It feels really bad when your man doesn’t respond to your needs, even if you’ve told him over and over. It makes it seem obvious that he doesn’t care, which can make you feel unloved and scared.
But what if it’s not that he doesn’t care but that you haven’t been well trained on how to communicate your needs in your relationship, just like I wasn’t?
I was a communications major in college, so I thought I was really good at communicating—I mean really, really good at communicating because I know what I need and I’m not afraid to say it.
But it turns out I was confused about several things.
1. I Confused Needs and Wants
I need air, water, food and shelter. And I want throw pillows for the porch, a party at my place, and shrimp pad thai for dinner.
When I was afraid to honor my desire for frivolous things, I tried to present them as “needs,” if you can imagine. It was very awkward, but I thought that would make my husband take me more seriously.
I was wrong about that.
I thought that unless the things I desired were actual needs with some practical element to them, I wouldn’t get them and I shouldn’t even want them because that was selfish. So I would try to disguise my desires and act like throw pillows were the same as oxygen.
That didn’t get a great response from my husband because he could smell the manipulation a mile away. I was just overdramatizing.
These days I love just expressing my desires in a way that inspires by saying, “I would love summer throw pillows.” No need to make it sound like I’ll suffocate if I don’t get them.
Once I stopped manipulating and overdramatizing, my husband got a lot more motivated to be my hero. Now we have throw pillows for every season, and John happily stores them in the attic for me until I want them.
2. I Tried to Communicate My Needs with “We” Instead of “I”
I somehow got confused here too. I would say “we” needed things instead of that I wanted them: “We need to visit my parents,” “We need to go on vacation,” “We need to remodel.” And although he didn’t say so, there is no universe where John needs to remodel.
The man has no interest in fabric swatches and could be happy with a cot and a locker. It was me who wanted to remodel. And trying to put that on him just made it weird.
That was just me being afraid to honor my desires.
All I had to say was “I would love to remodel.” Because once I did, he got all into remodeling too—waaaay into it—to make me happy.
3) I Said My Needs Over and Over (Otherwise Known as Nagging)
When I was repeating myself, it was really to flog my husband for not giving me what I needed. It was to complain and criticize. So saying, “We need to clean the garage” the third, fourth and fifth time was the same as saying, “You still haven’t cleaned the garage!”
He knew this and tuned me out because who wouldn’t tune out a critical nagging shrew?
When I finally said, “I would love to park both cars in the garage,” I got a completely different response. Later that day, the cars fit in the garage. Like magic!
4) I thought John was Responsible for My Happiness
So I was telling him what I needed him to do to make me happy, like spending more time with me, being more affectionate, talking to me more.
That’s what I thought would make me happy. But it turns out it’s my job to make Laura happy.
He can’t even do it, especially when I was so committed to being miserable so he would know he wasn’t making me happy.
Once I figured out how to make myself happy and made that a priority, I got a lot more of the attention and affection I was seeking from him without having to communicate anything at all.
He just wanted to be around the happy woman who was singing “Baby Shark” in all different voices in the kitchen.