“It is necessary, and even vital, to set standards for your life and the people you allow in it.”
~ Mandy Hale
After the conquest subsides and a relationship settles into a comfortable zone, you inevitably will be faced with the dilemma of not always having your needs met.
A desire for your partner to STEP UP can be translated as you wanting your needs met and a desire to be connected more deeply to your partner.
If you have ever read the book The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Gary Chapman,
It outlines five ways to express and experience love that Chapman calls “love languages”: gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch.
Chapman’s book claims that the list of five love languages is exhaustive. Chapman argues that, emotionally, people need to receive love. He also writes that people should not use the love languages that they like the most but rather the love languages that their loved ones can receive.
Talking to your partner about how you prefer to receive love is more of the challenge.
Choosing to talk about how you feel when you are emotional and reactionary will never accomplish anything. When reactionary, you can tend to fall into the attack mode and then no one will want to listen.
Consider that all these factors when talking to your loved one about your needs:
1. Remember to send the message about how you feel, not that they failed.
2. Never talk about this subject when you are emotional or reactionary.
It will just set off alarms of fight or flight in your partner’s brain.
3. Help your partner understand his or her own language of love first before talking about your own.
This will help them connect the message in a real and meaningful way for them.
4. Be patient.
New habits take time to develop. When building a new pattern it can take weeks of practice. We all default to our comfort zones in how we interact in the world. Time, patience, dedication and good conversations will allow for this topic to be kept alive without nagging and criticism.
5. Finally, make sure you do not get all your needs met by your partner.
There is no way that one partner can fulfill all of your needs. Make sure you have balance in your life socially, physically, and emotionally and are surrounded by others who can round out your life.
Julie Kurtz, LMFT – www.juliekurtz.com
If you find yourself in a situation where you want your man to step up, it’s important to get clear about what that would look like to you.
- Do you want him to call more often?
- Do you want to hang out more often?
- Do you need more affection?
- What is it that you are looking for him to do differently?
The more clarity about your needs that you have, the easier it will be for you to communicate your needs, as well as to get them met.
When you have a clear idea of what you want in a relationship, you will be better adept at expressing your needs, both explicitly and implicitly.
Take some time to make a list of all the things you don’t want in a relationship and then take that list and use it to make another similar list of all the things you do want in your relationship. You will be creating a relationship vision. Once you have a relationship vision, now it’s time to talk to your partner about it.
Talking to a partner about your needs, especially if you are not used to expressing them can seem daunting but it doesn’t have to be.
Look at the discussion as a way for you to share your vision and to see if his vision matches it. Don’t you want a partner who has a similar vision as yours?
Invite him into your world and see if this is really where he wants to be. It’s important to communicate on a regular basis about needs, wants, expectations and the couple vision.
Being on the same page is going to be important to the overall homeostasis of your relationship.
If you two are on the same page, then work on expressing what you need in the relationship to feel more fulfilled. If you two have a different vision, it’s time to evaluate if this relationship is serving you. Either way, you will feel more empowered by expressing yourself in your relationship.
Amanda Patterson, LMHC – www.amandapattersonlmhc.com
Be careful not to be too demanding either.
Have you had a discussion with you partner regarding where you are at in the relationship and what you need from him at this stage in the relationship?
Praise and validate the effort that your partner is making when doing something that meets your needs.
Speak the same language. Do not assume that he will understand what you are asking for. If he does not follow through on something, it does not mean he does not care or he is a liar. What does his behavior symbolize or represent to you?
Check in with yourself and ask yourself if you are being fair and if your expectations are realistic where you are at in the relationship.
Use I statements and be clear about how you feel. “I feel like you do not care when you forget to call me.”
Holding a partner accountable can be a tricky thing.
It is important not to ignore your own needs in a relationship. When communicating with your partner, you must be clear about your needs. Mean what you say and say what you mean. Don’t hold back and expect him to read your mind.
Give your partner the opportunity to step up and meet your needs.
If you have asked for your partner to step up in the relationship, it is important to follow through and hold your partner accountable. Don’t let something slide because it will ultimately cause you to resent your partner for not providing what you need. If you don’t tell your partner what you need, you are cheating him of the opportunity to step up in the relationship and grow.
Check in with your partner and let him know the specifics of what you need.
- Do you want him to call you every day or make time for you during the week?
- Do you need acknowledgement or affection?
- What does that look like for you?
- Is it a hug and kiss when you see each other or a thank you after preparing a meal?
What you say is as important and how you say it.
If you have agreements in place and he does not follow through, then you might need to re-evaluate how you are communicating your needs and if he is able to hear what you are asking for.
If he is consistently ignoring your needs, then this might not be the relationship for your. If he is trying but may not get it right, then you may need to clarify your expectations.
Be mindful and do not shame your partner because he failed at something.
We have the ability to bring out the best in a man or the worst in him depending on the words we choose to use. Ask him to respond to what you are asking for and evaluate whether he understands what you are saying.
Reflective listening is a way to communicate that involves seeking to understand your idea by offering the idea back to you in order to confirm that the expectation has been understood accurately.
A simple example would be,
“I need to feel connected to you and I would like you to call me or text me at least once a day.”
Your partner might say,
“What I hear you say is that you need me to check in with you once a day by phone or by text to feel connected to me.”
Ileana Hinojosa, MLA, LMFT – www.themindfullife.net
When we want change in our partners it does not help to come from a place of criticism, blame or attack.
These are all completely counter-productive! However, it might feel like that is easier said than done if we feel unheard or ignored and have a lot of frustration or disappointment to manage. So it helps to be aware of ourselves and the story we have, and to work with that before we approach our partner and request that they make more effort.
It may help to see a counselor to work through some of the feelings, which lead to a defensive stance in order to be open to coming from love.
Then, make some time to talk to your partner and give him/her a heads up about what you want to talk about. This way they don’t feel ambushed. Set an intention for what you want to end feeling after the conversation.
Perhaps it is just that you do not resort to becoming defensive but remain open and loving.
If the conversation starts to deteriorate take a time out or call for a pause. Gather yourself and become mindful of being centered and aware.
Try to frame your request in a way that is not critical or negative.
Don’t winge or whine! You might start by saying something positive or appreciative of your partner. You could start by saying how much you appreciate what they do in regard to something specific, working hard, caring for the kids, doing the bills, whatever it is.
Then you might explain that you would like some assistance because you are feeling overwhelmed or exhausted (or whatever it is that you are feeling.) But be careful not to let the conversation generate into negativity.
Even if your partner resists or becomes defensive,
“But I always or you never..” remain firm in your intention to be compassionate and understanding. Whatever it is that you are wanting: more connection, more romance, more sex, come from a place of love and compassion.
Be understanding and willing to listen to your partner’s response and be prepared to really try and get them.
But hold onto your own needs even if your partner does not validate them and persist in standing your ground from this place of love. Ultimately as Gandhi so famously said, we need to be the change we want to see in the world.
Margie Ulbrick, LLB/BA/GD SOCSCI – www.margieulbrickcounselling.com
The “Step Up” conversation can go south quickly, particularly when it begins with “We need to talk…” and includes “You don’t ______ enough anymore.” Those phrases activate defenses and lead to disengagement or counterattacks more than constructive conversation.
Before you go down that road, consider the following:
1. Maybe he’s just not that into you.
He may not say it outright because he doesn’t want to hurt your feelings, but actions speak louder than words. Unless you know how he feels about you from past behavior, you may want to take the hint and move on.
2. If the two of you had connection before and it seems to be fading, ask yourself:
- Am I doing enough to meet his needs?
- Am I doing anything that’s pushing him away?
Before you talk about him not meeting your needs, check to see if there’s a problem on your end. Perhaps you have taken him for granted, or your frustration has begun to leak out in your tone, body language, or being short with him. If so, start by treating him the way you want to be treated and consider starting the conversation with an apology.
Speak his love language, whether it’s through touch, joining him in an activity he enjoys, building him up with words of affirmation, or doing something nice to take something off his plate or show him you care.
We tend to be interested in those who show interest in us, so you may be able to reignite the flame simply through acts of kindness.
3. If you decide to move ahead and still feel the need to discuss the situation, focus on the positive–what you like and hope for–not on what he hasn’t been giving you.
Something like “I really love spending time with you” or “Hearing from you is the highlight of my day” is much more inviting than, “You don’t pay attention to me anymore.”
Avoid “you” statements, which come across as blame, and use “we” statements that cast a vision for the kind of relationship you would like to have.
Let him know what you’ve liked that he’s done in the past (i.e., “I love it when…”), and rather than harping on the problem, focus on the solution, (“It would be great if we could…”).
If he really does care for you and his inattentiveness is only the result of a momentary slip, then hopefully these tips will help you get the relationship back on track… and maybe even increase his respect for you when he sees that you handle things in a mature manner without blaming, shaming, and punishing him.
Love and grace are very attractive!
Dr. April Minatrea – www.freedomc3.com
Your relationship with your significant other is an equal partnership.
It’s a give and take, moving and flowing experience, so you both feel secure, safe and important. But sometimes, you may feel you are not a priority and that your partner is not giving you his all or the attention, nurturing, and commitment you desire.
How do you handle that?
This is a sensitive subject because there are many factors involved.
First, he may be just not “into” you so his attention and involvement are elsewhere.
If you feel like you are second fiddle to his softball game, night out with the guys, or he is unavailable too many times, it may be time to move on and find someone who truly finds you irresistible and special.
Second, he may be the type who has a difficult time showing affection or reaching out demonstrably.
If that’s the case, you need to decide if you want to be with someone who is not meeting your emotional or physical needs.
Third, if you’ve never told him what you like or want, it may be a good time to have a conversation stating how important it is to get an occasional text, or call to just check in.
He may be clueless and with a little prompting, he could step up and make the kind of changes that would make you feel more secure and loved.
All relationships take work and some relationships are a little more challenging, but if you think your relationship is worth the effort, state your needs with determination and assertiveness.
You are important and what you need in a relationship is important, so don’t dismiss your concerns because you are afraid you’ll lose your beau. Instead, be bold, because a healthy relationship depends on it!
Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com
If life is just a song, then our relationships are the dance that goes along with it.
The trouble is, while women want their men to lead, some of them simply have “two left feet.”
While some men are natural leaders, others suffer greatly when attempting to lead in the “quality time” department.
I’ve seen several couples as a licensed professional counselor, and for most of them, the women had no problems communicating their needs via face to face exchanges, telephone conversations, via text, and any other way one can think to communicate.
The problem is, their communication efforts were usually not reciprocated.
I do imagine that some of the men in those particular relationships may have been resistant, but for many, they just weren’t motivated. What motivates a man to call, text, and make his woman a priority?
Before I give you 5 tips for creating an environment of healthy quality time, I’ll first tell you what does not motivate men. I’ve spoken about it several times in prior posts; nagging!
In my professional opinion, the most likely method to ensure that a man does nothing to change is to nag him. Nagging is just counter-productive and demeaning.
I suggest women use the 5 steps instead:
1. Take self inventory.
I often stress the concept of knowing thyself and this is essential here. We often want things in relationships that we don’t personally give. Many women want more time and attention from their men, but healthy and positive attention is not something that the women may offer.
2. Model the love you want.
The law of attraction is paramount here; to get more love, women should display more love. The idea is to model exactly what you prefer to receive, but refrain from nagging before he has a chance to exhibit his love to you.
Some women exclude themselves from getting positive attention from their men because of their own negative attitudes.
3. Assume that your partner does not read minds.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with a respectful face to face dialogue session about expectations. I do believe that partners should check in often about their individual and collective goals for the relationship.
This should take place at an agreed upon time with as little interruptions as possible. Even this “expectation talk” sets the tone for the need for uninterrupted quality time in the relationship.
4. Notice his efforts.
I have a saying that “all progress is progress.” Comment on the fact that he is making an effort and this will in turn motivate him to continue to do those things that are important to you.
When a woman shows a man that she respects him, as evidenced by her willingness to follow, she gives him the freedom to lead in his own way. The more respect he gets, the more love he will display.
5. Remember that relationships take time to build, then re-build.
If you keep this in mind, your relationship will not go stagnate, because you are always looking for ways to add zest to the partnership. Since it is a partnership, it is important to remember that things always flow easier when the two parties are facing the same direction-towards a positive future.
Dr. Kirsten Person-Ramey – www.linkedin.com/in/kirsten-ramey
It is a common complaint from women that their male partner is not putting as much effort into the relationship as they would like.
A general concern is that they do not want to be taken for granted. If you are feeling this way about your relationship you may want to discuss these concerns with your partner. I suggest you consider the following:
1. How long have you been together?
The length of your relationship affects how you approach this discussion.
- If you’ve been together for a year or longer then it is appropriate to discuss what you miss and how the changes in your partner’s actions affect your feelings about the relationship.
- If you’ve been together less than a year it is more appropriate to have an exploratory conversation to find out if you and your partner have the same values and goals for the relationship.
2. What do you want and need?
Before approaching your partner it is important for you to become clear about what you want and need.
The desires of “I want him to make more effort” or “I don’t’ want to be taken for granted” are too general.
Consider what actions your partner could take that would help you to feel those needs are being met. Also, it is helpful to know what those actions would provide you.
As an example: you want your partner to make more of an effort, you determine that him calling more demonstrates that and upon reflection you realize that him calling provides you with the feeling of connection and would reassure you that he wants to connect with you.
It is helpful to know what you need and want, so you can communicate that to your partner.
It may seem obvious to you what you want your partner to do, but it will not be obvious to him.
3. Express the positive.
Before you express how your needs aren’t being met be sure you have expressed to him what he is doing “right”. It is important to express appreciation for any recent or past efforts and to share what his actions provided you.
“Thank you for the text you sent me. When you send me texts during the day it helps me feel connected to you and provides me with reassurance that our connection is important to you.”
Everyone needs positive reinforcement. It is difficult for anyone to know what to do if they are not clear on what they’ve done right or don’t know why certain actions are important.
4. Avoid “You” statements and generalizations.
Examples include: “You always…”. “You never….”, “You don’t make me a priority…” or “You take me for granted”. These types of statements often cause the other person to feel attacked, which often leads to an argument instead of a constructive conversation.
Instead use “I” statements that focus on how you feel and what you are wanting or needing.
For example: “I would like more time together. Lately I’ve been feeling uncertain about how important I am to you. Spending more time together would help me feel important to you and reassure me that you are just as invested in the relationship as I am. I’m wondering if you’re available to make more time for us?”
This approach helps facilitate clear communication.
Laura Rinset, MS, LMFT – www.linkedin.com/in/laurarinset
There is a truism in the world of family therapy.
This truism should be heeded with the same gravity as Newton’s Laws of Relativity. It should probably be heeded more because as truisms go it’s the one that will affect every relationship in your life.
Here it is: “The degree to which one member of a relationship overfunctions, the other person will underfunction”.
Think about this. The moment you get anxious about a lack of effort from your partner, the tendency to overfunction kicks in. It’s hard to just sit with anxiety. It’s human nature to want to step in and fix it so that the anxiety goes away.
When the issue belongs to you, the anxiety could be an important sign that you might be underfunctioning.
For instance, you have a project due at work. You’re procrastinating. As the due date gets closer, your anxiety goes up. Your anxiety is telling you that if you don’t step it up, there will be some negative consequences to your career. Good anxiety. It’s helping you to pay attention.
When your anxiety is escalating because you perceive that your partner isn’t doing his share of the relationship work, that too is useful.
It lets you know that some part of the relationship dynamic isn’t working for you. It’s important to pay attention.
You can’t address a problem with your partner if you don’t know what the problem is. Check in with your own functioning first. Maybe you haven’t been very available; have you let stress interfere with your relationship?
However, if he’s underfunctioning, you can only let him know how you feel.
If you’re too afraid to tell him, then something is wrong with the trust and communication in the relationship. Fear should never motivate your behavior. And doing his part for him only guarantees that he will never step up.
I wish that I could promise that if you stop overfunctioning his functioning will improve.
Unfortunately, that may or may not happen. What I can promise you is that if you continue to overfunction, his functioning will never improve. Where’s his motivation? You’re obviously willing to do the work for him!
Figuring out your part is one of the critical aspects of forming a functional relationship.
It requires thought and communication by both partners. You need to be able to identify your expectations and your goals. You need to be able to listen to his.
You deserve to be with someone who shares your commitment to growing the relationship.
If he doesn’t send you texts, doesn’t initiate contact, or in other ways indicates that he’s not really very motivated, you might just want to cut him loose.
It’s no fun feeling like the only engine driving the train.
Remember, if you do the work for him this over/underfunctioner dynamic will never change. You will never have an equally committed, functional partner. It’s just not worth it.
Sally Leboy, MS, MFT – www.sallyleboymft.com
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