I have difficulty asking my husband Tom for what I need because I fear that if I’m too needy, he’ll get tired of my demands and leave me. You see, I have abandonment issues because my dad left my family when I was seven and I only saw him a few times after that. Then my first husband, Greg, was very unavailable and it caused me to be very anxious and worried about being left.
Some of the issues that come up have to do with me needing more help with our two kids and some have to do with me needing help with cooking or doing chores. Tom says that he’s exhausted when he comes home but we both work about the same number of hours. He’s a loving man and a good provider but I’d like our workloads to be a bit more even.
When I went to see a therapist recently, she told me to take more risks and to be more assertive about my needs with Tom. She said that I don’t have anything to lose but I’m not sure she understands my history. What to do recommend? I love Tom and don’t want to lose him but want more support.
It sounds like you have trust issues that can be worked out with Tom if you can risk being vulnerable and letting go of your fear of abandonment. We are all left with a choice. We can choose to trust our partners or we can be wary, mistrustful, or suspicious.
Trust and emotional intimacy are the foundation of an amazing intimate relationship. Those couples I counsel who are able to achieve secure attachment and stay emotionally connected are able to risk being open and sharing their innermost feelings and desires. As a result, they enjoy trust, friendship, and intimacy.
Couples who have the most successful relationships know that cultivating intimacy involves allowing themselves to be vulnerable with one another. All relationships have tension at times, but it is important for partners to use that tension to become more emotionally attuned, physically affectionate, and open about their thoughts, feelings, and wishes.
Happy couples are able to identify whether their trust issues stem from their present relationship or are “emotional sensitivities” from past betrayals. It’s good that you understand your own history, and strive to understand the impact of your past on your marriage, so you will stop repeating the past. It’s possible to deal effectively with ghosts from your past by extending trust to Tom through words and actions that are consistent with a loving, long-term view of marriage. The first step is learning to be more assertive and following these tips will help you in that journey.
7 Tips to Boost Assertive Communication with your Partner:
- Embrace the idea that you can’t be liked by everyone. There will always be those who don’t agree or approve of your words or actions. Accept that you can’t control what others think of you. All you can really control is yourself.
- Ask yourself: do I give too much in relationships? Do you ignore your own needs due to seeking other’s approval? Therapy, reading, and keeping a journal can aid you in this process.
- Challenge your beliefs and self-defeating thoughts about your self-worth. You don’t need to prove anything to another person about your self-worth. You are just as deserving of attention and caring as other people are.
- Practice compassion and self-approval by learning to set personal boundaries and saying “no” to unreasonable requests from others. You will feel better when you give yourself time to replenish yourself rather than focusing too much on others.
- State your requests to your partner in a positive way and don’t assume the worst. Often non-assertive individuals don’t get their needs met because they never asked to begin with.
- Use “I” statements to express your thoughts, desires, feelings, and wishes. An “I” statement is an assertive statement about your thoughts or feelings that doesn’t place blame or judgment on your partner. It makes it more likely your partner will hear what you say and not get defensive in contrast to a “You” statement, which is negative and usually places blame on the other person – causing them to become defensive. For instance, “I’d love help with cooking tonight” rather than “You never help out around here.”
- Taking care of yourself doesn’t mean you are selfish. As you begin to care less about seeking the approval of others, you’ll find you have more energy – people pleasing can drain us of time and make us feel tired. Strive to achieve balance between your physical, mental, and emotional heath.
Since all individuals come with baggage from the past, it’s essential for you and Tom to openly discuss emotional sensitivities and triggers, past experiences, and trust issues. This open dialogue will serve to strengthen your bond when inevitable conflicts arise and increase the chances that your love will endure the test of time.
Twitter, Facebook, and, movingpastdivorce.com. Terry’s award winning book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website.
I’d love to hear from you and answer your questions about relationships, divorce, marriage, and remarriage. Please ask a question . Thanks! Terry