment is not the best idea.  Once a couple is in a reactive place, it is nearly impossible to absorb what the other is saying.  On the other hand, when things are good between you and your partner, you might shy away from discussing your unmet need, in order to avoid stirring things up.  While the fear of breaking the peace is understandable, it is actually the best time to sit down with your partner and convey your feelings.  When we are calm and relaxed, our defenses are down and we are more inclined to listen with a loving ear.

3. How to begin

In relationships, it is so easy to identify what our partner is doing wrong, is not doing at all, or needs to do more of.  And let’s be honest – in many cases these instances are all valid and true.  However, when approached with a handful of shortcomings, places for improvement, etc., your partner is inclined to become defensive, and before you know it, the two of you might quickly jump to that reactive place I mentioned earlier.  Instead, how about approaching your partner from that space deep down inside of you that is being affected – from that emotional place you find yourself in when you notice that need not being met.  Let’s go back to Jack and Jill– instead of Jill saying “When you don’t take out the trash I feel like you don’t care about me at all,” she might try saying “Lately I have been feeling really sad because I feel like I don’t matter to you.”

4. Open arms and ears

So what happens next?  In an ideal world, your partner would respond to your concern with open arms and a dedication to start showing you just how much you matter.  Sadly in the real world, a partner will respond by sharing unmet needs of their own, some of which might have contributed to the behaviors that are making you feel like you do not matter. Remember Jack and Jill?  Well, there is always a chance that Jack might not take out the trash because after he experiences so much criticism and anger from Jill, he feels like he can never get anything right and he starts to back away to protect the relationship from even more fighting.  When Jill sees him backing up, she gets the message that she does not matter to him.  You might feel your defenses popping up in these moments, but the best (and hardest) thing to do is to take a breath and really listen to what your partner has to say.  Remember that we hear the most from a calm, relaxed place.  If you listen patiently, and keep talking from that vulnerable place, you will learn so much about each other, and ultimately find that your need gets met.

5. Seek Support

Sound complicated?  That’s because it is.  Relationships involve such a variety of deep emotions, and your loved one tends to push buttons you did not even know you had.  At times, when we experience issues with our partner, it is almost impossible to navigate through the myriad of emotions and communicate needs effectively.  When it gets to this point, a therapist can help.  Couples counselors are able to help organize what is going on, and to promote positive shifts in the relationship, in order to help couples experience their relationship in an entirely new way.

If you live in San Diego and want help to learn steps to communicating needs effectively in your relationship, please schedule an appointment today with Susan Buckley.  schedule-now-counseling

 Article is by Susan Buckley:


About Susan:I understand that even the most unhealthy relationships appear promising in the beginning. After all, you would not likely go on a second date if your partner hit you or insulted you on your first date.

Codependency has it’s own cycle. Because of the cycle, there are times when the relationship is filled with peace, calm, and even joy. These moments in the cycle, sometimes referred to as the “honeymoon phase,” make it very difficult to see the problems in the relationship. Better yet, changing the relationship can also seem impossible due to low self-esteem or self-worth.Speaking up or making a stand about the relationship is important, yet it comes with rocking the boat…the thing you’d prefer not to do.

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