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A Simple Way to Enrich Your Relationship

“I shouldn’t have to tell him. He should know what I want,” Cindy thinks about her husband. She believes he should know when she’s in the mood to go out for pizza, not sushi and vice versa. He should know what she wants for her birthday. He should know what turns her on sexually. She wonders how he can be so clueless, but she doesn’t say a word. 

Some people can get their needs met without saying a word. They’re called infants.

A mother learns to read her baby’s cues. She soon knows which kind of crying means “I’m hungry,” “I’m tired,” or “I’m uncomfortable; I need my diaper changed.” She understands which body movements and facial expression say “I’m scared,” “I’m happy,” and “I want that.”

Does True Love Mean He Can Read Her Mind?

Adults who find partners who can read their mind exist in fairy tales and romantic movies. There, charmed couples don’t need to be told how to give the perfect kiss, gift, or massage.

What do these examples of mind-reading have to do with real life adult relationships? Very little, even in the best of marriages.

Usually, the best way to feel understood by your partner is to say clearly what’s on your mind kindly and respectfully. Even the most sensitive, intuitive spouse cannot read your mind any more than you can read his or hers. Yes, in a good relationship, there will be some tuning into each other, but don’t expect miracles.

If your self-expression was stifled when you were young, you’ll have some catching up to do as you learn to feel more comfortable speaking your truth. This is okay, and therapy can be helpful. You’ll become more relaxed about saying what’s on your mind as you continue to practice using positive communication skills. 

Finding Out What Each of You Needs

Sometimes we’re not clear about what we want or need at the moment. Our partner may also feel unclear or have something in mind but not say it. Fortunately, a solution exists for learning just how strongly each of you feels about something.

If I’d like our weekly date to be sitting by the sea and watching boats sail by and my husband says okay but his tone lacks energy, I might say, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you want to do this? Actually, I no longer need to phrase it this way. I can just say, “How much?” He knows that ten means he wholeheartedly wants to do whatever I mentioned, and one means he has no interest. So he’ll say some number between 1 and 10. Usually, if he says seven or more, I understand that he’s at least somewhat interested. If he picks a number under 5, I might do the activity on my own. Sometimes he humors me by saying 847 or more to let me know he’s quite willing.

We can use the 1 to 10 scale on ourselves, too, when we’re not sure how important it is to us to spend a windfall on a vacation, buy new bedroom furniture, or put the money into a  savings or retirement account. 

Unexpressed feelings cause many issues for which couples seek therapy, wants and needs. Trust breaks down when one partner thinks the other has not kept an agreement that was not an agreement but an unspoken expectation. 

Solution for Cindy

Cindy would be happier in her marriage by addressing the pizza or sushi dilemma by asking her husband, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is sushi to you? He says 8. Let’s say she craves pizza so much that it’s a 10 for her. She asks him for a number for pizza, and he says 7. He agrees to pizza that night, then suggests, “How about sushi next week?” She likes sushi well enough, so says fine. Or, if they’re lucky enough to have a place nearby that serves both sushi and pizza, they might go there.

How would you use the 1 to 10 scale to learn how important something is to your mate? Whether it’s about something small or big, now you have an easy way to find out and keep your connection thriving.  

Note: Parts of this article appear in the author’s book, Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted (New World Library), which explains step by step how to apply these techniques.   

A Simple Way to Enrich Your Relationship


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Marcia Naomi Berger, MSW, LCSW

Marcia Naomi Berger, MSW, LCSW, author of Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted (New World Library, 2014, audiobook, 2020), has a private psychotherapy practice in San Rafael, California. She offers and workshops for couples and singles, and continuing education classes for therapists at NASW conferences and online. She has taught also at the UCSF School of Medicine, UC Berkeley Extension, and Alliant International University. A former executive director of a family service agency, she earlier held senior level positions in child welfare, alcoholism treatment, and psychiatry.


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APA Reference
Berger, M. (2020). A Simple Way to Enrich Your Relationship. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 14, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/a-simple-way-to-enrich-your-relationship/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 31 Jan 2020 (Originally: 29 Jan 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 31 Jan 2020
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