I’ve seen it happen time and time again- the fear of rocking the boat and disrupting the perfect harmony at the start of a relationship means you keep quiet and don’t express how you really feel or ask for what you need.
As time goes on, this causes a disconnect- your partner thinks everything is going fine and you have a growing frustration developing inside due to unmet needs and unexpressed feelings. Sound familiar? Don’t beat yourself up, we’ve all done it. But at some point it’s important to realize the following things, and vow not to keep repeating this pattern anymore.
Why is it important not to repeat this pattern? Here are 6 reasons (and then I'll share some tips for how to assert your needs with confidence):
Expressing your needs is a demonstration of self-respect. Your practicing self-respect is what will earn you your partner’s respect- now and in the long-run. Practicing asserting yourself is also a way to maintain your respect for yourself.
A partner who is uninterested, bothered or turned-off when you express your needs is not a worthy partner. Asserting your needs and stating your preferences is an opportunity to identify if your new interest genuinely cares about you or not.
Your choices early on set the tone for the relationship. You teach your partner what to expect from you and how to love you from day one. Therefore, it’s crucial to be authentic and open about your thoughts and feelings from the outset.
A fulfilling relationship requires that both partners understand what the other needs to feel accepted, acknowledged and appreciated. By withholding your feelings and needs out of fear of seeming needy or demanding, you are disabling the relationship from truly flourishing.
Waiting until you feel secure in the relationship to voice your opinions, concerns and/or desires could cause conflict -or even an end to the relationship- when your partner feels as though they are suddenly with a different person and not the person they started out knowing.
Honesty is required for the building of trust, and trust is the foundation of a strong relationship. If you desire a strong, healthy relationship with your partner, openness and honesty are essential every step of the way, even when it’s hard or seems risky.
So if being upfront and honest is necessary for the building of a mutually respectful, strong and healthy relationship, how can you develop the confidence to speak up early on? Here are a few tips for developing the confidence to be forthright & self-assured in your relationship:
- Know what you want and need- get very clear about what works for you and what doesn’t. Have standards. For instance, are you comfortable with the idea of seeing other people and being non-exclusive at first, or aren’t you? How many dates do you want to go on before having sex? What about the pace of the relationship- at what point do you expect to meet the parents, hear the “L” word, move in together? What’s your idea of quality time together? How often do you need to communicate with your partner to feel connected to them? What do they need to do to make you feel loved (what are your love languages)? Obviously, not all of these things need to come up at once or in the same week, but you get the idea. Pre-determine as much as you can in advance so that you can communicate your well-thought-out feelings with confidence when the time is right.
Practice stating your preferences & needs in your other relationships- Next time you have plans to get together with friends and the plan is to meet for dinner at 8:30 but you have an early yoga class the next day, ask if they’d be open to meeting at 7:30 or 8:00 instead. Still haven’t collected on that loan you gave to your sister last year? Ask for it! You need that money for Holiday gifts. Tired of being teased by the family for going paleo? Let them know it’d be nice if they could be a bit more supportive.
Set clear boundaries and enforce them- Boundaries are essentially limits, and it’s up to you to decide what your limits are regarding all sorts of things- your time, your person, your money, your generosity, your belongings etc. Being clear on what your boundaries are makes it easier to know when to say yes to something and when to say no. Saying no is hard- this is true for most of us. But in order to maintain healthy boundaries, it’s important that you say no once you’ve reached your limit with something. Make it a habit to scan situations and ask yourself- Am I truly ok with this? Does this work for me or is it pushing my limits? This will prevent feelings of resentment and keep you from being taken advantage of.
Commit to a regular regimen of self-care- A great way to internalize the belief that your own desires, needs and preferences matter is to prioritize those things yourself! Prioritize your self-care. You can’t very well expect others to make your needs important if you’re not even making your own needs a priority. Meditate, get regular massages, exercise, eat right, get enough sleep- whatever makes sense for you. Love yourself as you would like someone to love you. Be gentle with yourself. Make time for yourself. Accept yourself completely. Praise yourself often. Forgive yourself freely.
Remember, you teach others how to treat you. If you want the one you love to care deeply about you, you must matter to yourself- and it must show! Respect yourself. Show up for yourself. Be your own advocate. A good partner -a partner you can build a healthy and lasting relationship with- wants to know what you need and wants to satisfy you, just as you care to know how to satisfy them. Give them what they want!
Do you have an experience to share that relates to self-confidence, boundaries, or self-love or do you have additional tips to share? Please leave a comment and share your knowledge & experience!
Are you someone struggling to confidently ask for what you need in your relationship? I can help! Let’s work together to get you to where you want to be.