Whether you’d like your partner to put the toilet seat down, to parent your kids differently or to adjust how they pleasure you while making love, there are many requests you’ll have of your partner to change their behaviour.
You’re a team who is creating the reality they desire, so it’s important for you to bring your preferences and desires to the table so that you can co-create together.
But requests can come across as controlling demands if you’re not mindful of how you share. On the receiving end, you don't want to just do something because your partner told you to (even if hey asked nicely), it feels best to change your behaviour because you want to and it feels in alignment with being your best self.
In many cases, partners get frustrated with each other over little things because resentment has built up over time. Unresolved arguments and wounds from the past combined with the stresses of daily life contribute to short fuses which result in minor annoyances turning into fights.
There are so many opportunities to get frustrated in partnership! Pretending to let things go or trying to convince yourself certain things don’t bother you often leads to pent up resentment.
At the same time, if you’re not mindful, you can end up unloading your stresses onto your partner. Something pops up and you react. Your reaction triggers their reaction and suddenly there’s trouble in paradise!
In many (if not all) cases, frustration stems from unmet needs. We blame our partners when we’re stressed and get annoyed with them when we think they should know better. Our expectations are high and we have strong attachments to getting our way. Sometimes we even act entitled to getting what we want.
Why don’t they just listen? Isn’t it obvious? You told them already! If only they listened to you everything would be better, right?
When we’re in this frustrated state, we make demands not requests and consequently come across as demanding, nagging, condescending, insensitive or controlling.
A demand is judgmental and insensitive. You engage your partner with a high attachment to getting your way. Your language has an air of entitlement: You need / have to do this. Why don’t you get it already? You should already be the way I want you to be. It’s not just the words you say, but the energy behind your words that matters. Are you asking from a feeling of contraction or expansion in your body and mind?
A request is collaborative and interdependent, you engage with high intention but low attachment to getting your way. Your request is held loosely, like an offering you place on a table for your partner to consider. It’s like holding out your hand for them to join you. From this place of openness you meet your partner as a sovereign empowered being giving them an opportunity to choose. You engage them with a mindset of curiosity and play wondering what you will create together. An energy of encouragement and appreciation assist your partner in being receptive to you.
When you don’t know how to make requests:
You end up holding stuff in for so long you eventually explode.
You keep bringing something up but your partner doesn’t seem to listen, so you keep at them. Underneath your frustration is a sense of helplessness and powerlessness. You don’t know how to get through to them.
Why won’t they listen?
No one likes being controlled or told what to do. The energy of control activates resistance and even rebellion in your partner. You make a request in an uncalibrated way and your partner responds with the sentiment, “You can’t control me!”
So, learning how to make requests in a way that allows your partner to receive them gracefully will go a long way toward peacefully getting more of what you want together.
Underneath every request your partner makes of you there is a motivation, a reason why that request is important to them. They’re not asking just to control you (although it might sound like that sometimes!)
There’s an art to giving and receiving requests. You are co-responsible as the Sender and Receiver to communicate effectively. It’s not your partner’s fault and no one is to blame, but rather you both have shared responsibility for creating mutual understanding.
Together, you can create an environment of safety for each other with your words and energy. With awareness and intentionality you can engage from a space of curiosity inviting out each other’s honest self-expression to be seen, felt, valued and understood.
Here’s a story that demonstrates how you can listen for purpose vs position:
There are two people arguing in a library. One person wants the window open and the other wants the window closed. They can’t come to a compromise. Hearing an argument, the librarian walks in asking, “What’s the matter?”
“I want the window open”, says the first.
“I want the window closed”, says the other.
“Why do you want the window open?” asks the librarian.
“I want some fresh air.”
“And why do you want the window closed?” she asks the other.
“I don’t want a draft.”
The librarian pauses thoughtfully. She walks into the next room and opens a window which allows in some fresh air without a draft.
How does this story apply to couples?”
Asking “why” each person wanted what they wanted unlocked the motivations that were one level deeper than the position each person took. At the level of position there was a winner and a loser. The window could either be open or closed.
At the level of purpose or motivation, they were able to collaborate to get both their preferences met.
So, when a request comes in from your partner, try asking them, “Why is this important to you?”
Similarly, before you make a request try asking yourself, “Why is this important to me?”
A request can sound like, “Would you be willing to _____.”
“I would really appreciate it if you ______. Would you be open to that?”
There are so many things to focus on in life, it can be challenging to remember all of the little things! So, be mindful of what you request. What is really important to you? How can you bring that to your partner in a gentle way?
Timing matters. Partners often interrupt each other multiple times a day, invading each other's space and crossing each other’s boundaries unintentionally expecting their partner to be present.
As you move toward consent-based communication, be mindful of when you’re entering your partner’s space and how. “Are you available?” is a simple way to request your partner’s attention.
On the receiving end you can respond, “Yes”, “In 5 minutes” or “not right now”.
Remember you’re never entitled to your partner’s attention. You’re in partnership of course because you’ve chosen to be together, but simply expecting your partner’s attention can get you into trouble. Your partner is allowed to have limits in regards to being available to receive you.
That said, with collaboration and connection as priorities in conscious partnership, it’s respectful and good practice to schedule a time to connect with your partner to hear them if you’re unavailable in the moment. You can ask, “What’s it about?” or “I’d love to be fully present to receive you, but I’m pretty low on energy right now, how about tomorrow at x time?”