Get What You Want In Your Relationship — No Nagging Or Begging Required

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Does it seem like you never get what you really want from your partner?

Are you tired of asking and getting no response or, worse, told that you're just complaining? Maybe you notice that it seems like one or both of you are complaining a lot.

Complaints are often nothing more than unanswered requests.

You would like your partner to do something with you or for you, but they don’t seem to hear or be interested in the least. It may not be that what you're asking is unreasonable — it may just be about how you asked.

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How do you get what you want in a relationship?

In a relationship with clear and cooperative communication, the idea is not to ask for what you want in a way that makes it less likely that you will get it. 

It may not be at all about what you are asking for but that the person you are asking hears it as a demand, not a request.

The response to a demand is usually giving in or resisting, neither of which feels very good at the time. It is less about what is being asked. 

Many times, as therapists, we find that both partners actually wanted some form of the same thing but felt pressured or disrespected by their partner in the asking.

What is a request?

A request is asking another person for something that you want. A request is an invitation, not a demand.

Often, you may ask for something you think is missing. For example, "I would like you to take my hand when we go for a walk."  

But, it's often heard as a criticism or a complaint: "How come you never take my hand when we go for a walk?"

When your partner reacts in a negative or a surprised way, you hear it as them not really caring about what you want. It may, in fact, just be that they feel attacked or cornered, not unwilling to grant your request.

Now, you're both likely to feel unheard, hurt, or dissatisfied. What has happened is that your request has actually gotten lost in the requesting.

How do you make a request?

Perhaps, there's a way to ask for something based on the idea that the other person might want to work with you in meeting your request if they are asked in a particular way. 

As therapists, we see making a request of a person as an opportunity to grant your request, not as an example of giving in to you, but rather as an opportunity to give you a gift. It can then feel like an act of generosity, not of obligation or compliance.

So how can you best make a request?

Ask for what you want clearly and respectfully. Talk to your partner as though you are seeking the same goal — after all, you are!

When you start generating new options in your life together, you will be cooperating, not just compromising

RELATED: 5 Ways To Figure Out What You Really Need In A Relationship

The Key to Cooperation in your Relationship

What makes a request powerful is not just the possibility that it will be granted, but that it opens the door for both of you to feel happy with the outcome, not compromised or angry.

It's a creation and a declaration of your ability to agree and cooperate, not a need to compromise.

Cooperation is an important part of any healthy relationship.

The secret to making requests work is being flexible and open to options. In response to a request, your partner has some freedom in how to respond.

A request might be followed by one of four replies:

An agreement or a promise to fulfill the request: "I will be happy to do the dishes tonight."

A modification: "I can’t do it right now, but I could do them tomorrow morning."

A counterproposal: "I can take out the garbage now if you could do the dishes."

A refusal or decline: "I am not willing to do the dishes tonight." 

If the request is declined or refused outright, you could rephrase the request and make it another way. Sometimes, making a smaller request on a little thing can make a big difference in the moment and for later.

It's important that not all requests be granted. If you or your partner accepts all requests made, you will never know if they're unhappy but won’t say so or really are willing to accept the request.

If some offers are declined or modified (counteroffer), then you can be sure that when one is granted, it will because they could have declined as they have in the past.

How To Make A Great Counteroffer That Can Make Love Last

There are many aspects to making counteroffers. Perhaps, the main one is just practicing making them.

Try this exercise: make one request of each other every day for three days. Repeat the request to make sure it's understood and then practice accepting, declining, or making counteroffers. 

For example, you might begin with, "Dear, I would like to make a request.'

You and your partner agree on a time to hear the request within a short period. Then, you can talk about what it feels like to make requests of each other.

What does it feel like to ask for what you need and receive what you ask for? What does it feel like not to get what you ask for? 

Put aside a little time each week to do this exercise to practice making counteroffers and make sure you're hearing and understanding each other.

As with making requests, making a good counteroffer requires flexibility and persistence.

Be open to really understanding what your partner needs. And be resolute in sharing your own desires. Don’t underestimate your right to ask for what you need.

Because you exist, you deserve to receive love and have your needs heard.

One couple, Ned and Karen, learned this when they were working on problems in their sex life. They had been married several years and Ned wanted Karen to initiate sex and sexual fantasies more often, but he hadn’t clearly requested that.

Their sex life was becoming less exciting, and they were not sure how to deal with it. They came for couples therapy and were encouraged to make clear requests for what they wanted.

Ned requested that Karen initiate sex with a fantasy during their lovemaking. She made the counteroffer to initiate sex more often and create a fantasy on occasion.

The next time they made love, she initiated with a fantasy she made up and discovered she really enjoyed it. Ned was so happy and appreciative and they continued to share fantasies ongoingly in their relationship.

A counteroffer worked!

What some couples describe as poor communication may be nothing more than an inability to make requests.

If you can make requests of each other, you will cut down the number of resentments that might build up. Don’t be afraid to make a request of your partner. It builds trust and is for the good of the "team" and your relationship.

Remember, without asking, there's little receiving. You can’t read each other’s minds, so check it out. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

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Drs. Peter Sheras and Phyllis Koch-Sheras are clinical psychologists who have enjoyed studying and working with couples for more than three decades and have been happily married to each other for just as long. Visit their website for more information.