In honor of International Women’s Day I thought I’d share thoughts on a topic relevant to so many single women, and one that connects us to our power and strength as women. That topic is, being clear and honest about what it is you need and want! I was reminded of how important this idea is when at a recent women’s event, the topic of early dating came up. The two women sitting across from me became curious when I mentioned what I did for a living. As one shared that she was newly single and had just ventured into the world of online dating, somehow the conversation veered into the importance of “having a backbone”! Making sure to start things off with “clear, open, and honest communication”. One of the women in our discussion was nodding enthusiastically, following along with everything I said. I deeply empathized with the other, the woman who shared she was newly single, as she finally said, “Molly, I hear what you’re saying and that all sounds great, but who the hell wants to be that vulnerable?” Having done extensive training and work on myself in this department, I often forget what it was like for me before I developed my ‘voice’. “I totally get it. I remember feeling that way too. Let’s chat more,” I said. She seemed relieved and I got to thinking about just how many other women likely feel the same way!
In my time doing this work I have been totally shocked to learn just how many of us don’t ask for what we need or want! Here’s the thing ladies – they can’t read your mind! They can’t read your mind. They can’t read your mind! They can’t read your mind! Maybe read that even one more time. I know it’s easy to forget, especially in the early stages of dating. We’re excited by the possibility of having met the perfect person! Everything feels new and exciting. The ultimate love story still seems possible! You know, where he shows up for your first date and sweeps you off your feet with the ‘evening of a lifetime’. Where he’s planned it all perfectly, knowing precisely what it is you want in every possible sense. When I coach my clients, often in the midst of their disappointment that this isn’t happening, I almost always hear myself saying the same thing, “They can’t read your mind! You will have to let them into your inner world. Tell them what you like, where you want to go, and what you want to do.” That’s when I usually hear something like, “But that isn’t romantic at all! I want someone who just knows what I want!” Well maybe it’s not “romantic”, but truthfully, to expect otherwise might be a bit delusional, no? They can’t read your mind! “Give them a chance! The longer you get to know someone, the more of an opportunity they have to get to know you and how to be a good partner to you down the line. The greatest benefit to being open and honest early on is discerning whether or not this is the right person for you. If they can’t give you what you want or need, if what you’re asking for is “too much” or not in line with who they are, then you don’t have to waste your time – or you’ll find that out down the line the hard way!
“OK Molly. That all sounds great, but I don’t know how to do that? I don’t even know if I could get the words out if I tried to do what you’re saying.”
Whether you have been in a relationship for what seems like 1,000 years or are just getting back out there, there’s no ‘wrong’ time to start asking for what you need and want! Trust me, they’ll appreciate it just as much as you!
Here are some useful tips for how to get started!
1) Ask Permission
This may seem odd but, in my opinion, this is the most underutilized communication tool in relationships. I use it and love it and it has been a total game changer for me. When we feel vulnerable or like we may expose ourselves – either by sharing something uncomfortable or asking for something we need or want – we might feel nervous, anxious, or exposed. These feelings can lead to thoughts like, “What if I say the wrong thing?”, “What if they’re completely weirded out and never talk to me again?”, “What if they disappear and I get hurt again?”
When there is something uncomfortable I want to share or ask or express my needs in some way, I found it works well to ask a question like, “Can I tell you something?” Or “Can I share a desire with you?” It’s something you can use for anything. Whether it’s your favorite food or to bare your soul. This is a helpful tool because a) first, it grounds you. Before you’re about to offload a bunch of sensations in your body in the form of a desire or truth, you’re giving yourself a chance to get present and be in your body. You’re less likely to get knocked by their response or lack of one if you’re actually in the moment and not spinning out on the ‘what ifs’. b) It also allows the other person to gather themselves and give you their full attention. Nine out of 10 times the response is, “Of course! What’s up?” You’re ultimately setting yourself up to win because you just got a positive response back which will likely ease some of those nerves. If the response is “Yes, I’d love to hear but I’m running into a meeting. Can I ping back when I’m out?”, then you know when they reply back they will actually be present to hear and receive what it is you want to say. I love using this tool and I love even more when my boyfriend replies back after hearing my desire and says, “I just made the reservation 😊 ”. Our partners want us to be happy and they want to experience that joy and fun alongside us too.
2) Check Your beliefs
This is a really big one! There are two ways that our beliefs can interfere with us having the relationship we really want and deserve.
First off, it is a totally normal thing for us to remember the stings of our past relationships. As time goes on, as we gain more relationship experience, we may also pick up all kinds of negative ideas about ‘how men/women are’. We do this to protect ourselves from feeling those same rejections, anxieties, and disappointment – the same pain(s) once again. The challenge we face, however, is not allowing that same need for protection to keep us too protected. If we’re too careful, too defended, play it too safe, these pains of the past, not wanting to be crushed or blindsided again, can interfere with having the relationship we really want, and deserve in the future.
Second, maybe you’ve been told in the past, “you’re too much to handle”, “not interesting enough”, are “too needy”, etc. Maybe you believe that you’re not deserving of a happy, healthy relationship, etc. Walking into a new relationship with these beliefs there is no other outcome possible but to have those experiences again. We are hard wired to walk right into what we believe, what we know, what we have had in the past, not what it is we want! That is just the way the subconscious mind works. The sooner you accept it, the sooner you can change it! My entire dating life changed when I realized how true this was and began to change it. I worked on believing, a) I was an interesting and dynamic person that people wanted to spend time with and get to know, and b) that people really wanted to help and support me to have all the things I wanted and desired.
A belief is just a thought you keep thinking! If you really want to have the relationship you desire most, take the time to look at your beliefs. Decide what beliefs serve you better and begin to focus on them. Rehearse them! Recite them over and over again in your mind! Whether you’re currently in a relationship or just getting back out there dating again, it’s never too late to start!
3) Being Willing to Take a Risk
Yes, you will have to take some risks and put yourself out there! Staying in our comfort zone all the time might be comfortable, yes, but that is not where the payoffs come! We wouldn’t really have depth of experience and growth if we didn’t take some risks. I find myself saying this a lot to clients: “If they’re scared away by your directness or honest communication, then it isn’t a good fit! Now you know and can move on to find the right fit.” The right, secure person will welcome and want your openness and honesty. They will want to feel and be a contribution to the things you want! They will take responsibility or ask for clarity and help and understanding if there’s been a miscommunication. They will want to repair the connection and do better. They will hold space for you to express yourself and meet you with patience and kindness. Yes, these people do really exist, I promise, but you won’t find or get closer to finding them without first standing up for what you want and deserve!