When Every Request is a Demand
If your partner has difficulty believing that s/he can have you and be authentic or autonomous, s/he may hear your every request as a threat.
This limiting belief that intimacy and autonomy are mutually exclusive leaves him or her in a constant internal battle. This internal conflict may show up in indirect ways in your relationship. Here are some ways it might show up:
-S/he says yes, but doesn't follow through on your requests.
-Reports feeling lost or disconnected from self.
-Expresses a desire to go out with you, but then takes an hour to find his keys.
-When asked her preference, answers with, "Well, what do you want to do?" Or "I don't know, I'll see how I feel?" Or "Whatever, I could go either way."
-Takes space indirectly by staying on the computer for hours.
-Makes sudden big decisions without talking with you.
If this sounds like your partner, you can help to heal this pattern by explicitly showing how you support his or her autonomy and authenticity. Here are some ways to do this:
-When your partner says yes to a request ask him or her to take another minute and check-in and really make sure that works for him or her.
-When making a request, offer at least two options, e.g., "I would love your companionship for the banquet and if that doesn't work for you, I'm also happy to ask a friend to go."
-Offer reassurance that your love is not at risk when s/he expresses disagreement.
-Remind her or him frequently that you value her or his authenticity and choices, e.g., "I want you to be true to yourself and do what's right for you. Your authentic expression is not a threat to our relationship."
-Before making a request, state that either a yes or no answer is truly okay with you.
-When you really do want your partner to say yes, state that up front and then remind yourself and him or her that you want to keep talking until you find something that works for both of you.
Take a moment now to reflect on how you support meeting needs for both intimacy and autonomy in your relationship and where you find yourself in demand energy or perceiving demands. Choose at least one of the strategies above to practice with this week.