Making a Safe Space for Requests
One of the easiest ways to create a sense of harmony and partnership in your relationship is to make specific and do-able requests to meet your needs. When you take responsibility for yourself by asking for what you need, you avoid two big pitfalls in relationship.
One, you're less likely to play a silent guessing game with your partner and then resent each other later because the guesses weren't accurate.
Two, you become interdependent rather co-dependent. In a co-dependent relationship you have a sense of obligation and assume responsibility for each other's feelings and needs in an unspoken and often unconscious way. In an interdependent relationship you choose from your heart to contribute to your partner's well being based on clarity about what truly is a contribution.
Though you may clearly intend to create an interdependent relationship, making specific requests to have your needs met can be a scary thing. You and your partner may both have grown up learning that it is selfish to have needs much less make requests about them. Even more difficult is the possibility of hearing "no" and thinking it's a form of personal rejection.
Here's a few ways you can make it safe to make requests in your relationship.
1. Check In. Create the habit of checking in frequently with each other throughout the day. Each transition is a prime time to ask, "What needs are up for you? Do you have any requests?" This is also a good question to ask when planning trips and making big decisions. My partner and I often revisit decisions and plans several times to discern what needs we hope to meet and if the decision or plan is in alignment with them.
2. Affirm the request and ask more about it. Checking in will get easier and easier if you take time to affirm what you hear your partner asking for before you answer. For example, imagine your partner asks if you would like to go for a walk after dinner, pause to connect with the need behind the request before you respond. You may have been running around all day and that last thing you want to do is go for a walk. You may feel a surge of tiredness and overwhelm. Take a breath. Don't answer your partner from your overwhelm. Remind yourself that you always get to choose for yourself.
For just a moment set your reaction aside and really hear your partner. You can affirm that you enjoy the fact that your partner is reaching out just by repeating the request, "a walk after dinner, huh." If your partner didn't say the need connected to the request you can make a guess, "Wanting some exercise or time to connect?"
3. Share the "yes" before the "no". When you say no to a request you are saying yes to other needs getting met. The word no can create a sense of rejection or disconnect pretty quickly. Rather than saying the word no, express the needs to which you are saying yes. Using the example about asking for a walk you might say, "Right now I notice I am feeling tired and needing some rest. How about I take a nap after dinner and then walk with you for 20 minutes before bed?"
4. Practice with Little Requests. You can help requests to become a regular part of your relationship by letting yourself get playful with little requests that are easy for you to make.
4. Ask each other. Take some time to share what else specifically creates safety for each of you. You might be surprised at how easy it can be to contribute to a sense of safety for your partner.
Take a few moments now to connect with a need and request you can express to your partner today.