Asking For What You Need

For our relationships to be truly healthy, we must first learn what it is that we need from our mate … and then learn how to ask for it. Many people have trouble accepting their needs. Many feel it is not healthy or spiritual to have needs, that it’s OK to want the love of a partner, but to need it, well… We like to remind people that we are all multidimensional beings. We are spiritual beings having a human experience, and we are human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings needing to give our love and blessings, and we are human beings needing to be loved and blessed. We have a parent part of us longing to nurture, and a child part needing to be nurtured. For most people, the child part is the most difficult to accept. This is the need to feel special, to be accepted, loved, heard, held, and taken care of.

As for the second step toward a healthy relationship, asking for what you need from your partner can be challenging, especially if you are feeling vulnerable and needing to be supported and nurtured. Fears of rejection come to the front and may block you from reaching out, with thoughts such as, “My partner is too busy, I won’t bother her.” “Maybe he won’t be in the mood to want to hug me.” “He is incapable of giving me what I really need.” “She might think I’m weak, so it would be better not to ask.”

We have a four-year-old Golden Retriever named Charley who is a beautiful model for pushing past seemingly rejecting situations to get what he needs. Charley has a need to be appreciated and petted by everyone. We often walk Charley and our other dog, Ginger, on our local beach. Ginger is content to walk by our side chasing balls as we throw them to her. Charley also loves chasing balls, but his greatest love is attention from people. When he sees someone sitting on the beach, he runs to be petted. All he wants is one little pet on the head and then, feeling acknowledged, he runs off as happy as can be. We watch as people often put up all sorts of resistance at seeing a hundred pound, soaking wet dog come running at them full speed. Arms and legs go out to try to stop this exuberant invasion of their private space. He does finally stop inches from their face, if he manages to get past their stiff arms or legs, waits for one pat on the head and merrily goes on his way. If the person is shy about petting him, then a wet and sandy paw comes up on their lap or shoulder, letting the person know in no uncertain terms, “I will not go away until you give me your full attention.” Almost without exception, people pet him and then call out, “What a nice dog.”

Charley pushes past and ignores people’s resistance to him. It’s as if inside he were thinking, “I need a pat on my head and I know that person would love to give it to me.” That attitude has gotten him through the most seemingly rejecting of situations.

In our counseling situations, I find myself telling people about Charley whenever they think they cannot reach out to loved ones in times of need. The truth is that Charley makes people happy. His great need for affection offers people a chance to give. Likewise, our need for support and love offers our loved ones a chance to give. We don’t need to approach at full running speed while soaking wet. Yet we could approach a person with our vulnerability, saying things like, “I’m feeling scared and need support and you are the person I most want to be supported by.” “I feel sad and need the comfort of your arms around me.” “I feel confused and need your love and wisdom.”

We need to remember that our partners and loved ones have a great need to give love and support. As we come to them, we give them a gift as well as offering a safe place for them to come to us. Giving and receiving of support and nurturing is a beautiful part of relationship.

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