Mark says that Cathy never initiates sex. “If I didn’t initiate sex we would never be intimate. I’m starting to feel like she’s not attracted to me because I’m the one who always has to ask.”
Mary is angry that Michael spends a lot of time on the internet. “I can be talking to him about really important things and he’ll keep looking at his phone or his computer. I don’t think he really wants to spend quality time with me. I shouldn’t have to point out to him how much that hurts my feelings, should I?”
I could come up with countless (hypothetical and name-changed) examples of the frustration and resentments that build up between couples in a relationship. The theme of resentment is constant in my work. But that’s not the theme that I’m pointing out in these examples. The theme is:
“I shouldn’t have to ask because if he/she loved me then
he/she would know what I want.”
Here’s what I say to that:
We can create stories in our heads all day that prove that our partners are selfish, inconsiderate, emotionally stunted, they don’t love us….the list is endless. But if we have chosen this person as the one person in the world with whom we choose to share our life, be intimate with, have kids with, share a home with, share food with, sleep next to…then why would we pick a person who is any of those things? If it’s really the case that your partner is selfish, inconsiderate, emotionally stunted or doesn’t love you, you should be having a much different conversation than whether they do the dishes or watch too much TV. You should be looking deep inside yourself.
But if you actually love your partner and know that he or she is a good person despite your frustrations, then do them and yourself the kindness of asking for what you need and want. Asking for what you need or want is like opening up a window into your brain and your heart and asking your partner to peek in. Not asking is leaving them out in the dark. Your partner always has the right to say no to what you’re asking for, but at least then it’s a discussion and not a hidden dream that slowly builds into a resentment.
When my husband and I got married 11 years ago we wrote our own vows. I find that all of the vows we took are still relevant today, but my favorite is:
“To ask you for what I need from you and to meet your needs
the best I can, while still honoring myself.”
Try it. You might find it helps.