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What’s okay to expect of my partner?

If you are making an effort to create a conscious mutual relationship, you are likely attempting to be more clear about your needs and your partner's needs.  You try to do this by asking yourself "What's okay to expect from my partner?"  You might find yourself pitching around looking for some standard for normal with couples you know.  Sometimes you find yourself holding back what you want and other times you make demands..  

The most difficult thing here isn't finding an answer, but rather, asking the question.  Asking a question like "What's okay to expect from my partner?" means you are moving away from a connection with yourself and away from collaboration with your partner.  Regardless of what someone might say are the "normal" expectations to have of a partner, it is still up to you and your partner to negotiate a partnership that works for both of you.*

How you thrive in a relationship is specific to you.  Knowing how you thrive in relationship means knowing how you thrive in all of your life.  A more subtle understanding of your thriving allows you to ask for something specific in your partnership.  The key word here is "ask" rather than expect.  You might hear yourself saying, "But I don't know what is okay to ask for."  This is, of course, just another version of the question "What's okay to expect?" and takes you away from honor and connection with yourself.

You have, not just the right, but the responsibility to ask for exactly what you want in a relationship.  This can be a scary place to stand in, because you don't want to frighten away a potential partner by asking for something that s/he doesn't want to or can't give.  This is where your courage and vision is needed.  You need the courage to be willing to let go of someone you care for, if s/he can't or won't meet you and/or isn't willing to negotiate to find a way that you can both be deeply satisfied.  If what you ask for frightens someone away, s/he isn't the right partner for you.

You need a sense of vision about how your relationship might grow and change.  This means being honest with yourself about parts of the relationship you are ignoring because if you looked too closely you would see a possible end.  It also means being honest with yourself about the fear of experiencing a whole new kind of partnership that could evolve if you were to show up consistently in your authenticity and integrity.

Lastly, letting your partner know what you need to thrive in a partnership doesn't mean describing his or her future behavior in detail, of course there might be a few non-negotiables like the place you live, or the use of intoxicants, or the inclusion of your children from a previous relationship.  Letting your partner know what you need to thrive in a partnership might begin by simply naming the top three needs you want to meet in partnership and hearing the same from your partner.  Then you might take the time to give specific examples about how you have enjoyed meeting these needs so far in your life.  For example, let's say that the need for play is a primary need for you in partnership.  (That is, you are not particularly interested in a relationship in which you and your partner don't play together.)  You might offer something like this, "Play, for me, includes outdoor adventures like backpacking and rafting and it's also includes little moments of trying to make each other laugh and acting silly little.  What does play mean to you?"

Sharing needs and how they have been met and may be met in the future in an open way can lead to a sense of creativity and inspiration about all the new ways you might come together as partners in mutual support and celebration.


Take some time now to check in with your top three needs, that is, the needs that when met in partnership give you a sense of joy and thriving in that relationship.  Reflect on the how you have met these needs in your life up to now.  Connect with the felt sense that is alive when a particular need is met.  Bring this felt sense of the met need to the conversation when you share with your partner.

*I am assuming a shared reality here about a baseline expectation that you are not harming one another.

**Using the word "thriving", I am assuming a basic level of self-awareness in which you can feel the difference between what's truly nourishing and what's a passing satisfaction arising from craving and compulsion.

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3 Responses

  1. Apr 16, 2015

    Asking vs demanding and prioritizing needs vs everything-or-nothing = awesome. I'm in a long term (15 year) relationship and practice NVC and I can say this article is spot on for me. Even though i "know" these things to be true is is great to be reminded in a way that makes the practice of these truths a little easier.
    I found out about you through and after reading this I am going to register for your up and coming workshops in Australia here

  2. Apr 17, 2015

    Great Louise, I look forward to meeting you

  3. Feb 13, 2017

    I'm having an issue in my current relationship. I can see myself settling down with my partner in the near future (and I know he feels the same way).

    When we first started dating, he had his own apartment and things were great because we had our own space and weren't bothered by anyone. Now he has a roommate who complains about us constantly and doesn't like that I stay over. I feel like his living situation is a huge impediment to our relationship and I hate that there's always a third party dictating what we can do because we have very limited free time to spend together.

    He's also terrible with money so I feel insecure about us ever being able to settle down in the future. I don't see how he'll ever be able to save up money for a ring or provide for children later on down the road.

    I don't want him to feel pressured but I want him to work on tackling his debts and starting a savings because I can't envision us being together with that hanging over our heads.

    How do I bring up my concerns without hurting my partner? It's making me feel distant because I suppose I feel like he doesn't think it's a priority. Am I expecting too much? Should I just back off or should I share my concerns?

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