Knowing What You Want in Your Relationship
It only takes one minute to make a big difference in your relationship. Let me explain. A few years ago, as I was getting in my car getting ready to head out to work, I remembered that my husband’s birthday was just around the corner. As I was backing out of the driveway, I battled internally on whether or not I should bother to celebrate it. You see, I was a little on the bitter side because on a previous holiday he had failed to be the romantic and get me flowers, a card and make the day special. So I thought to myself, “he didn’t bother, so why should I?” Thankfully, I came to my senses and realized that in doing so I would only accomplish to draw us apart and nothing else. I re-aligned and decided that I would be generous instead.
The decision to turn towards my husband instead of away took only but a minute as I had only just reached the stop sign at the end of my street. I immediately started to entertain ideas of what it would look like to do something special. My heart changed. As I thought of what would be fun to do for my husband, my initial apprehension got washed away and was replaced with anticipation. And all it took was a minute. An intentional minute.
In marriage, the struggle is real. There’s no denying it. Each of us has needs. We want to be valued and loved, and when we don’t feel this from our spouse, we recoil and get all bent out of shape. Except, that instead of saying it like it is, we dance around the issues, we put up walls, we play games and get mad. What if I had just been upfront with my husband and had told him that I was disappointed that he didn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day the way I wish he had? What if I would have been very clear about what I wanted? The bitterness would not have created a cozy corner in my heart that could creep up as a dagger to use against him.
If we want to keep our relationships healthy, we need to know what we want, say what we want, and forgive each other with a huge helping of patience and grace.
What do you want?
Do you even know what you want? Take some time to dig deep and ask yourself “What is it that I long for?” We can’t be clear to our spouses about what we need when we don’t know what we need. Go for a jog or a long car ride, take a hot bath, and while you do those things, turn off the noise and let yourself think clearly about what you are searching for.
Ask for what you want.
It doesn’t matter that you have been married for 40 years and you know each other super well. Stop playing mind games. Just say what you want. Be clear, be specific, don’t talk in circles. Say something like, “I’d like for us to go out to dinner at the new Italian restaurant that opened up this Saturday evening.” Don’t misunderstand me, asking for what you want doesn’t guarantee getting what you want; however, it will make it easier to negotiate and move forward.
Guess what? Your spouse will irritate you, disappoint you, annoy you, and make you feel very angry at times. You have different personalities, cultural backgrounds, experiences, ways of viewing the world. One of you will arrive on time to places, and the other may always be late. Sure, you can choose to recoil in bitterness and feed the anger, but that will only lead to contempt, which will lead to a lack of intimacy and separation. Or you can choose to forgive and be generous.
It so happened that I ended up getting my husband a bike. Knowing my husband is very cost conscious, I got him a used bike. I did a lot of research and found a guy that refurbished top-of-the-line bikes. The funny thing is that as I researched and called places, I was acting suspiciously to my husband. As soon as the phone rang, I would quickly pick it up. I was walking out of the room to have calls that seemed somewhat secretive. My husband started to become uneasy and entertain thoughts that put him on the alert. The day of his birthday, when I revealed the gift. He laughed in delight. He had become wary about my secretiveness. He also came to understand the value of speaking up and not letting ideas fester.
Assumptions can sabotage the relationships in your life. Recognize what you need, speak up about what you need, and forgive often.
Dr. Alicia La Hoz is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Founder, and Executive Director of Family Bridges. Dr. La Hoz works with the Latino community in the Chicagoland area, where she leads her team in developing and coordinating Family Bridges comprehensive marriage and relationship programs. Away from the office, she spends her time with her two inquisitive children and devoted husband, exploring nature, visiting museums and building lego-masterpieces.
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