How to Ask for What You Need in Your Relationships
These five steps will help you ask for what you need in your relationships. If you haven’t learned how to ask your partner, family member, boss, or neighbor for what you need, you’ll never feel confident and peaceful with the people in your life.
After considering all the comments in 8 Signs He Doesn’t Love You the Way You Need to Be Loved, I realized the time is ripe for an article that encourages women to Blossom by learning how to ask for what they need.
I’m writing this article for “Nikki”, a friend who has been going through a bitter, devastating divorce for almost three years. She and her ex-husband are suing each other for custody of their children (the youngest is 14 years old; the oldest is 22), alimony payments, houses, and the silverware. What does this have to do with learning how to ask for what you need? It’s all about their expectations – Nikki’s in particular. Her expectations of the man she married, her marriage, and her children are destroying her life.
Here on SheBlossoms, I focus on the four most important parts of your self that help you reach upwards and inwards: Creative You, Healthy You, Connected You, and Daring You. Today, our focus is Healthy You – and how your life will change if you learn how to ask your family, friends or coworkers for what you need.
First, I’ll share a story that illustrates exactly how NOT to ask for what you need. I made a big mistake with my husband the other night; I expected him to give me the comfort and support I desperately needed after a terrible experience with our dogs.
As God would have it, this terrible experience happened while Nikki and her kids were staying with us. So not only do I get to write about the importance of asking for what you need, I also get to share how our expectations get in our way.
Ready? Let’s do it.
How NOT to Ask for What You Need
While walking our dogs the other night, I ran into an off-leash dog. Rather, it ran into us – it was a big black poodle that came tearing over to us, barking and leaping and growling. My dogs were on leash, and they responded in kind. After 10 seconds of a mad dog whirlwind, the other dog’s owner pulled his dog out of the fray.
My dog – Georgie – then looked at me, lifted her front left paw off the ground, and started yowling. She looked deep into my eyes, opened her mouth halfway, and moaned. She stopped when she ran out of breath, then she opened her mouth again and gave me another long, sustained, high-pitched, forever-lasting howl.
She knew exactly how to ask for what she needed – she simply lifted her paw and howled! Unfortunately I had no idea what to do. I didn’t want to touch Georgie for fear of hurting her leg. I knelt in front of her and held my hands out. The other dog’s owner actually grabbed my dog’s leash to pull her over to him, so he could check her out (I’m assuming). I asked him to drop her leash; when he didn’t, I slapped his hand away.
That, I believe, is a very good example of how to respond when you ask for what you need, but a man doesn’t listen.
After some discussion (and mild conflict, including my chastising him for bringing his dog to a strange neighborhood and letting her off leash), we started towards home. Georgie was limping so badly, I actually carried her home.
When we got home, the gang was playing Wii. My husband came over to pat Georgie and listen to my story. He thought I was finished talking, so he went back to the games area. I wasn’t even close to being done – I was so upset at the thought of Georgie being hurt and the memory of her crying in pain while staring at me.
I kept talking, thinking the gang could hear me. But not only were they not listening, they actually started talking about what game they should play next, golf versus tennis, etc etc. I was devastated! I needed to talk so badly, I was so upset, and all they cared about was their stupid computer game.
So I fed the dogs and went to bed. If there was ever a time for me to start listing all the things to remember when it seems like no one cares, it was then!
And I cried, and cried, and cried. I wasn’t just crying for Georgie and the horrible experience of listening to her howl in pain, I cried for how Nikki and her ex-husband are ripping their family apart with this divorce. I cried for a 10 year old girl I knew who recently died from leukemia. I cried for Nice, for the survivors of the innocent victims of the terrorist attacks. I also cried for my 57 year old friend Shannon, who died from cancer and ALS on December 20.
I needed to cry, clearly. And I expected my husband to know what I needed when I came home – but I didn’t know how to ask him for comfort.
5 Steps to Asking for What You Need
It’s not enough to simply learn how to ask for what you need, because simply asking doesn’t guarantee you’ll get anything! If you’ve prayed for anything, you know this is true.
These four steps will help you figure out what your expectations are. This, in turn, will help you ask for what you need. And – even better – it will help you be 100% okay with whatever happens after you make your needs known.
1. Be aware of your expectations
I expected my husband to know that I needed to talk about Georgie. I expected him to be listening and supportive, comforting and understanding. I needed someone on my side! He didn’t do anything wrong or bad…he just didn’t know the depth of my pain and need. How could he know this? I didn’t tell him.
Nikki’s expectations of her husband and children have much deeper roots. She helped her husband get through years of medical school, and she expected him to support her after he paid off his student loans and established himself as a doctor. Instead, he unexpectedly left her and she has to learn how to survive a divorce. She also expects her kids to be on her side and to take care of her when she gets old. Instead, she thinks they are choosing their father’s side.
Before you think about asking for what you need, consider your expectations. What do you expect from the people or situation?
2. Question your expectations
In hindsight, I see I was wrong for expecting my husband to know I needed to talk more about our dog. He was entertaining friends, they were having fun, and I didn’t make my needs known. It was a mistake for me to assume – to expect – that my husband knows every thing I need. Half the time, I don’t even know what I need! But God knows. Maybe I didn’t need to talk more. Maybe what I really needed was a good long cry, to cleanse my heart, mind, and spirit of all the grief I’d been carrying around with me. So maybe I got what I really needed, even though I didn’t know how to ask for it.
About Nikki’s expectations – is it right for her to expect her husband to support and care for her the way she supported and cared for him? Maybe, but I don’t think so. I hope and pray that my husband will be there for me in the future, but I don’t expect it. Is it right for Nikki to expect her children to side with her and be there for her forever, because she says she sacrificed her whole life for them? Maybe, but I don’t think so. She chose to sacrifice her life for her husband and kids, and she has no right to expect anything from them.
But, she has every right to ask for what she needs.
3. Let go of your expectations
Before you practice asking for what you need, let go of your expectations of how things “should” be. It doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong. Nikki may be 100% right that her husband should support her the rest of her life. Doesn’t matter. That expectation is poison that is eating her up, ripping her family apart, and destroying her relationships.
What expectations are buried underneath the things and people you think you need? Dig them up. Question them. Then, set your expectations free.
4. Learn how to ask for what you need
“Finally,” you’re thinking. “Finally, she’s gonna tell me how to ask for what I need!”
You better believe it.
Here’s what you say: “Georgie, I need you to stop howling and staring at me, because I have no idea how to make your pain go away.” Georgie may or may not stop screaming – because the fact that I asked for what I needed does not mean that I will get it.
Or you could say, “Husband, I need you to come upstairs and hear me tell you what just happened to me. It was terrible, and I have to talk to you.” Husband may or may not acquiesce, but that’s fine. I have released my expectations.
Or you could say, “Ex-husband, I need you to provide for me financially, socially, and emotionally for the rest of my life because I feel like you owe it to me, based on the years I’ve sacrificed for you.” Great, you asked! And you are aware of your own expectations, and you have let go of the idea that anybody owes you anything.
What do you need? You could practice asking below, in the comments section. I can almost guarantee that I won’t be able to give you what you need, but it never hurts to ask! Before you ask for what you need, though, write down your expectations of the situation.
5. Trust God to give you what you need
There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking God for stuff! In fact, Jesus told us to ask, and keep asking until we get what we’re asking for. And if you ask with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, your prayers will be answered.
Remember, though, that you must be aligned with the Holy Spirit before your requests will be granted by God. You can’t just decide you want or need X and then ask God to give it to you. Rather, you need to pray in Spirit – you need to be open to letting go of your own expectations and receiving His will for your life.
The best part of my horrible experience with Georgie’s pain is that God gave me what I needed. He gave me emotional release – I needed to cry so badly for all the terrible things I’d let pile up in my soul. I didn’t even know how much I needed to grieve until I started crying and couldn’t stop.
Are you struggling with forgiveness in a relationship? Read 7 Steps to Forgiving Someone for Breaking Your Heart.
Sometimes we don’t need to know how to ask for what we need. We just need to accept and surrender. We need to allow ourselves to Blossom in ways that surprise us, and to heal in ways we don’t expect. Ask for what you think you need, and be open to receiving what God knows you need.
“You do not have, because you do not ask. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” – James 4:3.