How To Get (Pretty Much) Anything You Want From Your Partner

Photo: alena ozerova / 
lovely couple showing love in front of a grey wall

Wouldn’t it be great to be in a relationship where you could ask your partner for anything? Not just to get what you want, but to be able to have your wishes known?

That may be why you wanted a partner in the first place. But that seems to never happen. 

If you are like most people, you may find it difficult to “just ask” for what you want from your partner — but it is vitally important for the healthy functioning of your relationship.

With simple clues, you may find that communicating effectively is not as difficult as you think. 

Before you make a request or ask for what you want, you will want to stop and consider some important factors, as described below.

Take time to get clear about what you really want for yourself and your couple. Don’t be afraid to make a request of your partner. It builds trust and is for the good of your relationship.

A well-planned request must include a number of parts, but there are three aspects of asking for what you want that are key. After all, asking the right way can help you get what you need. 

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Here are three ways to get what you want:

1. Be thoughtful about the language you use.

There is nothing that can’t be accomplished with effective communication. The first thing that is necessary is to avoid negative words and keep the language you use positive.

As Carl Jung, the famous psychologist said, “You cannot find the new words if you do not shatter the old words.” So you need to monitor and transform the “old words” before making your request. 

Avoid using words that sound like a complaint or a demand. Stay in the realm of what’s possible, and be flexible. If you are open and work together, as the Rolling Stones say, “You may not always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you may just find you get what you need!”

You may have a habit of phrasing what you say as a question rather than a statement or request. Questioning someone often sounds aggressive or accusatory.

Making a direct statement of what you want usually gets better results. For example, Alice asked her husband “why haven’t you taken out the garbage yet?” Her husband Jack got angry, and they had an argument about it. When they realized the trap they were in, she made a positive statement about what she wanted, and Jack could hear that better and took out the garbage. “Jack, it would be great if you could take out the garbage.”

Another thing Alice added that makes a big difference in making a request is to start with an acknowledgment of your partner for something positive he did or demonstrated. In fact, statements of acknowledgment have been shown to be even more powerful than expressions of love.

Alice acknowledged Jack for all the time he takes out the garbage and the way that helps her out by doing that. Letting him know the positive impact that has on her and their couple makes the acknowledgment even stronger.

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2. Be mindful of your tone and your non-verbal cues.

Living in a highly verbal culture, you may forget to pay attention to the significant nonverbal aspects of your speaking. It’s not just what you say; it’s how you say it. Your partner is likely to be more affected by how you say something than by what you say. Nonverbal cues such as your tone of voice, gestures, eye contact, and touch can communicate what you mean and want more powerfully than your words. 

If Alice had gone over to Jack and gently touched his arm while reminding him to take out the garbage, that would likely lead to a much more positive response. The tone of her voice is also especially important.

Be careful not to be sarcastic in any way. It can make things worse, and you won’t get your request met then.

That is what happened to Joan when she sarcastically said to her husband Paul “I don’t suppose you’d be able to do the dishes tonight!”

He did not respond well to that, and she ended up doing the dishes herself.

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3. Start with generosity. 

In making your request, stop and think about your partner’s needs as well as your own. You don’t have to take it to heart and feel rejected if your partner says no to your request.

Instead, come from a place of generosity when you request something from your partner, and give them the space to say no. If every request is granted you might be suspicious that the other person is just placating or discounting you.

If there are a few “no”s, the “yes” will be more authentic and meaningful.

Remember that as a couple, you are a team. Appreciate the others so they can feel free to appreciate you. What do you have to lose by being patient and kind? It might be your best quality.

The nature of generosity is that something is given freely without the expectation that the other person will do the same. How powerful does that make you feel? 

Plus, it is rewarding to be generous: It is more fun to give than to receive.

Janet and Bill discovered this when they had a conflict about going to an outdoor concert that Bill wanted them to attend. Janet wanted to stay home and finish her book, which she told him, but she also wanted to support him in something he really wanted. So she decided to go with him and bring her book to read during the concert.

They went together, and Bill really appreciated her willingness to join him. At the same time, Janet felt happy to see Bill enjoying himself while she got to finish her book!

It ended up being a win-win situation for them both. She could see that being generous was a gift she could give him, not an obligation.

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An exercise to try: Ask for what you need.

  •     Take some time and have you and your partner think about what you both might ask each other to do that if accomplished, might make you happier in your relationship.
  •     Then each of you makes a list of 3 things you would like your partner to do.
  •     Make a request of each other on 3 different days. Be flexible about accepting, declining, and making counteroffers to your requests.
  •     Talk about what it feels like to make requests of each other: What did it feel like to receive what you asked for? What did it feel like if you did not get what you wanted?

Practice is key

As with many things, what you want takes some practice and more practice. Making requests needs to be done by both partners, very often for big and little things.

When it becomes common there will be an ease of communication about feelings and freedom to ask for what you want and a greater likelihood that you may get it sometimes.

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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. More information is available on their website

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