“Just tell me what you want. I can’t read your mind.”
It was a couple of weeks before Valentine’s Day and my then-boyfriend had said these words to me. He wasn’t trying to get out of thinking of a romantic surprise or not do anything special for our first holiday together. Instead, he was trying to let me know that it was okay for me to ask for what I really wanted—and, to the best of his ability, he promised to fulfill my desires.
What I didn’t realize the first time he ever spoke these words to me was just how important it was to recognize your needs and wants in a relationship. Although that relationship eventually (and thankfully) ended, it’s a lesson that I slowly began to absorb as I continued my adventures in the dating world. And, now that I am about to marry the love of my life, it’s an important lesson that I use to better our communication and our relationship as a whole.
Here is the thing about dating that most people don’t realize: It is perfectly okay to be honest about what you need and want in a relationship.
No, seriously. I remember many times throughout my life where I wanted to say something to a boyfriend but felt too shy to do so or was afraid that he would judge me for it. There have been dozens of times when I stopped myself from speaking up because I didn’t want to seem needy. But the thing is, it’s actually okay to be needy.
Needy doesn’t mean that I am clinging onto his every word and don’t want to let him out of my sights. Instead, needy in this context means that I am a human being with my own opinions, my own desires, and my own views of the world. This view of the world often means that I want the person I am dating to do something a certain way or maybe say something or maybe even just answer my need for… something.
Having needs in a relationship, and in life in general, is completely natural. It doesn’t make you a bad person and, in fact, recognizing your own needs is the only way that you will ever get them fulfilled.
Here is a small list of some of the things that I now realize I need out of a relationship that I wouldn’t have gotten if I didn’t a) know that I needed these things and b) let my partner know that I these were real needs that I had.
- I need my partner to communicate with me frequently throughout the day. Whether that’s texting, G-chatting, Facebook messaging or calling, I don’t care. Whenever one of us travels, this is even more important. Constant conversation is what makes me happy, period.
- I need my partner to encourage my healthier habits but also give me a break sometimes. I’m someone who still struggles to get into a good exercise habit, though I love to cook healthy. Yet I have a hard time giving up some of my favorite treats, such as pizza and candy. So when it comes to this need, I am clear: Encourage me, but don’t be too harsh.
- I need my partner to actively engage in our love life. Look, there’s no two ways about it: I enjoy sex. That’s why a fun time between the sheets at least a couple times a week is a huge relationship need for me. Oh, and this also includes intimacy and date nights, too.
The point of me telling you all of this isn’t to brag, but simply make the point that recognizing your needs is totally valid. And, honestly, asking for those needs to be met is even more important if you want to have a good, healthy relationship.
Recently, I was re-watching an old episode of Desperate Housewives. It was funny and zany as usual, but the thing that really struck me was when Carlos Solis (the character played by Ricardo Antonio Chavira who is married to Eva Longoria’s Gabrielle on the show) said this to his wife, who was acting like a bit of a b-i-t-c-h:
“I can’t fix it unless you tell me.”
This kind of thinking really goes hand in hand with knowing what your needs and wants are and communicating them effectively to your partner.
The thing I try to remember, that my ex-boyfriend tried to clarify to me many years ago, is that nobody is a mind reader. Just as I sometimes get frustrated because my fiancé isn’t telling me exactly what he needs from me in a particular conversation (which on occasion leads to a fight) and have to remind him that I’m not a mind reader who will automatically understand his wants, he can’t understand mine either.
It’s not a judgement on either of us, really, but simply the fact that we are individuals.
That’s why, in my relationship, not only do I consider good communication a key to our happiness but I also emphasize that we need to each understand our own needs and wants—so that we can communicate those clearly.
After all, if our partner loves us (and obviously they do), they will do their very best to fulfill those needs. Just as we would for them, too.