Hi All! Below is a great question I received last week about how to address a sensitive issue in romantic relationship. My response can be adapted to any issue that comes up between two people so even if the issue of physical intimacy doesn’t resonate you can apply this concept to other issues easily.
I have been doing a lot of work with needs this week and got stuck on something that I was hoping you can shed some light on…if that is OK.I was very brave and went to my partner and expressed my need for him to be more present during sex because fun adventurous sex is important to me and I felt that need was not being met. He responded by saying his job is stressful and he is tired all the time…which is an ongoing problem. I said that it was his responsibility to learn how to deal with that and to his credit he is trying to change jobs to something he feels more fulfilled by. That likely won’t happen until next spring and even then he will be in more courses and situations which will be stressful. So I am not sure if I really see an end in sight for this issue unless he learns how to manage his stress and dissatisfaction with work better. So right now I feel like my need for fun intimate sex with the man I love has been “shelved” until he learns how to deal with his stress and dissatisfaction in his job. Now, I understand that if after a certain amount of time with no action form his end to address his issues then I will need to reconsider the whole relationship but in the interim how do I meet this need in another way that doesn’t involve cheating or leaving him (neither of which I want to do)? My Answer:
I agree it was very brave of you to speak with your man about this – and so important that you did articulate your needs.
It’s very distressing when we do our best to be clear about what we need and meet a wall. This happens for a few reasons:
1. Our partner doesn’t share the same need and just doesn’t value and have the willingness to meet ours.
2. Our partner doesn’t understand what we were asking for specifically, how important it is to us and what the consequences of that need going unmet will be to the relationship as a whole.
3. Our partner understands # 2 but has his own insecurities/blocks/needs that are taking precedence and making it impossible for them to move on meeting our need.
It is important to ask questions to get clear on which scenario is at play in an unsatisfactory situation.
If it is # 1 – there’s not much you can do except reiterate the importance of the needs and the consequence of them not being met and ask if your partner would be willing to reevaluate his perspective.
If it is #2 we need to write out and speak to him clearly and briefly what our needs are, how specifically he could meet them and the consequences of them remaining unmet for any length of time. If we do have this conversation we want to make the space to hear how our partner feels about our request and what barriers might exist to them following through on our request – and what they are willing to do to overcome those barriers.
In this way you’ll be able to get clear on what’s been going on for your partner and what has prevented him from meeting your needs (ie. you’ll find out if it’s just “how he is” or if he just hasn’t understood your need and how to meet it).
If it is #3 we talk about the barriers to follow through (as spoken about above for # 2) and with our partner come up with a plan for moving through those barriers and a general time line by which you’ll see some action and some change. Again, the consequence or natural outcome for a lack of follow through needs to be clearly articulated so you both know where the boundaries are and so you can both assess growth and change.
Understand Your Partners Feelings and Needs
You will find that once you’ve had a conversation in which you feel understood and you feel you understand your partners thoughts, feelings and needs, and the boundaries or natural consequences are clearly stated, you’ll feel peaceful regardless of the outcome. You will know you’ve done your best and that you’ve honored your needs and your relationship to the best of your ability. You’ll also have reinforced to yourself your ability to have courageous conversations and your right to ask for a get what you need.I would ask your partner if he is truly happy with the current level of sexual play and intimacy – would he be willing to have this be the situation for the remainder of your relationship.I might also ask how he would feel in a relationship where his needs for intimacy and play weren’t being met and where they may not be met for years if ever.These questions would help you to gain deeper understanding on where he’s at and what the possibilities are.
I think gathering as much info as you can about his level of satisfaction and what he is willing to do differently now (if he’s not completely satisfied) is an important step to determining whether there is hope for this pattern to change. Without that information you can’t make a clear decision about whether to stay or leave.I would invite you to let him know (to whatever extent you haven’t made it abundantly clear) that you can’t commit to a life partnership with him when your key needs for fun, play, intimacy and sex aren’t being met. Again, once you’ve had this conversation you’ll feel more peaceful regardless of the outcome. Should he agree to make some changes or to seek outside help to explore his barriers you’ll need to find a way to meet your own needs for physical intimacy and play for the interim. I appreciate that’s not the same as meeting those needs with your partner – but there’s no reason why you can’t have some fun and play on your own. In fact it will probably be more fun when you know that either way it’s temporary as an only means of meeting those needs.Let me know if that helps.