A dear friend shared with us recently that he and his wife had a significant breakthrough in improving their communication. They’ve been married for 15 years, and both of them love each other very much. But his wife — she’s the most selfless person you’d ever meet — struggled with being assertive. Rather than ask for what she wanted and needed from him and their relationship, she stayed quiet, assuming he’d read her mind.
Here’s the problem: he’s not a mind-reader, no matter how much he adores her. He was clueless about what she wanted, and she started feeling like he simply didn’t care. It wasn’t until they sat down and talked that they truly began communicating.
“It takes two to speak the truth … one to speak and another to hear.” — Henry David Thoreau
His story is a classic example of how important it is to be assertive with your wants and needs and its impact on improving positive communication in a marriage. Being assertive shouldn’t have a negative connotation to it. But for many people, it’s the same as being selfish, demanding, or negative.
In reality, being assertive with your wants and needs is extremely positive, beneficial, and can lead to:
Benefits of Being Assertive
- Open and honest communication
- More of your needs being met
- Taking responsibility for what happens to you in life
- A more relaxed relationship with less anxiety
- More fulfilling relationships
- The ability to see, hear and love others more easily
- Your spouse is able to show how much they care for you
- Being able to protect yourself from being taken advantage of by others
- Being a friend to yourself and maintaining your own dignity and self-respect
Tell me more about assertiveness and marriage
Assertiveness is the ability to express feelings and ask for what you want in the relationship. Rather than stay quiet and assume your partner can read your mind, you intentionally share how you feel and ask clearly and directly what you want. Assertive people get more of what they want and need because they ask for what they want and need.
Here are a few examples of being assertive with your wants and needs:
“I love being with you and the kids. But I also need more time for myself, and lately, that hasn’t been happening. Can we please build in some extra time so that I can work out and just have quiet time to myself?”
“I feel like all we’ve been doing lately is working. We should like us to go on a vacation next week.”
“I really need more help around the house. Could you help me with that please?”
Assertive individuals take responsibility for their messages by using “I” statements. They avoid statements with “you,” and in making constructive requests, they are positive and respectful in communicating that.
Intentionally listening to an assertive spouse
Just as it is important for us to be assertive with our wants and needs, the spouse who is hearing this request must intentionally listen to what their spouse feels and wants so that they feel heard and understood.
When each person knows what the other person feels and wants, and when each knows they have been heard and understood, intimacy is increased. These two communication skills help you grow closer as a couple.
“I had no idea you were feeling like you weren’t getting enough time for yourself, and I totally understand. Can we sit down and discuss what exactly needs to happen so that you get the time you need?”
“I agree, and you deserve to have some time away. Let’s find a way to make this happen.”
Combining assertiveness with intentional listening increases intimacy and will help you grow closer as a couple.
What we are saying is that communication is vital in marriage. And that includes being assertive with your wants and needs. One of the biggest plusses of assertive behavior is living one’s own life. Your chances of getting what you want out of life improve greatly when you let others know what you want and need. With that being said, this element of positive communication takes time and lots of practice and both spouses must want to be better at it.
Our heart is devoted to caring about people and marriages!
Our heart is devoted to caring about people. We want to ensure you have the tools to communicate better in your marriage. The best way we know how to do that is by spreading the word to more people and let them know that we are here.
Did we leave anything out? How are you learning to be more assertive with your wants and needs? How is your spouse responding? Please send us a quick email and help us keep this conversation going. mike@MikeandSusanDawson.com.