How To Ask For What You Need
How To Ask For What You Need
Let’s talk about the importance of how to ask for what you need. This is one of those topics that you can think, well, I’ve got that figured out. I don’t need to hear about that anymore. Or maybe you always ask for what you need, but you just don’t get it.
Listen to the podcast episode here:
Read the transcript and find more details here:
And that’s okay if that’s how you’re feeling. But if you are tempted to skip this week’s podcast, I would ask you to reconsider. Let me make my case because I want to make sure that if you ask for what you need and don’t receive it, I want to double-check that you’re asking in the right way.
If you feel like you ask for what you need, and maybe you don’t receive it, let’s make sure you’re not holding onto that resentment. Or maybe you’re asking for what you need, and it’s not a realistic ask; what you need is not something that your partner can give you.
We’re going to cover it all today. We’re going to go into how to get what you need in your life. And if your partner can’t give it to you, then maybe you can give it to yourself. Or if it’s something that you need from a spouse, something that’s romantic or involves feeling loved, then maybe it’s time to take a look at the fact that it might be time to consider leaving.
I know that was scary.
What I just said. I totally get it. And I know that even when somebody begins to talk about the idea of leaving your relationship, it can cause feelings of anxiety. So we’re going to go slow, and I’m going to walk you through everything. And I’m going to remind you that I am right here with you.
I left, and I survived and now actually have the life that I always kind of wanted and felt like deep down maybe I didn’t deserve. And still sometimes to this day, I look around and think, I can’t believe I’m here. I’m not saying that as like a braggy way because my life is far from perfect. Y’all just come spend an afternoon with me, and you will see it is lots of dirty laundry.
What I’m saying, though, is that there is a wonderful, beautiful future for you. We just need to figure out what that looks like, and we need to figure out how to develop that. And we need to figure out how to help you take responsibility for owning that future.
Because I think one of the biggest mistakes we make, as women especially, is waiting for other people to make us happy or repay us for all of the favors, care, and thoughtfulness that we have provided others. I mean, we are caretakers.
That’s one of our gifts and also one of our greatest weaknesses.
It feels good to caretake and serve others. But sometimes we do it waiting for people to serve us back. And if we have surrounded ourselves with people who are takers, not givers, then we can be waiting for a really long time. And while we’re waiting for people to help us make our lives better, we start to worry and panic that it will never happen.
We start to get angry and resentful that people aren’t giving us what we are giving them, and we start questioning everything. And then we handle that those feelings inappropriately and immaturely. We act out whether it’s silent treatments or trying to control by nagging or having temper tantrums and meltdowns, trying to get our point across. And instead of growing up into mature, responsible adults, we are stuck with a level of immaturity that is not helping create that future that we want.
And it’s a weird dynamic, particularly when you love someone struggling with addiction because they too are dealing with issues of immaturity. I know I’ve said this before. I’ve indeed said it in the programs in great detail, but when an addict begins their addiction, whatever age they are, is the age that they’re kind of stuck at until they get sober.
So if the person you love started drinking or using drugs at the age of 19, then their maturity level is stuck at the age of 19. That’s why sometimes when you love them, and you’re fighting with them, or you see them behaving in a certain way, you feel like you’re married to a teenager or a child. And it’s because in a way you are.
The funny thing is that it can happen to us too.
When we start a relationship with an alcoholic or substance abuser, our maturity often gets stunted, and we can start developing codependency behaviors. Why? Because all of our attention stops focusing on us and begins focusing outward. So we don’t have a lot of personal growth because we’re so busy trying to help everybody else around us grow into the people we think they should become.
It’s kind of funny because all of that extra effort we’re outwardly placing and giving and providing is incredibly harmful and destructive to ourselves. And so our emotional growth gets stunted. When I left my ex-husband, I quickly discovered that I had a ton of work to do. I actually discovered that I had a ton of work to do the minute I decided to leave. And then I spent the next year while I was still living with him, planning on leaving, but also doing a tremendous amount of personal growth that stopped when I was around the age of 15. I had a lot of years to make up for.
That’s why we are stunted in the area of how to ask for what we need and what we want because we don’t feel like we deserve it.
And because we have this self-destructive pattern of providing others what we think they want from us. So we are subservient and provide it to them. And then we wait, and we wait, and we wait for it to be reciprocated. And it never is. It’s very seldom reciprocated.
And so today we’re going to go over, how do you ask for what you want? Um, and I’ve got a couple of stories that will help illustrate it. I’m going to tell you a story about a friend and then a story about me. So I have a good friend who is very happily married, and he’s a great man, no addiction issues. But my friend grew up with a very domineering father. He still is. He prides himself on sharing his opinion, even when not asked, and can be quite controlling. He’s a lovely man, but he scares me, to be honest with you. Every time I see him, I wave this nervous little wave and try to make as much small talk as quickly as possible and then move on.
He’s intimidating. And so I can’t even imagine what it’d be like growing up with him. She took this behavior of being quiet, small, and subservient and never really speaking up into her marriage. And so it left her husband having to guess what she wanted and liked because she wasn’t speaking up. He eventually thought, okay, if you’re not going to say anything, I guess I’ll decide for both of us.
They were doing a home renovation, and he was making all the decisions. He was picking out the tiles and designing the whole area. We go to lunch one day, and she asks, what do you think about this tile? And I said, well, I think it’s great. A lot of people use it, but it tends to stain. So if leaves or debris get on it, it can leave a mark. It’s quite difficult to get out. You have to pressure wash it. It’s a very porous type of stone. And she said, okay, would you mind offering some other suggestions? And I said, of course!
A few days later, I tell her I think I have a couple of options for you. And she said, no, he’s already going with this one. He’s made up his mind. And I kind of was taken aback. This woman is in her fifties, and I love her.
She is a strong, super brilliant, accomplished, smart, smart woman.
And I said, what do you mean he already chose? Didn’t you tell him that you were thinking about other options? No. Well, why didn’t you tell him? Well, I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. I didn’t want him to be worried that I wasn’t confident in his decisions.
I said, you’re talking about tiles here. Like it’s not the end of the world, really? So you’re going to live with this tile.
So this was about a year ago, and the other day I called her. I said, what are you doing? She said, oh, I’m on my hands and knees scrubbing the tile because it’s getting stained with leaves. And I’m a good friend, so I did not say anything. I bit my tongue and did not say I told you so, but it just struck me that this well-accomplished, beautiful woman wouldn’t even speak up to share her opinion about tile.
This is what I’m talking about, asking for what you need.
Can you relate to my friend? I don’t judge her because you know what? I was her when I was married to a man suffering from addiction. Now looking back, I kept such a quiet mouth over asking for what I wanted and needed. I was so scared he was going to leave me, that he would choose drugs and alcohol and other women over me that ruffling any kind of feathers at all made me afraid for my future. I thought it was going to blow up, and I would be left alone, broke, friendless and homeless, and all of the above.
And guess what? All of that happened. I was right. It came true. But speaking up was the best thing I did, and blowing it all up was the best thing that ever happened to me.
Now, I’m not suggesting that when you speak up, everything blows up. I’m saying it is a reality. It is a justified fear, and it might happen. And if it does, guess what? You will survive and be better than okay. You will be happy and get the future that you want.
It is a new beginning and a new opportunity because you are a wiser person to recreate your life again. But if it doesn’t, and you ask for what you want, you might just get it. You might just be with somebody that hears you and sees you and says, that’s important to me.
I respect your opinion enough to consider that.
Let’s talk about this together because that’s the type of man my friend is married to, I guarantee it. She just needs to learn how to break this negative pattern of her childhood, being meek and quiet and shy and not thinking that her feelings or desires or thoughts are good enough.
That’s the lie that she was told when she was younger.
And we’re all grownups now. We need to stop listening to those messages that occurred as children. Why are we letting that dictate the rest of our lives? It shouldn’t. And if it is, then we need to work on that. There’s where the work lies. Now, for those of you sitting there saying you’re telling me that I can go to my spouse or my partner and say, listen, it upsets me that you’re drinking too much. Would you mind considering stopping? And that they are going to say, I value your opinion and you’re such a wise woman. Of course, I will consider it. Just hand me the car keys, and I’ll just go to an AA meeting right now.
I get it. I know that’s an unrealistic expectation here, truly.
And so that’s why we need to sit here and ask ourselves, what do we want? What do we need? And then make a list, and then follow up with more questions:
Can my partner or spouse give that to me? Or is this something that I can fulfill on my own?
Here’s the thing. Here is where I say these loving truths that are going to sting, and you’re probably not going to want to listen to another podcast because you’re going to think, that sucks. And I don’t want to hear that, and you suck, and blah, blah, blah. But I got to say it anyway because I needed someone to say this to me when I was in your shoes, and nobody did. And it did me a disservice.
The person you love that you are choosing to stay with has very limited capabilities to give you what you want or what you need because of their addiction.
So if you’re sitting here comparing your relationship to your neighbor’s relationship or your best friend’s relationship, or some relationship on television and you’re saying, well, it looks like he’s giving her everything she wants. Yeah, that might be the truth for them, but it’s not your truth because they’re not with someone suffering from addiction. They’re not choosing to stay with somebody who has addictive tendencies. You are. If you’re choosing to stay, then you got to recognize the whole truth.
This is part of what I was talking about: really recognizing your reality and saying I am choosing to stay. Therefore, I am with somebody fighting an incredibly difficult battle and struggle of their own, who is dealing with mental illness, fighting for their life, or maybe giving up on their life.
And their priority is not going to be me right now.
Their priority is not how to better our marriage, because if it was, they would be getting sober. They would stop drinking, using drugs, and running away and start facing the music. Start contributing equally in all areas. Most of the time, they would be going to therapy with you and being honest with the therapist.
They would be coming home after work. Whenever you ask them where they were, they wouldn’t be telling you you’re crazy, or you’re a nag, or you’re controlling. They would be telling you where they are all the time because they’ve nothing to hide. Whenever you’d go to a party or celebrate a holiday, you would not have to worry about their drinking or drug use.
But this is your reality for now, during this season in your life.
And so when you ask for what you need or want concerning your partner, it might not come true.
And therefore, it is your responsibility to adjust your expectations. You can either make peace with the fact that you’re choosing to stay, that you are in this relationship for now, and that they probably will not meet your needs. Okay. Or you can choose to say, screw that I’m going to meet my needs with somebody else.
I’m not suggesting you have an affair. That’s not something that we want to choose to do consciously. No judgment if you’ve done that because I understand the temptation and desire. I really truly understand that. And I know how lonely it can feel in a relationship. So there’s zero judgment from me, but it’s certainly not something I want to encourage.
If we’re going to do this, we need to do it the right way.
Stop with the unrealistic expectations of getting your needs met from somebody who’s sick. Start looking at yourself for meeting your own expectations and make the tough call.
Work on yourself. Remember, we talked about how codependency or loving someone with addiction can stunt your mental growth? We need to get you chronologically to your real age of maturity. And to do that, we need to take inventory and say, okay, where are the areas that I’m still behaving immaturely in my life? Once you do your work on yourself, it’s quite interesting because the person shows up who you are meant to be with. That’s exactly what happened to me. All of a sudden, you’re looking at your life partner, and you think I can honestly see you and appreciate you and value you for who you are because I am healthy.
It’s like the scales have been removed from your eyes, and you can see.
If you keep looking to somebody to fill your cup who doesn’t have a pitcher, they cannot fill your cup. You have got to fill it on your own. Filling up your own cup is a lifelong skill that you should acquire, whether you stay or leave. So work on filling up your own cup. Master that skill, master detachment, and learn to not rely on somebody else to do things for you that you should probably learn to do on your own.
And then while you’re deciding to stay, or if you decide to leave, you’ve done quite a bit of the work already. That’s the beautiful thing; if you’ve done the programs, you’ve learned about boundaries, you learned about self-love, you learned about discovering your dreams. You’ve learned about how to be responsible for your own happiness and why it is that you got into this self-destructive relationship, to begin with.
You can identify a healthy, strong partner. You’ve learned all these tools because you’re doing the work while you’re with them. And so at any point in time that you decide to leave, you have the freedom to do that. You don’t feel so stuck or so trapped, or like you have to put up with this, the rest of your life.
You can look at your partner from across the room and say, yeah, I’m choosing to be here right now today, but I can change my mind at any point in time. And I know that I will be okay alone. I know that things will work out for my benefit.
That’s the freedom. That’s the beauty.
And you don’t have to leave to start the work. That’s the best thing. One of the primary reasons I created this community was because I don’t think that message is getting across.
We are not powerless over addiction. That is not true. There are so many things that we can do that have power over addiction. We are not helpless victims and martyrs with this sad life that just needs to continue until somebody decides to get better. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. We have the power within ourselves. Nothing outside of ourselves needs to change to get the life that we want to live, that we deserve to have.
We just need to be willing to stop the nonsense of looking outside of ourselves or wishing things were different and start saying, okay. I’m going to do the work and commit to it.
Commit to the work because you are deserving of that work. Do not give up. Even when it gets hard, keep on going.
Ask for what you need.
Good things will come. The benefits will be phenomenal. The rewards, the ROI will be huge if you just make the initial investment on a daily basis.
Okay. So that’s it.
Now I’m going to leave you with a personal story: yesterday I was in the hospital. I’m fine, totally fine. I went to the emergency room because I was having shortness of breath for four days. And my heart was really hurting. I was getting sweaty. I thought I was having a heart attack, and I let it go for four days because I’m a woman. And I’m like, ugh, it’s going to cost a fortune to go to the ER.
Plus, it’s probably indigestion, right? Or something silly like that. But after I was getting my kids ready in the morning, I kept going up and down the stairs. And every time I went up and down the stairs, I could not breathe. I had to sit down on a chair.
So I looked at Brian, and I said, I think we need to go to the ER. Long story short, we went there, got a bunch of tests, and I’m good. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know what’s going on. My heart still hurts a little bit, but as you can tell, my breath is back, so it was just a weird fluke.
Anyways, we’re going home. I’ve been in the hospital all day. Brian has been absolutely lovely sitting by my side, talking to the doctors, taking notes, trying to tell me stories so that I’ll be entertained. We get in the car after a very long day. It’s two or three o’clock in the afternoon, and we haven’t eaten yet.
And he turns to me, he says, would you like something to eat? I said, yes, I would. And then I thought about it and realized, oh my gosh, I just want to go home. I feel gross. I want to take a nice shower and lay in bed. I’m exhausted. I just I’ve had an EKG and MRI, all these other things.
I just want to go lay down in bed.
Brian says, great, I’m going to take us to this restaurant. It’s a fast-casual kind of restaurant where you order at the counter. So you have to park, and then you stand in line, and you get it to go.
The last thing I wanted to do was wait in the car. Cause I live in Florida, and I would die of heatstroke. And I didn’t want to go wait in line in my pajamas, exhausted from the hospital.
My old codependent self thought, but I can tell he really wants to go here. This is his favorite restaurant. And he’s been waiting with me all day. He’s been this super rockstar hero; he’s been absolutely perfect. I shouldn’t complain. I shouldn’t ask.
And then I thought, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. You love him. And he loves you. You’re secure in that love. And also, you’ve had a really stressful day. If you want to go lay down and you don’t want to wait 30 minutes to do that, then just ask. And so I turned to him as we were pulling out of the hospital parking lot. And I said I’m sorry. I’m just really, really exhausted. And what I need right now is to please lay down. Would you mind dropping me off at home before you go to the restaurant?
And he said, oh yeah, of course, babe. Sure, no problem. Do you want me to get you anything while I’m there? And I just took a big sigh of relief because it was not that hard, asking for what I needed.
I built it up to be something much harder than it was.
My other sigh of relief was because I’m with a man who really respects me, and that would not have happened in my first marriage. In my first marriage, I wouldn’t have said anything. I would have gone and sat in the car and been so upset and hurt. I would have thought he doesn’t love me. And he doesn’t care about me because he’s only thinking about himself. And to be honest, my ex-husband would not have come or stayed there the entire time.
I’ve done well the second time around. I’ve identified a man successfully who cares enough about me to say, of course, no big deal and go 30 minutes out of his way to drop me off at home.
Do you see the difference? Do you see the contrast here? That it’s partly our responsibility to say what we want, what we need, and to ask for that. And then it’s also a great way to tell if our expectations are correct?
If I had done that, asked for that in my first marriage, it wouldn’t have worked out. It wouldn’t have had the happy ending, and therefore I need to adjust my expectations.
I hope that this is a helpful example that you can use or think about as far as what your needs and your wants are.
Some of them you’ll be able to make a list of today. And some of them will just happen organically throughout the week.
Identify those, try it out, ask for what you need.
Try it. It might not happen, but at least you’re getting in good practice.
At least you’re practicing what you know you need to do and what you need to get good at. And worst-case scenario, they look at you and go, no, I’m going to the restaurant now. You get to sit there and go, okay; you chose to go to the restaurant anyway, am I willing to settle for that? Is that okay with me? How do I feel about that? And then you can make future decisions.
Knowing, having information, knowing the truth, and being honest about your real situation is empowering; it’s liberating.
It’s also scary as crap because sometimes we don’t want to know the truth. We don’t want to be let down or hurt, but this is part of our healing responsibility. And I know and believe wholeheartedly that you can do this and get good at it, with practice. You have to practice. You have to promise me that you will keep trying no matter how many times you fail.
I failed a thousand and one times, and I still do. And that’s okay because we forgive ourselves, and we move forward.
Every step forward is a significant improvement.
I want to recognize and honor you. And I want to say, look at you. You made it to the end. You’re still here, which means in your heart, you are motivated, you desire more, and you are dedicated. Just reading this means you’re doing work. And if you’re willing to do the work, your life will get better. I promise. I love you. And I will talk to you next week.
Michelle Anderson has over 10 years of personal experience with loving someone who suffers from addiction. She was married to a good man who suffered from addiction to alcohol, illegal drugs, and pornography. She's used her experience to create powerful resources for women in the same circumstance. Using her own personal experience, combined with years of research and studying, she presents ideas, tips, and tools on how to handle this disease, and take care of yourself, and your family.
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