Truthfully, asking for what you need in a relationship can be really effing difficult. Even if you feel totally at ease with your partner, there's such a stigma around coming across as "needy" (especially for women) that it can make you anxious to voice any concerns you have or dissatisfaction you feel in your relationship. However, everyone has romantic needs — so why should "neediness" be a negative thing? Knowing how to communicate what you need and want from your partner is a crucial component of a healthy relationship, but before you can do that, you need to get in touch with what your needs are in the first place — which isn't all that easy, either.
"First of all, many people aren't even consciously aware of what their emotional and sexual needs are," Devi Ward Erickson, creator and founder of Authentic Tantra, tells Bustle. "They may just have a subtle feeling of not being satisfied, but aren't entirely clear about what that is, or what they would like to experience instead. It’s hard to ask for something you don’t know how to identify or articulate."
Simply put, it can be confusing to figure out exactly what you want and need from a romantic partner. It takes a lot of self-reflection about your relationship to pinpoint what exactly your love life is lacking. But once you identify a potential problem — for example, maybe you want more physical affection from your partner outside the bedroom — it's imperative that you feel comfortable having a discussion with your partner about that. Unfortunately, that's often easier said than done, even for the most in-tune couples.
Why Is It So Difficult To Ask For What We Need?
It takes a lot of courage to sit down with your partner and have an open, honest discussion about something within your relationship that you feel needs to change, whether that's the division of chores or how often you have sex. Having the conversation in the first place is a sign that you love and care about your partner — if you weren't interested in making things work, why even bother bringing it up? — but it's still scary, because it requires you to be vulnerable, as well as risk hurting your partner's feelings (because they might be upset they weren't "doing enough").
"Asking for our needs to be met requires us to be extremely vulnerable," Erickson says. "It requires feeling safe in your relationship, and having trust that your partner will hear and receive you without judgement... [This] can be especially challenging for younger people, who have had less experience navigating the sometimes murky waters of relationships, and are still in the process of discovering a strong sense of self."
Why You Should Never Be Ashamed To Vocalize Your Needs
When you're overall satisfied with your partner and your relationship, sweeping small issues under the rug can seem like an easy solution. But if you don't communicate with your partner about what you need from them, how do you expect things to get better? Although it can be tempting to bite your tongue, letting your concerns about your relationship — no matter how "trivial" they seem — fester will put you on a fast-track to resenting your partner.
"Being able to ask for what you want in bed and in your relationship both stems from and enlarges a sense of empowerment and self-worth."
"Not asking for what you want in a relationship can make you have much less pleasure and joy, and eventually stop thriving in that relationship," Marthe Schneider, co-founder and co-developer of Authentic Tantra, tells Bustle. "From there resentment, disconnection, and misunderstanding grow. Being able to ask for what you want in bed and in your relationship both stems from and enlarges a sense of empowerment and self-worth."
How To *Not* Feel Like You're Being Needy
Now the hard part: how do you get comfortable communicating your wants and needs without feeling like you're being "needy"? The first step, Erickson says, is recognizing that you're worthy of having your needs met, and that you deserve to feel totally fulfilled in your relationship.
"Know and decide that you are worthy of having your needs met," Erickson says. "If you are in a healthy relationship, your partner will be excited to meet your needs, not angry that you have expressed them. In Tantra we define 'love' as desiring happiness and pleasure for our partner. So if you are in a healthy relationship, chances are your partner will be delighted (or at least very open) to hearing more about what could make the experience even better for both of you."
Next, do some self-reflection to get clear about what your needs are — because you can't fix a problem if you can't articulate what it is that's bothering you. "If you could have anything you wanted in your intimate relationship, no limits at all, what would that be?" Erickson asks. "What would that look like and how would that feel for you? Having this very clear understanding of what [you] must have in order to feel fulfilled in a relationship helps [you] feel more empowered in asking for that from [your] current or future partner."
The Best Way To Express Your Needs
Then, all that's left to do is sit down with your partner — at a time when neither of you are stressed, preoccupied, or upset — and lay everything out on the table. Express what you need more of, and more importantly, why it's something you desire in the relationship. Don't be accusatory; instead, focus on "I" statements (for example: "I feel more loved when you surprise me with small gifts"). It's also important to be open to your partner voicing their needs in return — because relationships are a two-way street, and both parties deserve to feel supported, loved, and cherished.
"To remain in a relationship that does not consistently meet your needs is, quite frankly, damaging to your sense of self-worth and value."
"One of the signposts of a healthy relationship is feeling safe expressing your feelings and thoughts, and having those feelings heard and acknowledged," Erickson says. "There is absolutely no reason for you to remain in a relationship in which your core, fundamental needs are not being consistently met. To remain in a relationship that does not consistently meet your needs is, quite frankly, damaging to your sense of self-worth and value."
Ultimately, you should *never* be ashamed to ask for what you need in a relationship. It might be uncomfortable at first to be so point-blank about what you want, but remember that healthy relationships are built on mutual trust and open communication. No matter who you are, you deserve a relationship that leaves you feeling satisfied, and you shouldn't settle for something less than what you want, just because you're too intimidated to voice your concerns. If your partner is truly a keeper, they'll be more than happy to put in a little effort to make sure you feel loved, every day.