We start by prioritizing our relationship(s) and finding time for those who are important to us.  If we neglect to do that life moves along and we can lose touch. A close relationship is like a dance. When one person moves, the other one responds. The dance can go really well when you are in step with each other and really badly when toes get stepped on.

One of the ways that toes get stepped on is when one person has an expectation and the other one completely misses it. The expectation is that if the other person truly cared they would know what was needed. The attitude and emotion expressed is usually intense, “You should know, I shouldn’t have to tell you!”

Does that phrase sound familiar? The reality is that we are not that good at reading each other. Opening up and sharing your needs and wants is an important part in building a strong relationship, but it is hard to do.  There are a number of reasons for this.

If the explanation of what it is that you need or want is coloured by an attitude of frustration, the response will likely be defensive, the partner may withdraw, feel unsafe, and the dance will go badly.

It’s hard to ask for what you want, but necessary

Sometimes we are out of touch with what we need and want, and when we are aware of what it is we don’t want to talk about it. We object that we shouldn’t have to, they should just know! However the reality is that their brains are just wired differently, and they can’t read your mind. Their perceptions may also be fogged by other things going on in their life.

For many people it doesn’t feel safe or okay to have a need. This may have something to do with the way in which they were raised. If they weren’t encouraged as children to share what they were feeling or thinking, taking steps to learn to open up may be challenging.

It takes emotional strength to be vulnerable and to share a need. Exposing our soft under belly involves risk taking. But the risk of not connecting is far worse. The interesting thing about opening up and sharing a weakness or a need is that when you are being real the other person will be able to connect with you at a deeper level. When this happens you will feel so much closer. When you feel the understanding and the compassionate response of the other person you know you are connecting well.

Written by Duncan Nalos

Duncan Nalos is a Marriage and Family Therapist at Counsel Me
in Abbotsford B.C.