Thursday, September 14, 2006

Assertiveness and Taking the magic out of the relationship

Assertiveness helps people beat depression. We've gone over that in another post below.

If you assert yourself you have a chance at getting your needs met. If you don’t, well, people can't read your mind.

People really fall into doing this, expecting that their spouses can read their minds. Like the spouse is paranormal, can bend spoons, too, right?

No, but people think if they've lived together a few years that they know what to expect form their spouse and sometimes they're right. But most of the time people who aren't happy together don't do a good job of this mind reading thing.

People who believe their spouse knows what they want most of the time will say this. They will say that their spouse knows what they want and is intentionally holidng back, withholding what would guarantee them happiness. Yet when we take a close look, they're usually not communicating what they want very well.

Communication makes people happy. The verbal touching of the minds. Verbal communication works best.

So the marital advice is actually to take the magic OUT of the relationship. Leave out the guess work, the magic. Be direct. Tell it like it is. Make no assumptions. Err on the side of over-communicating.

You want him to give the kids a bath? Tell him. You want her to greet you at the end of the day like she’s happy to see you? Tell her. Yes, I know, these are sexist examples. Fine. Change the genders. Gender’s not the point. Communication’s the point.

You’re afraid to hurt feelings?

Say it nice. Perhaps you want to ask for something but you're afraid. Think of it like this:

“The way you rub my shoulders tickles.” Maybe you can’t SAY that because you’re afraid it will hurt your mate’s feelings.

Say what you DO want: “Could you massage my shoulders so my muscles get some relief? I’d really like that.” That’s being assertive.

Say it nice. Say she wants him to go with her to parent-teacher conferences, but she knows he’s tired. “Is there any way you’d want to join me at the conferences? I hate facing those people alone,” is assertive.

It might work over “You NEVER go to conferences with me,” (aggressive.)

I'm not trying to over simplify or to ignore the fact that people have good reasons (well, reasons) for avoiding intimacy, that make assertive communication difficult.

But when it's not about avoiding intimacy, when it's only about getting simple needs met in a relationship, assertiveness is where it's at. I can’t emphasize the idea of over-communicating enough.

For more on communication, check out Lessons From a Family Therapist

Copyright 2006


Kate said...

Hi Linda,

I've been doing some thinking about PPD and how partners and others involved with new mothers need to stay involved, to watch for changes and problems. And, I've been wondering how they can asssert themselves and get themselves and their partners help in the age of under-insurance?

Therapy Doc said...

I'm a big one for recommending community mental health centers. Services usually cost next to nothing, and they have to have certified therapists working for them.

Post partum depression can be a really serious disorder and can present without warning, basically.

Any woman who has had a baby can get walloped with serious pathologica symptomatology. You're right to be sure there's help around the corner.

Meds are a MAJOR help, here, even if it means not breast feeding the baby (it doesn't always).

Best of luck, Linda