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How Do You Get What You Want in Relationships — Do You Rebuke or Request?  

In a good relationship, partners express appreciation for each other often. They also say in kind ways what they want and what they don’t want. They don’t expect their partner to read their mind.

So don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.

Keeping a grievance inside can result in a relationship-destroying grudge. Calmly bringing up a matter that distresses you can clear the air and renew the warm feelings that were there before knots started tying up your insides.

This doesn’t mean you should point out every little fault or mistake. For a relationship to remain healthy, it’s important to tolerate minor annoyances and focus on the big picture of how well the two of you get along.

Virtually no one wants to feel criticized, so it helps to process your thoughts and emotions before speaking up. Instead of holding on to feeling wronged by the person, you’ll be able to focus more on what you’d like him (or her) to do differently. Your words, voice tone, and body language can convey your request in a way that shows loving concern. You’re wanting him to stop doing something that is harmful to himself, yourself, or others.

Examples of How to Request

Lynne liked Hunter very much. The first time he seemed to be flirting with the waitress who served their dinner, she thought she might be imagining it. Not wanting to make a big deal over what could be nothing, she held her tongue. But it happened two more times, and she felt insecure.  He was thirty-five and ready to settle down, he’d said, but he wasn’t acting that way. Lynn told herself he couldn’t be couldn’t be serious about her if he enjoyed chatting it up with waitresses. She was tempted to stop seeing him, but wasn’t quite ready because he has so many good qualities.  

Finally, she told Hunter, “I like being with you very much, so I think you’d want me to tell you about something I find disturbing. When you flirt with a waitress, I’m uncomfortable. I want to feel special to you, not like you’re attracted to someone else, whether or not I’m present.”

Hunter took her message to heart. He said, “It’s a bad habit. I’m sorry I made you uncomfortable. It’s my insecurity showing. I think I do the flirting to prove that women find me attractive. I won’t do it again.”

Had she withheld her feelings and her request, Lynn probably would have built up a grudge and ended the relationship. Instead, she gave him a gift: the opportunity to correct his behavior.

Maybe you feel annoyed by someone who regularly interrupts you, is often late, or forgets your birthday. Whatever is important enough to address in order to keep the two of you on an even keel is grist for a respectful conversation that focuses on what you would like him to do next or from now on.

Accepting Requests Graciously

In a good relationship, requests go both ways. What if he says, for example, that he dislikes being interrupted by you, that it makes him lose his train of thought? You may have a knee-jerk reaction to feel offended. But if he’s telling the truth respectfully, thank him, even if he doesn’t add the ideal, “I’d like you to be patient so I can finish speaking before you respond.”

Constructive feedback, offered in a loving way, helps us grow. When we become more aware of when we’re about to behave in a way that we’ve learned upsets someone, we’ll be more likely to switch gears and do better. Consequently, we’ll probably also improve our relationships with friends, family members, and others.

Polishing the Rough Edges

Partners in lasting, fulfilling relationships focus mostly on each other’s positive qualities. But they also respond to each others imperfections constructively and graciously. If they didn’t, they could stay stuck behaving in ways that could distance themselves from each other emotionally.

Rebuke is like sandpaper. Couples who use it wisely, stating it as a request, smooth out each other’s rough edges over time while remaining emotionally close.

Jen explains how she does this with her husband. He leave crumbs on the counter, which annoys her. She simply tells him nicely, “It would help me out if you would wipe the crumbs off the counter.”

A friend told her fiancé about an engagement ring she liked, “It would make me happy if you would get me this one.”

Regardless of how nicely you put it, however, there’s no guarantee that the person will do what pleases you.

But how will you know if you don’t try? Regardless of the outcome, you’re likely to learn something. It may be to accept minor imperfections, or it may be that the world doesn’t come to an end when we ask for what we want. Or, as often happens, we learn that our partner wants to please us and to do his best to make us happy.

How Do You Get What You Want in Relationships — Do You Rebuke or Request?  


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), 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. (2018). How Do You Get What You Want in Relationships — Do You Rebuke or Request?  . Psych Central. Retrieved on December 10, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/how-do-you-get-what-you-want-in-relationships-do-you-rebuke-or-request/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 26 Sep 2018 (Originally: 26 Sep 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 26 Sep 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.