Asking for our Needs to be Met

We all have needs.

We all have needs of connection, to belong, and to be understood.

We can take responsibility for getting our needs met. Here are some tips:

1. First we need to figure out what our needs are.

2. Letting our loved ones know what our needs and wants are, instead of thinking they somehow magically will know is really important.

3. Being willing to take a risk is important. Sometimes it is a scary thing to ask those we care about because they can say no. Yet if we aren’t willing to try, we may risk more. Our loved ones won’t have the chance to be there for us.

4. Asking and then being okay with our loved one saying "no" is also important. Sometimes people can meet us where we would like, and other times they can't. All of this is okay. I have had days where I have given my all and I have nothing left to give. If I can just say that, friends and spouse get it. I can take a minute for myself, for self-care. And then be there for them another day.

Often people suffer in silence or get upset with others when they don’t know how to be there for us. I am seeing this a lot with my clients. Both men and women are afraid to ask for what they need. No one can figure out what others are thinking on their own. We all need help communicating these things with one another. We can work to create safe spaces with our loved ones where we can talk about our needs. It is easy to go to the other extreme of demanding or telling our loved ones what they need to do. If we are making a safe place to discuss these things, there needs to be room for them to say no.

An example of this is “I need to work through some feedback I got, but I know you are busy. Would you have the time and energy for that?” It is hard to be this vulnerable. And then be prepared for their honest answer.

5. It's also important to ask for what type of help we are looking for. Sometimes I am in a place where I want validation. Other times I want advice or just to vent. When I make it clear about which thing it is I wanted at the beginning, it makes room for others to decide if they are in the place to give that.

6. It isn’t possible for one person to meet all of our needs. Having several people in your life you can reach out to is important as well as having several types of coping skills to get you through a rough patch.

7. Unless we are a minor, it isn’t anyone’s job to meet our needs. But good relationships have foundations where meeting needs of the other is a part of the fabric and "give and take."

8. Depending on the culture we grew up in and the rules of engagement, we may have forgotten that we have authority over our own life. We get to work out the details. It is ok to ask for what we want. It is ok to walk away from what you don’t want. It can be hard to have these boundaries especially if we have been taught to only say yes when others need something from us. Learning to honor your own boundaries is an effortful process, it doesn’t happen overnight.

What have you found helpful in the process of getting your needs met within significant relationships?

Jennifer White, CSW has extensive experience in helping clients with faith transitions, sexuality concerns, anger management, substance use disorders, domestic violence, and self-esteem. She has also taught psychology and social work classes as adjunct faculty at Utah Valley University.

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