Have you ever found yourself unsure in your current relationship? Unsure of where you want to go next, what you want to do, if you should work harder, or maybe just give up.
Heck. I’ve been there with my mail carrier and the girl who beeps our cards at the gym.
And I’ve been to enough therapy and relationship classes that I know all sorts of exercises I can do with my partner to work our way through the communication gaps.
One of the most common gaps (for me anyway) is the ability to be completely honest with one another about our own very real needs in the relationship.
Usually the conversation goes something like this.
“But tell me what you actually need.”
“I’m fine with this the way it is.”
“I understand you’re fine with it. But is that what you need in your life right now?”
“I don’t know.”
Meeting the needs of my partner is important to me. I don’t like when I’m with someone and they’re selfless. I really don’t. I want somebody who gives a lot and expects as much as she gives.
There’s a word for someone who only gives and never takes. Doormat. And it sucks just as bad to be the doormat as it does to be the person using it.
And so, no matter what relationship I’m in, the whole “you need, I need” discussion always eventually comes up. A few weeks ago it came up for me.
Discussing it wasn’t really going anywhere. It seemed, to me, that the fear of losing me by being honest was outweighing this particular person’s personal needs.
And then I had this idea. I didn’t know if it would work, but I threw it out there and asked her if she’d try it. “Let’s play the I want, I need” game I told her.
“Okay. How does that work?”
“Simple.” I said. “You just say something you want, and then you say something you need. And they have to be connected somehow.”
I don’t know why it sounded like a good idea. It just made sense to me right then. She told me to start.
I said, “Okay. I want a dog. I need to not have one because I can’t give it the love and attention it deserves when I’m single, working, being a dad, and now going to school on top of all that.” These games always work best when you start out easy.
“Hmmm,” she replied. “Okay. I want another glass of wine right now. I need to not have one because I will be driving.”
You get the idea.
Pretty soon, and just as I hoped, the “I want, I needs” got deeper and deeper. Some of them included things like, “I want to be spending more time with you right now. I need to spend more time with my son instead because I’ve slipped a little in that area lately.”
Or, “I want to let myself fall in love with you. I need to figure out this other pressing matter before I can let myself do that.”
We went back and forth for probably an hour. Some of the things were very personal and it took us to a level that we hadn’t ever been able to achieve just talking or doing other communication exercises.
She was able to tell me some of her very real needs, decide whether they were needs or wants to her, and we were able to discuss if those needs were needs I could help her meet or not. And visa versa. I definitely realized some things that I needed to realize.
I wanted to pretend like those things didn’t matter. I needed to discuss them openly and honestly.
See what I just did there?
Anyway, it’s a communication exercise I’d really recommend you try next time you have a hard time getting to the bottom of you and your partner’s wants and needs.
Worked well for us.
Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing
PS. How about you? Do you have any favorite communication exercises/games you like to do? Do you ever struggle trying to figure out the needs and wants of your partner?
PPS. This blog post has also been recorded as a podcast. You know, if you’re into that kind of thing.