We all have needs, but sometimes it can be difficult to convey these needs to our partners. We might struggle with how to communicate what we are missing in the relationship. Or, it can be difficult to know how to approach our partner for fear of being misunderstood. We might also fear what will happen if our partner refuses to meet our needs. Below are five steps to help you through communicating your needs.
1. Identify your needs
Many times when we find ourselves getting annoyed or irritated by our partner, there is actually an underlying need not being met. Let’s look at fictional couple Jack and Jill. Jill gets irritated every time she has to ask Jack to take out the trash. Jill thinks it just has to do with Jack being bad at chores and being very lazy. However, if Jill looks beyond the surface issue, she finds that every time she notices the trash is full she feels like she is alone in the relationship, that Jack does not see how much she does for their household and relationship. The next time you find yourself feeling deeply frustrated about a seemingly small issue, try and look beyond the issue at hand – you might find there is a deeper need not being met. Figuring out what is really missing is the first step to communicating needs effectively in your relationship.
2. Pick your moment
When do you bring up an unmet need to your partner? Choosing when to talk about your needs is the second important step to communicating effectively in the relationship. You will likely be reminded of your need the next time there is an argument. However, bringing up anything in the heat of the moment is not the best idea. Once a couple is in a reactive place, it is nearly impossible to absorb what the other is saying. On the other hand, when things are good between you and your partner, you might shy away from discussing your unmet need so you don't stir up bad emotions. While the fear of breaking the peace in your relationship is understandable, peaceful moments are actually the best time to sit down with your partner and convey your feelings about an unmet need. When we are calm and relaxed, our defenses are down and we are more inclined to listen with a loving ear.
3. How to begin
In relationships, it is so easy to identify what our partner is doing wrong, is not doing at all, or needs to do more of. And let’s be honest – in many cases these instances are all valid and true. However, when approached with a handful of shortcomings, places for improvement, etc., your partner is inclined to become defensive, and before you know it, the two of you might quickly jump to that reactive place I mentioned earlier. Instead, try approaching your partner from that space deep down inside of you that is being affected – from that emotional place you find yourself in when you notice that need not being met. Let’s go back to Jack and Jill– instead of Jill saying “When you don’t take out the trash I feel like you don’t care about me at all,” she might try saying “Lately I have been feeling really sad because I feel like I don’t matter to you.”
4. Open arms and ears
So what happens next? In an ideal world, your partner would respond to your concern with open arms and a dedication to start showing you just how much you matter. In the real world, a partner will respond by sharing unmet needs of their own, some of which might have contributed to the behaviors you dislike. Remember Jack and Jill? Well, there is always a chance that Jack might not take out the trash because after he experiences so much criticism and anger from Jill, he feels like he can never get anything right. He starts to back away and stop trying to do chores in order to protect the relationship. When Jill sees him backing up, she gets the message that she does not matter to him. You might feel your defenses popping up when your partner is talking about an unmet need, but the best (and hardest) thing to do is to take a breath and really listen to your partner. Try to remain in a calm head space -- you will actually hear your partner much more clearly. If you listen patiently, and keep talking from a vulnerable place, you will learn so much about each other and ultimately find that your need gets met.
5. Seek Support
Sound complicated? That’s because it is. Relationships involve a lot of deep emotions, and your loved one tends to push buttons you might not have even realized you have. At times, when we experience issues with our partner, it is almost impossible to navigate through the myriad of emotions and communicate needs effectively. When it gets to this point, a therapist can help. Couples counselors are able to help organize what is going on, and help promote positive shifts in the relationship. A shift in the right direction just might help you experience your relationship in a whole new way!
You ask, I answer.
Paying for couples or individual counseling shouldn’t be a guessing game, and I want to be up front with how much counseling costs. I will answer your question about how it works at my office in San Diego, CA. My goal is to help you budget for your counseling sessions ahead of time, as well as giving you options to pick the right therapist for your situation.
Here are three options that we provide at Estes Therapy in San Diego:
- Option 1: $150 per session: You can meet with Jennine Estes (that’s me!), a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, for $150 per therapy session and each session is for 50-minutes long. Some people meet with me once a week, other people meet with me every other week or once a month. It all depends on your particular needs, goals set in counseling, and financial situation.
- Option 2: $100 per session: You can meet with a Marriage and Family Therapist intern (graduated with their master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy and currently working on gaining their clinical hours for licensure in California) for $100 per 50-minute counseling session. The interns receive my direct supervision and I over see each clinical case…basically you are paying for two therapists to focus on your situation at the cost of one intern. Meet the interns
- Option 3: Low Fee $70 for low-income families (limited spots available). We don’t let money stand in the way from getting the help you need. We offer several low fee/low cost slots with high quality therapy services for all individuals in San Diego. No matter where you stand financially, we are here to help you get what you want in life.
San Diego Marriage and Family Therapist and Therapist interns - Jennine Estes, Alicia Roth, Susan Buckley, and Jen Zajac. The interns are supervised by Jennine Estes, MFC#47653.
Sometimes you might find yourself in a relationship that is not totally healthy anymore, or where you're no longer happy. Instead of taking the necessary steps to begin to leave your relationship, you stick around and just hope things will be better. When you're stuck in a rut and your partner isn't really trying to work with you, you might just be in denial about what you need to do. On the other hand, if you do still have strong feelings for your partner and hope that things could improve, it might just be time to step up and fight for your relationship. How do you know if you should stay and fight or if you're just in denial about leaving and afraid to admit the truth?
What Percentage of You is Ready to Go?
Are you 50% invested in the relationship, and 50% ready to go? Or are you 99.9% ready to leave the relationship but you're just afraid? On the one hand, even if you only have a very small percentage of your heart that is not ready to leave, you should put leaving on the shelf and talk to your partner about how to make the relationship better. This is the only way to give saving the relationship a fighting chance. But, if you have tried to put leaving on the shelf and the percentage of you that wants to go keeps growing -- you may just be in denial about what your true feelings are.
How is Your Partner Reacting?
It takes two to tango. If you are willing to fight for the relationship but your partner isn't, you can't fully recover as a couple. Whether you have past relationship wounds, or just burn out, you must both be willing to truly invest. Are you making excuses for your partner? Pretending he has a reason for why he isn't trying, or telling others that he is making strides when you don't really see any signs of effort? If your partner is not really making an effort but you continue to hold out hope for years, you might be in denial about the fact that your spouse just isn't willing to work for the relationship.
How Long Have You Thought About Leaving?
Are your thoughts about leaving fairly new, or have you been considering this action for a long time? If you have been on the fence for a long time, you need to think about what is really keeping you in the relationship. Do you really still see hope for making it work, or are you just afraid of the unknown? If you are only staying because you are afraid to be alone, it's time to step out of denial and take the jump. Your partner can probably sense that you're not truly happy, and you are wasting your time and his.
If you don't know if you're in denial about leaving or should really stay, going to counseling can help you decide what the best course of action is. EFT can help you reconnect with your partner, or come to terms with how to end the relationship.
|Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net|
1. Improved Communication
Counseling will teach you how to talk to your spouse about your feelings in a way that does not come across as attacking. This is essential! If your significant other feels attacked when you approach him, he will become defensive right away and communication breaks down. By figuring out how to approach each other in a way that is not nagging or blaming, you can really start to hear each other and work together. Communication is one of the most important ways to keep your marriage in tact.
2. Creating a Safe Space
You need to feel safe in a marriage. That includes being able to open up, be yourself, and know that your partner will always be there for you. Counseling helps build a secure bond with your partner so that you both feel safe. On top of improving your communication, turning your marriage into a safe space can also eliminate jealousy and improve your trust. In counseling, you can both express what you need to happen for the marriage to feel secure and safe, and your therapist will serve as a guide to the process -- she will make sure both parties are heard.
3. Dealing With Past Hurt
Once you know how to communicate with each other and feel safe, counseling will let you deal with past hurt. Whether its infidelity in your own relationship, or trauma that you experienced outside of the relationship, dealing with past pain will let you heal and move forward in a more healthy way. Letting your partner in on your past hurt and help you move past it will bring you closer, and just might save your marriage.