Getting Your Needs Met


We all have needs, and expressing them to our partners can be challenging. Do your requests end up in arguments? How do you ask for what you need, and have your need met?

Couples tell me that they’re often arguing about the same issues. Time and time again they talk about who isn’t doing enough housework, or, how much time one of them spends on their phone. So, why do they have the same arguments?

Common sense would say that we argue about things repeatedly because we’ve not found a solution to the problem. Let’s start by examining the conversation between a fictional couple, Sam and Chris.

Sam: You always spend so much time on facebook…what’re you doing, looking for a new honey?

Chris: No, I’m not! Won’t you ever get off my back?

Sam: I want you to promise to spend more time with me in the evenings.

Chris: Alright! I’ll try!

This is a very short version of one of their typical arguments, and although Sam has suggested a solution, it’s unlikely that Sam’s needs will be met. Why? A global request.

A global request is one that’s vague…hard to pin down. You’ll know you’ve received a global request when there is no concrete way to satisfy it NOW. I once had a supervisor ask me to “not make mistakes”. You can imagine that I was unable to satisfy that request. The opposite of a global request is a specific request, made in the present tense. When a specific request is linked to a statement of impact (how we feel about it) it is even more powerful. Sam might instead open with something like this:

Sam: Could we spend an hour together this evening? I miss you, and would like to get together over a glass of wine (game of Scrabble, walk in the park…)

If this feels awkward to you, you might want to think about how you make requests. Here are some more examples of global requests or statements.

We should go to a movie one of these days.

Would it kill you to do some housework around here?

We never have sex anymore.

Why don’t you ever walk the dog?

Could you please make some decisions once in awhile?

Can you think of ways you could make each of these more specific? The acronym DATE might help.

Duration – how much time

Action – what specific activity or action

Time – which day and what time of day

Emotion – describe a feeling you have that evokes connection

Try making more concrete requests that are rooted in a desire to reach out to your partner, and let me know – do they work? Are you receiving more yesses to your bids for connection?