Do you need reassurance and comfort from your partner? Want to ask in a way that gets you more of what you want and builds connection?
Reid: Hello, welcome, it’s…
Reid: And Reid Mihalko from ReidAboutSex.com. We’ll have to work on that. The pattern is not there.
Cathy: How do you ask for reassurance from your partner without sounding blaming? If I want to feel comforted, a lot of people, and I’m guilty of it sometimes, “You never are there for me anymore.” What I really want to say is, “Would you please reassure me that you’re here for me now.”
Reid: You’re going to be there and continue to be there for me.
Reid: One way is to do it just like that, saying, “I need to ask for reassurance and I don’t want to sound blaming.” The problem is in most people’s day-to-day experiences, when somebody says, “I don’t mean to be a dick, but blah blah blah” or “I don’t mean to be racist but blah blah blah.” They’re just telling you, “I’m about to be racist.” “I’m about to be blaming.”
Cathy: “You never are there.”
Reid: I’m going to use my “I” statements too, “I feel like you’re never there.” I would say the way I would do it is you have to figure out first, hopefully this works for you, you figure out what you need first before you ask for it, unless you happen to be in a relationship where it works well, where I can come to you and say, “I don’t know what I need right now, will you help me figure it out?”
Cathy: That’s great if you have that.
Reid: Not everybody works well like that. That’s a huge distinction around communication styles, people who receive, we’re going to brainstorm what you need right now and then figure it out, versus people who are like, “I work best if you just come to me with your ‘This is what I need’ and clearly state it.” Knowing what your partners and friends and family are like around that can be really helpful with how you approach them, and any clarity that you have for yourself that you can deliver to other people is super useful.
In these situations, it’s, “What do I need and what’s my intention.” It’s kind of a variation on the difficult conversations formula, which is “What I’m afraid might happen, what I’d like to have happen, and here’s what I need to tell you.” So I can come to you and be like, “What I’m afraid is going to happen is I’m not going to get what I need. I’m afraid you’re going to feel judged and criticized. What I’d like to have happen is for you to feel reassured that I will come to you in a respectful manner with what I need, and that ultimately that you can help me get my needs met so that I can calm down. What I’m not telling you is I need some reassurance from you because I’m afraid you’re going to leave me and can you tell me that you’re not going to leave me.”
In using that difficult conversation formula, I’ve created context which helps… context will often help people not feel blamed. It doesn’t always help us not feel criticized, because the criticizing piece is often — you come to me with that statement and then I feel criticized, which is really me kicking my own ass from the inside. I’m beating myself up: “If I had just reassured her, I should have known this.” I’m beating myself up. I don’t think it’s a gender issue, but for me as a man, when especially women ask me to make a change or a shift, I beat myself up for not having been able to figured it out ahead of time. Your mileage may vary on that. Asking for reassurance without blaming can sometimes be just as easy as, “Hey, honey, could you reassure me?”
Cathy: Just since learning this and doing it more, but be positive actually succeeds much more than you coming up and saying, “You’re never there for me anymore” because then whoever you’re telling feels criticized and they’re shut down and defensive.
Reid: Yes, and then odds are I’m not going to give you what you need.
Cathy: Right, so it just reinforces the fact that I’m not loveable and he’s going to leave because he’s angry or upset, so by just being with whatever I’m feeling for a few minutes, maybe calling a friend and saying, “I’m feeling this, can you help me figure out what’s going on?” And then being able to say, “I’m having a small day could you reassure me that you’re going to be around.” The success rate has been so much better.
Reid: For those of you who want to google stuff, googling “nonviolent communication,” which is a communication style technique, they have some really great, savvy stuff about needs versus feelings, and how to make requests versus demands, and they’re awesome. Marshall Rosenberg I think is the person who founded it, and there are lots of amazing instructors throughout the world. That’s just great stuff for a particular perspective on how you can identify what you need, so that then you can ask for it.
Cathy: Yes, great. Thank you.
Reid: You’re welcome.
Cathy: Good luck.
Reid: What do you need?