How to get what you want from your partner


Do you sometimes feel that it's his world, and you're just vacuuming in it? Here's how to get what you want from your partner, according to Terrence Real, author of The New Rules of Marriage.

How to get what you want from your partner
  • The first step is sitting down and identifying what you really want. It’s easier to have negative feelings about what you’re not getting than doing the hard work of finding out what you want. So start with your feelings; what are you missing that you need? Then go from negative to positive—what can your partner give you that will make you feel better about the relationship?
  • Step two is to break this down into specific behaviors. It’s not enough to say, for example, that you would like him to be more romantic. Tell him what exactly you mean by that—flowers, phone calls, whatever it is.
  • Step three is to sell it to your partner. It’s always good to have an appointment or a contract to talk, and it’s very helpful to say to a man, ‘I need about ten or fifteen minutes of your time to talk about something,’ because if they hear, ‘Honey, we need to talk,’ they will assume it’s going to go on all night.
  • Consider the way you deliver the message. There’s a world of difference between saying, ‘I hate you because…’ and saying, ‘I love you, but here are some things I need.’
  • Help him succeed. This is good for both of you. If he agrees, for example, to try to stop his habit of being late, ask if there is something you can do to help him be more punctual.
  • Don’t worry about being an enabler or co-dependent. You both want to make this work, so help in any way you can. It may not be your responsibility to get him to be on time, but if you can help, do it. You’ll both be happier in the long run.

KATRINA: Hi I'm Katrina Szish and we're talking relationships. Specifically, how to get what you want from your partner. Joining me to help us do that is relationship expert and author of The New Rules for Marriage, Terrence Real. Welcome.

TERRENCE: Hi, thank you. 

KATRINA: So Terry how do you get what you want from your relationship?

TERRENCE: Well the first step is really sitting down and identifying what it is that you want in the first place. Before you can get what you want, you have to know what it is. And you know that is really a suprisingly difficult thing for a lot of people to do. It's a lot easier to have negative feelings about something you're not getting, than doing the hard work of sitting down and figuring out what it is that you're asking for. So step one is a piece of paper, grab a pen, and sit down somewhere quiet, and go through this drill. Start off with your feelings: Okay I'm upset, I'm hurt, I'm angry--why? What is it that's upsetting me, what is it I'm saying. What am I missing that I need? And then go from the negative to the positive. What can my partner give me that would be the thing that I'm upset about not having? Maybe it's more patience, maube it's more appreciation, maybe it's more responsibility. So turn it from a negative to a positive. And then take that positive and break it down into specific behaviors. It's not enough to say: I would like you to be more romantic. You have to say what that looks like is bringing flowers, calling me at work, you know, et cetera--

KATRINA: So it becomes a specific action or a specific behavior. 

TERRENCE: Right that's the first step.

KATRINA: Now once you've identified what you want, what do you do then? 

TERRENCE: You have to sell it. It's your responsibilty to figure out when, where, how you're going to put this out to your partner. 

KATRINA: Would you actually want to go ahead and pick a specific date and time with your partner? 

TERRENCE: It always helps to have a contract. You know people will feel much less dumped on if you say, look I have this issue, I need about ten minutes to talk with you. When would that be good for you. Also particularly if you're talking to a guy, that limit of ten minutes is very reassuring. When most men hear the words: Honey we have to talk, they figure dinner is going to arrive at like three in the morning. So having a contract will stop the person from turning around and acting like a big victim--you dumped this on me--and having a limited contract will be really relieving to the listener.

KATRINA: Also, what about the way you deliver it?  

TERRENCE: Well you know there's a world of difference between saying I hate your guts, why don't go out and play in traffic than saying honey I love you a lot. I appreciate these things, here are some things that would help me even more. 

KATRINA: Okay so once hopefully you use the right time to sell it, then what happens next? 

TERRENCE: Well this is the revolutionary new move: you actually help him succeed. I want you to succeed because I love you and also I want to get what I want. 

KATRINA: Give me an example of a situation where you can actually help your partner.

TERRENCE: Well say your partner has difficulty being responsible.  They keep showing up late, okay? And then I say to you, look this is my issue, you know blah blah blah, I can't deal with the fact that we show up fifteen, twenty minutes late. I would really like you to pledge to be more punctual. And then let's say your partner says, okay I'm really going to work on this. Then the ten thousand dollar question is: great honey, is there something I can say or do that would help you with this? Then your partner might say, you know what, just for the first couple of weeks call me a couple of times a week at the office and just remind me. Be willing to do that. And you know a lot of people would get on their high horse: well it's not my responsibilty to remind you. It's your job; I don't want to be a codependent--enabler. You know what, this isn't about making a point or proving a principle.

KATRINA: So you have to help your partner help you to get what you want.

TERRENCE: I think that's great. I call it helping him win, helping her win. Maybe you need me to be tough. Maybe you need me to be rewarding. Maybe you need a reminder. What could I do? And one thing is to listen to what your partner says and the other thing is to listen to what your partner does, because your partner might say you don't have to do anything. But you notice that with this guy around this issues you have to keep the pressure on. And with this gal on this issue, it helps to be really empowering and positive. If you're going to be a grown-up in a relationship and you want something, then I want you to take responsibility and figure out what you can do to make that happen for you.

KATRINA: Thanks Terry. But what do you do if you follow all of Terry's tips and you're still not getting what you want? Well then it's time to check out: How to Deal with Your Partner When He or She is Being a Jerk. 


meet theexpert
  • Terrence Real

    Terrence Real Relationship Therapist Terry Real has been a family therapist and teacher for more than twenty years. He is a best selling author and founded The Relational Life Institute, dedicated to therapist training as well as relationship workshops for everyone. more about this expert »

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