Get what you want and need from your relationship
Healthy relationships require work from everyone involved—one person can’t make an unhealthy or abusive relationship healthy again by themselves. We often hear from people hoping to convince their partner to change, but unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. Real, lasting change must happen when your partner understands what they’re doing is wrong and takes steps to change the unhealthy behavior.
You are not alone.
Abusers typically are unwilling to admit that their behavior is abusive, so confronting an abuser can put you in more danger. For this reason, we never recommend confronting an abusive partner.
Get what you need through the D-E-A-R-M-A-N method
But what if your partner isn’t abusive? How can you make the most of a healthy relationship? The acronym D-E-A-R M-A-N can be your guide.
D-E-A-R M-A-N is an acronym used in dialectical behavior therapy, reminding people of the basic skills needed to get what they want in their relationship in a healthy way.
Communicating what you want in a relationship
Please know that a person is not guaranteed to get what they want every time they ask for it, no matter how good their communication skills are. This is because people still have and deserve free will. It’s also important that communication in your relationship is healthy enough for you to express yourself and be heard by your partner safely. Part of healthy communication is listening, so make sure your partner allows you to express yourself fully before responding.
What’s D-E-A-R M-A-N?
Use clear and specific language to describe your wants and needs, leaving little questions about what you want and why.
Be intentional and mindful, using various expressive methods, including facial expressions, tone of voice, gestures, and other nonverbal communication. These methods support and emphasize your wants or needs.
Avoid aggression and passive aggressiveness when asserting your want or need. Be matter-of-fact about your points, and try to be emotionally neutral. Remember that open communication does not mean any filters.
Ensure that the other person understands why they should respond to your request. They should also understand how their response can positively impact your relationship. Remind them of positive outcomes, and be careful not to offer unrealistic rewards. Avoid pressuring, guilting, threatening, or using coercive tactics, such as ultimatums.
- Stay mindful
If the other person responds with defensiveness or hostility, do not engage with their emotional intensity. Instead, keep the focus on the point you are making and practice mindfulness breathing (focus on your breathing and keep returning to it when your mind wanders), opposite action (doing the opposite of what your emotions urge you to do), and radical acceptance (accepting that something is the way it is even if it’s unfair). It’s always okay to ask your partner to take a break from the conversation if things are getting too heated and you need some space to calm down.
- Appear confident
Strive to see yourself as confident and deserving of your wants and needs. Though our society often programs us to think prioritizing our own needs is selfish, that is definitely not the case! You deserve to feel happy and fulfilled in your relationship, and a respectful partner will understand that. If you appear unsure when expressing your needs to your partner, it may be difficult for them to understand how important this is to you. To improve your confidence, self-validation and other confidence-boosting activities.
If your ideal request cannot be met, see if you and your partner can meet halfway. Ask them to express their needs and what they’re willing to do, and tell them your limits and what you’re willing to do. In healthy relationships, all partners’ wants and needs are equally prioritized through compromise — one partner should never make all the sacrifices. Your partner should also never compromise your ethics, values, and human rights.
Examples of getting what you need in a relationship
Sample 1: working together
“Hey, I’ve been thinking about ways to work together to improve our relationship. I like it when you do X, Y, and Z! I agree that we’re doing well in the area(s) of A and B. I want to work on some other areas, starting with C. Would you like to help me think of what we can do to improve C?”
Sample 2: individual tasks
“Hey, I’ve been considering improving things for both of us. I came across this website, and I found some fascinating articles. I want to know what you think and if you want to participate in any of these things. I think I’ll try X, Y, and Z. What would you like to try?”
Support you in getting what you need in your relationship
Reach out to our advocates — we’re here 24/7!
Please remember that advocates differ from counselors and focus on education and safety rather than emotional, mental, or behavioral issues. We also can’t give advice or tell people what to do because we respect your right to make choices that work best for you!
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