Requests-Moving towards what you want
Making specific concrete do-able requests seems to be one of the most difficult skills for folks to master in learning NVC. Lots of things get in the way, like not wanting to feel vulnerable, not knowing what really would meet your need, feeling hopeless that any request would help, and not understanding how helpful it is to be specific. For this article let's focus on this last one.
As I work with couples over the years I see the same patterns repeated over and over (which is part of why it's so helpful for couples to come to classes and workshops, then they too can see the patterns for what they are.)
One of those patterns that you might recognize is that, in trying to create repair, you often try to move away from or stop what you don't want rather than creating what you do want. After telling your partner what you don't want, you might tag on a vague wish or another need. While it's important to clarify the behaviors that don't meet your needs, knowing what doesn't work isn't necessarily giving you a new way forward. Here are few examples of how I hear couples carrying out this pattern. Notice that shame and blame often gets tossed in the mix, I've underlined those parts for you.
- When I think about how you said you want me to stop seeing my friend Andy because of your insecurities, you feel so threatened, I feel irritated because I need autonomy. Could you stop being so jealous and just trust me?!
- When I hear that condescending tone you are using with me, I feel frustrated because I need to be heard. Would you be willing to stop using that tone and treat me with respect?
- When I am not talking in the tone you like and you shut down and refuse to talk to me like you have done our entire marriage, I feel angry and hurt because I need connection. Would be willing to stop shutting down and give me a chance to try to change?
Now let's take a look at these and remove the shame and blame and add specific, do-able requests.
- When I think about how you said you want me to stop seeing my friend Andy, I feel irritated because I need autonomy and trust. Could we take 15 minutes now to brainstorm ways that we can build trust in our relationship?
- When I hear the tone you are using with me, I feel frustrated because I need respect and to be heard. Would you be willing to pause with me in silence for three breaths and start again with a softer tone?
- When I am talking in a tone that doesn't meet your needs and you turn away and don't speak to me for the remainder of lunch, I feel angry and hurt because I need connection. The next time I speak in a tone that doesn't meet your needs would you be willing to tell me you are noticing a tone and ask me what is going on for me?
It's difficult because when you are in a lot of pain, you have a sense of urgency to make sure that you won't be in that pain again. So you try to stop your partner's behavior and then try to make them to commit to be different for the rest of your lives together. To release yourself from this reactivity, it's important to relax into the pain, hurt, dissappointment, etc enough so that you can be present with it. Next you can let yourself zoom out and see the bigger picture. From a bigger perspective, you can see that repair and building connection with your partner is done by meeting each situation as it arises and taking a small step towards creating what you want.
Take some time now to reflect on the last three times you and your partner were experiencing disconnect. Reflect on the requests you made (if you made any). Understanding your needs and your partner's needs brainstorm as many simple specific do-able requests as you can.