Synopsis: We begin with the unsaid thoughts and how they affect love relationships; then look at requesting fears; requesting as a gift; the failure of expectations; and the ‘cure actions’ that really work.
Unsaid Thoughts“I leave him love notes but he never does that for me”, “Why do I have to always be the one who initiates lovemaking”, “I keep hinting that he could bring me flowers but he never gets it”, “I don’t know why she’s never happy when my friends come over to watch football but I wish she would be”, “When something is wrong I wish he would stop trying to fix it by giving me advice and instead just show me some care. Why doesn’t he do that”.
Why are the people who are saying these things not getting what they want?
To each of these people one could ask, “Have you directly asked him or her to do what you want?”. It is amazing what the variety of responses to this type question are, “I shouldn’t have to ask, he (or she) is supposed to know”, “I have griped and complained about it, isn’t that enough”, “I keep expecting he (or she) will figure it out”, “I don’t know why I suffer in silence but I do”, “It’s just not fair”, “If he (or she) really loves me they would know what to do, wouldn’t they”, “It spoils it if I have to ask.” All of these replies mean that the true answer to the question is “NO! I haven’t actually, directly and clearly asked for what I want.”
Requesting FearsLots of people have lots of different fears concerning making direct requests. Some people are afraid that their requests will sound like, or be taken as, a controlling demand or command. Others fear they will sound too selfish. Still others have an apprehension that they will hear a personal rejection in the reply they get. There are people who don’t have enough healthy self-love to think that they are worthy enough or have the right to make direct requests A fair number of people grew up in homes and cultural spheres where it was considered rude, immodest or improper to make a direct personal request. Then there are those who feel that to make a clear, direct requests is unsafe because it exposes something that is true about themselves, therefore, it may make them vulnerable to harm or manipulation.
Some people fear that directly and clearly asking for what they want will take some of the mystery and romance out of the relationship. What I find is that directly ‘asking for what you want’ takes out of the relationship many of the misunderstandings that trigger fights and hurtful disappointments. If you rely on expectations, expect to be disappointed because that’s what usually happens. Instead be brave enough to ask for what you want and you might get it.
The Gift of RequestingRequesting something personal of someone can be a gift because it tells a person that they have something you find desirable and perhaps commendable. Therefore, it shows you value them. That can be and often is taken as a compliment.
When you tell someone what you want in a clear and direct manner you give them a gift of knowing something personal and real about yourself. You have self-disclosed a desire and in doing so you have shared a small bit of yourself. It also shows you have been brave enough to give them the chance to accommodate or reject your request, thus, giving them a position of importance. The simple act of requesting things like “Can I have a hug”, Let’s get together and talk”, I want to take you to the movies”, “I would like to spend more time with you, just you” or anything else you truly and personally want with or from a person, presents the person you are talking to with a revealing bit of data about yourself.
The gift of Self-disclosure also occurs when you ask for help like when you say something like “I really don’t know how to do this could you help me with it”. Even more revealing are saying things like “I really long for your praise and compliments, would you tell me that you love me more often”, “I want to make mad, passionate love with you and I hope you want the same with me”. Each request helps you go a little bit more ‘psychologically naked’ with the person you are making the request of.
The Failure of ExpectationsIt is important to know that if you are talking accurately you have a better chance of getting what you want, than if you are talking in ‘fuzzy’ ways that are open to multiple understandings, or in ways that can be fairly easily misunderstood and misinterpreted. Unfortunately a very high percentage of personal communication is much more easily misunderstood and misinterpreted than most people realize. Expectations are particularly prone to being mis-communicated. In couples counseling I’ve heard people say “I know what I mean, why don’t you”? Perhaps it is because they have not said what they want as a clear and direct request.
Research suggests that when people have an expectation, or something they identify as an expectation, they do less about it and say less about it than if they identify it as a want or a desire. Thus, when you desire something called an expectation or when you have an expectation you are likely to insufficiently communicate about it in an insufficiently active way which inhibits achieving it. After all, it was something you ‘expected’ so why should you say anything or do anything about it?
Expectation means you are counting on it, and you think it will or should happen. Subconsciously this erroneously means that you don’t have to do anything about it and you subconsciously think that other people will have the same understanding as you do, and that they also think it will or should happen. This leads to no one being responsible for making something happen, and then in many circles everyone is blaming someone else for it not happening. “I expected you to take me out on my birthday, and all you did is get me a card and flowers.”, “You had to know I was counting on you to show up on time, and you didn’t even go to the trouble to find out what time you should be there”, “You must have meant to insult me, because surely you knew you were supposed to ask me to dance first.”
These are but a few examples of people relying on expectations instead of making requests for what they want. Here are a few more that are a bit more serious. “I was counting on you to take care of the contraception thing, and now you tell me you were counting on me.” “I absolutely thought you knew I loved you, and you just weren’t interested.” What do you mean you didn’t bring our passports, isn’t that the man’s job. My father always did.”
The CureThere is an old teaching that goes something like this: Expect nothing, Want everything, and Clearly ask for what you want, or Get it yourself because that’s your best chance of having it. Especially is this true in love relationships; making clear requests about everything you want: small, medium and large, enhances communication, cooperation, team work, collaboration, mutual understanding and closeness.
If you are not used to asking for what you want directly and clearly, start practicing. You can ask people what they heard you request to see if they really understood it. You may get surprised at the answers you get. Are you dependent on other people ‘reading your mind’, having a crystal ball or magically just knowing what you expect or desire of them? Do you blame them when they don’t get it right?
Let me suggest there are two places it is really best for you to know that you have to ask for what you want rather exactly. One is in a restaurant and the other is in a love relationship. Consider the woman who after 10 years of getting wimpy, wispy, little, quick kisses finally said, “I want hard, passionate, long, French kisses” and right away she began to get them. All she had to do was ask. Now, you may not always get what you want but you have a much better chance when you request in a direct and clear way.
As always – Go and Grow with Love
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly
Do you want to unknowingly go uninformed and be in the dark about what other people expect or want of you?