As we’ve discussed before, many men these days have trouble being assertive. One of the things these “Nice Guys” struggle with is communicating their needs to others. Because they shy away from conflict, and don’t want to trouble or inconvenience others, they constantly let other people’s needs supersede their own, and they find it difficult to articulate their personal goals and desires. Instead, they rely on “mind-reading,” believing their partners should intuitively know what they need without them having to say anything. If the Nice Guy’s partner isn’t skilled in telepathy, he becomes resentful and begins ascribing negative qualities like selfishness to her, even though he’s never actually given her a fair chance to meet his needs.
Relying on mind-reading to get your needs fulfilled creates feelings of chronic anger and contempt towards your partner, conditions which will almost invariably lead to the demise of your relationship. To keep your relationship strong and happy, it’s up to you to make your needs clearly known. As the authors of Couple Skills, Matthew McKay, Patrick Fanning, and Kim Paleg (hereafter referred to as MFP), put it, nobody is in a better position to understand your needs than you are:
“You have a right to ask for the things you need in a relationship. In fact, you have a responsibility to yourself and your partner to be clear about your needs. You are the expert on yourself. No one else, not even your partner, can read your mind and know what you need in the way of support, intimate contact, time alone, domestic order, independence, sex, love, financial security, and so on.”
So if articulating your needs isn’t something you’ve felt comfortable doing, how do you start going about it? And how do you do it in a way that doesn’t create defensiveness and anger, and offers the best chance of your partner being willing to listen and fulfill that need?