In my counseling office, I see a lot of damage done because people don't know how to ask for what they want, or don't think it's OK. Not asking for what you want means you'll eventually resent somebody, and that leads to a lot of strife. So today, I thought I'd give some hints about how to ask for what you want. To really be successful, you need to understand the difference between asking and demanding, and how to approach different people.
The Importance of Wanting
If you don't know what you want, you'll have trouble getting it and experience a life-long feeling of deprivation, disappointment, scarcity, and resentment. When you aren't able to express what you want clearly you'll have difficulty feeling generous about your partner's wants and needs.
In your relationship, asking for what you want in a helpful, non-threatening way helps both you and your partner understand each other. If you don't know what you want, you won't realize if you achieve it. If you don't know what your partner wants, you can wind up with a false or one-sided solution, that will leave one or both of you feeling unsatisfied, overpowered, or manipulated. In couple counseling, when I ask partners to state their wants they often discover to their amazement that their wants are quite similar, and the problem disappears. The conflict between them was only their lack of understanding and communication.
Being clear about what you want is like putting all the true facts on the table, just as you lay all the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle out, so you can see them better, and more easily solve your puzzle.
Difference between Wanting and Demanding
Much of the confusion about expressing wants occurs because no distinction is made between wanting and demanding. Stating what you want is an effort to communicate clearly, so you and your partner can both be satisfied, while demanding is insisting that your partner give you what you want, without regard for his or her wants and feelings. You can tell the difference because when you are asking, you can handle getting a no answer; when you are demanding, you get upset if what you're asking for is denied. When you ask for what you want, you need to have a back-up plan in case the other person doesn't agree.
Women need to know how to ask men for what they want directly, and in a rational, not emotional manner. Men respond much better to "Honey, will you take out the garbage?" than to a whiney "The garbage can is overflowing, and it smells bad." or "I have to do everything around here." The indirect request is a female style of communication that works well with other women, but doesn't work well on men, because our thought processes are different.
Men need to learn to listen to women's feelings when they want something. Women do not always respond to a direct request, they do better when feelings are talked about. Saying "Wait till the game is over, honey." will be received by a woman as disregarding her feelings. "I'm sorry it's bothering you, sweetheart, I'll take it out as soon as there's a commercial break." will let her know you care about her feelings, and she'll be happier with it, even though the result is the same.