“Good communication is the bridge between confusion and clarity.”
~ Nat Turner
A lot of people struggle to get their needs met by a partner, specifically their need for attention, adoration, or words of affirmation.
Asking for these things tends to come with a negative connotation ( the sense of feeling “needy”), when in reality for a relationship to work each person within the relationship needs to be loved in the way that best suits them, which comes with compromise & communication.
1. Identifying the type of attention we want more of
The first thing to consider would be what kind of “attention” do we really want.
This can be done by looking at what we are not getting now or reading up on the 5 love languages (by Gary Chapman) to get to know how we best receive/need love.
- Do we want an increase in being appreciated for our efforts/kindness?
- Do we want more sexual attention and verbal compliments?
- Do we just need to be reassured of our relationship through an occasional “I love you”?
Once we have this figured out we can move to actually asking for our needs!
2. Normalizing this ask
When asking for a need it is important to remember that no need is “needy” it is by definition just a need, which exists without judgment! Something that we define as a need within a relationship will only make said relationship stronger and more functional after it’s been met/communicated.
Those who are not willing to compromise or respectfully listen to our needs, may not be the “right fit” for us. Keeping in mind that any partner has the right to say “no” to a request, but that if this request is reasonable, we should be able to get what we so deserve from a healthy & functional relationship.
3. How do I ask for this identified attention
Some people feel comfortable asking for their needs out-right, but those of us who do not, may want to start with something more casual.
Asking for more attention in whatever form you need it can be fun!
I tell a lot of clients to use the 5 love languages by Gary Chapman to start a conversation. Each partner can take an online questionnaire or just learn about them together and explore each other’s love languages.
During this conversation each partner can express wanting to help the other receive love in the best way possible and come to compromises on how these things (including attention) will be met more effectively moving forward.
Good Luck! And happy communicating!
Anna Lovelace, LCSW – www.alovelacetherapy.com
We ALL have needs for attention.
There must be a balance of a clear identity apart from our partner and a clear connection to our partner.
Part of creating a clear identity can focus on self sufficiency-meeting our own needs. Creating connection is the focus of meeting mutual needs. I often shorten this down for couples as time together and time apart.
All relationships have to find a balance that works for them, but that can feel like two opposing forces when partners have different needs.
I say this to normalize that fine line of asking for attention needs without coming across as needy. In attachment theory (how people bond and love), giving and receiving attention is what builds bonds.
Attention is not guaranteed, but is a loving gift from your partner.
Many people fear asking for more attention due to concern over being viewed as needy.
There is another underlying fear: When you ask for attention in a clear and direct way, your partner can decline.
Although that is scary, now your partner knows what you are looking for and a conversation to bridge the gap can begin.
The flip side is if you do not communicate your need for attention, your partner might not even know you are in need of attention.
I have many women who ask me, “how could they not know?!” Men are not mind readers and won’t be able to fully understand what you are thinking, feeling, or needing unless you express it clearly, directly, and concisely.
One of my go-tos for asking for attention is to create a positive environment.
Start thinking about and talking to your man about the times you felt like your attention love tank was full. You can even think about this as writing the story of your relationship. What did they do that was attentive? How did this make a difference for you?
- Do not criticize
- Express gratitude when needs are met (people typically enjoy hearing more about things they did well).
- Reinforce the good: think of the last time your partner met this need and talk about it.
- Be flexible: I would really like to ______, I see you are busy right now. When would be a good time?
Christina Grudzinski, LMFT, MS – www.unitycounselingtexas.com
If you want more attention without sounding needy, say what you mean, mean what you say, and say it without complaining.
A matter of fact statement can go along way. It is human to want attention and to feel like you matter.
We all need attention, and we all need to feel like our partner cares about us, what we feel, and what we need.
It is important to communicate our needs without whining or creating a conflict.
The most important aspect of expressing yourself is to do it without being critical. If you have a critical spirit, your partner is likely to get defensive, criticize you back, withdraw, or shut down.
Give him the attention that you yourself would also like to have.
It is a principal in human relationships that we generally mirror one another. If you want him to pay attention to you, pay attention to him. he will likely reciprocate and treat you the same way that you treat him.
If you have communicated well and expressed yourself, and he still does not respond, ask yourself if there is something preoccupying him.
Sometimes people get caught up in their own issues and are temporarily unavailable. If it is a long-standing pattern, keep working through and talking until you come to a resolution together.
Anita Gadhia-Smith, PsyD, LCSW-C, LICSW – www.drgadhiasmith.com
In the context of romantic relationships, expressing your needs can be difficult and complex.
You may be considering the perfect timing or wording. You might also be trying to anticipate the reaction of your partner, possibly expecting the worst or fearing additional disappointment and rejection.
At that point, you are not only utilizing emotional and cognitive effort to express yourself, which is reasonable, but you are also trying to “mind read” which is counter productive and further discouraging yourself from expressing your needs. If this sounds familiar please read on!
First and foremost, decide to act!
You may not take the leap today, but agree to yourself (or even better, agree with another person too to keep you accountable), to commit to sharing your needs with your partner.
The old saying, “nothing changes if nothing changes,” is relevant here. Continuing to withhold your needs from your partner will build resentment and frustration, very likely for both of you.
Next, be genuine!
Psychological literature consistently shows that we are more likable when we are true to ourselves. You will feel less internal conflict being your natural self and your partner will see you, beautiful and humanly flawed. Transparent and genuine relationships are the healthiest and most enjoyable.
Third, start the conversation with a positive or encouraging opening.
Positive reinforcement for the things we like is the most powerful behavior modification strategy.
By appreciating things your partner already does, they will be more open to hearing the remainder of your message. Even starting off with reassuring them that you love them and know they love you sets the stage for a productive interaction.
Fourth, use “I” statements.
You may have heard this before and I repeat it here because it works. Also, the alternative will likely put your partner on the defensive and prevent them from being able to hear the remainder of your message.
For example, note the differences in your reaction if you heard the following: “I would like you to hold my hand more.” vs. “You never hold my hand.” Which way would you prefer to be approached? Also, be as specific as possible.
For example, “I would like you to hold my hand when we walk down the street,” is more likely to be achieved than saying, “I want you to be more affectionate.”
When the request feels more accomplishable, your partner will be more likely to act and feel more up to the task.
Lastly, end on a positive note.
You can ask for feedback, remind them you love them, or even ask if there is anything you can do to meet their needs better. Open dialogue and feedback are the foundations of fulfilling and meaningful relationships!
Peggy Steinbrunner, PsyD – www.horizonbehavioralhealth.org
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