Why Your Relationship Is Riddled With Resentment — And 3 Ways To Start Getting What You Need

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Getting what you want in a relationship can be tricky, sometimes.

The problem rarely lies in what we are asking for, but rather in how we ask — and when our wants and needs go unmet, we often become resentful.

I once knew a woman whose partner insisted that they watch football games together every weekend. This was something he enjoyed but, unfortunately, she did not.

That said, she knew there was something about this that was important to him and she didn’t want to be unreasonable.

After all, it seemed to be a harmless request — aside from the fact that she was suffering through several hours of sheer boredom and feigned enthusiasm every Sunday.

As it turns out, the problem wasn’t that she was being unreasonable. The problem was that her partner was confusing his needs for a very specific strategy that he believed would help him meet those needs.

It wasn’t until she asked him, point-blank, "What is it you’re really wanting here?" that he realized what he actually wanted was simply to spend some quality time with her.

Once he made this realization and she was honest about her feelings about watching football, they were able to pick a new strategy for spending quality time that made them both happy: watching a movie together once a week.

RELATED: How To Communicate Your Needs In A Relationship & Get What You Want

The key to getting what you want is asking for the right thing.

A lot of times, instead of asking for what you want and need from your partner, what you're actually asking for is a strategy that you believe will get you there.

And many times, this strategy is only taking into account your own wants and needs, which may not align with your partner’s.

For instance, "I need some rest" becomes "I need you to make dinner tonight."

The reality is that you don’t need your partner to make dinner tonight. You need rest and you believe that if your partner makes dinner, you’ll get the rest you need.

See the difference?

The problem with one-sided strategies is that they often fail to take our partner’s wants and needs into account. As a result, they will either refuse to comply or will "give in" because they want to please you.

This inevitably leads to resentment, which is the ultimate relationship killer. In addition, the one-sided strategies we suggest aren’t always received well because they’re often posed as demands rather than requests.

But, when you get in touch with the need underneath the strategy, you open up a dialogue where you can arrive at a solution that works for both of you.

In the first example, that might mean just getting takeout, doing some PB&J, or microwave dinners for the night.

Here is a quick guide to help you get what you want in a relationship by reframing your needs.

1. Find the need underneath your strategy.

Consider this other example.

During the first several years of living with my husband (then boyfriend), I was constantly bickering with him about the locks on our front door. I insisted that, if we were in the house, both of them be locked at all times.

Many times, I would look up from the kitchen sink and become infuriated by the sight of one or both locks being turned the wrong way. Was he doing this to piss me off? What did he not understand about my "very simple" request?

As it turns out, there was a better way to go about discussing this with him and it all centered around communicating the need underneath my request.

One day, upon spotting an unlocked door and my husband sitting nonchalantly on the couch, I took a deep breath and said, "You know, I know you may not understand this fully, but I don’t feel safe when the door is unlocked. I need to feel safe in our house. Can you please help me by trying harder to keep the door locked?"

He looked at me and said, "I didn’t realize you felt unsafe. I’ll try harder."

And he did.

But it wasn’t because I nagged him or got angry with him. It was because I helped him understand what I was really needing (i.e. safety) and how trying harder to lock the door would help me feel safe.

He understood the deeper "why" behind my request.

RELATED: 5 Ways To Figure Out Exactly What You Need In A Relationship ( & How To Get It)

2. Get to the "why". 

So, how do we discover the need behind our request? One way is to complete the following sentence: "I believe that if my partner would (your request), then I would get (your need).”

In my personal example, the sentence would read: "I believe that if my partner would lock the door, then I would get to feel safe."

This is how I knew that my primary need behind my request was safety. With this information, I was able to have a conversation with him about strategies for meeting my need.

As a note, it just so happened that understanding the need behind my request was enough for my husband to do what I asked of him. However, it’s not always that easy.

If he had genuinely felt that he was unable to remember to lock the door, we would’ve needed to pick a new strategy to help me feel safe.

Maybe we would’ve purchased a security system or installed a camera on the front door.

The important thing is that the selected strategy works for both people.

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3. Stop demanding, start requesting.

Another important distinction here is the enormous difference between making a request and making a demand. A lot of times, we think we're requesting something of our partner, but we’re actually demanding something from them.

Put simply, a demand is when you order another person to do something.

"Put your clothes away."

"Put your dishes in the sink."

"Tell me what you’re thinking."

These are all demands.

A request, on the other hand, acknowledges (subtly or explicitly) that what you’re asking for may not work for the other person and, more importantly, that that’s OK.

For example:

"Would you mind putting your clothes away?"

"I’d appreciate it if you put your dishes in the sink. Does that work for you?"

"I’d love to know what you’re thinking right now. Do you feel comfortable with that?"

Now, you may be thinking that this is a lot of extra words for something you might even believe is "owed" to you. For example, "Of course, my partner should put the dishes in the sink."

But, believe me, it’s worth it. The worst-case scenario is that there will be a lot fewer arguments in your house.

And the best-case scenario is that not only do you start to actually get what you’re asking for but you get a much healthier — and happier — relationship overall.

RELATED: How To Know *Exactly* What He Needs In A Relationship, Based On His Enneagram Type

Rachel Henderson is a certified professional life coach who wants to help you empower your relationship with healthy communication. For more information on how she can help you, visit her website.

This article was originally published at The Unbound You. Reprinted with permission from the author.