- Steven Sutton, LCSW
Revealing What You Want
What do you suppose happens when when a man lives his life seeking the approval of those around him and avoiding their disapproval? Several unfortunate things happen when we need approval:
We avoid the truth whenever we fear it might not meet with approval
We embellish or outright lie if we think it will result in greater approval
The relationships we co-create tend to be ones where we’re a support person, a fixer, a person who absorbs our partners anxiety or anger, or a place holder
We loose sight of what we want and need because we’re so focused on trying to acertain what others want and need so we can appear to provide it
Those last two can be tricky since some of the relationships we carry run deep in our lives and have been with us for a very long time. The results are often that we tolerate very high levels of unhappiness and dissatisfaction with our close friends and partners. In private moments we may blame them for not treating us more like we want to be treated. We wait for them to fulfill their end of our covert contracts.
If you have relationships in your life that are less than satisfying, give yourself a small test. Think of the relationship and ask yourself the following questions about it:
What do you want from the relationship?
Be succinct and spend time beginning sentences with, “I want…”
Your statements should be about you, not them. To help with this try speaking in general terms about what you want from that figure in your life — not necessarily that person.
In other words aim for, “I want a partner who takes care of themselves,” rather than, “My wife is always complaining and anxious about something, I wish she would stop that."
Or, “I want a friend who is invested in knowing who I am,” rather than, “I wish Jim would stop complaining all the time and ask me about my life sometimes.”
Have you been clear with that person about what you want from your relationship?
Honestly, have you told them what you want?
If not why not (and skip the judgment)? Being honest with yourself might take some time and energy. Most guys will have a simple story in which they explain exactly what the other person will think and feel about it and why saying what they want will guarantee that they never get it. If that resonates with you say it out loud to yourself and listen carefully — “I believe that if I tell someone what I want if guarantees I won’t get it.” Does that still make as much sense?
If you have been forthright and honest about what you want, what happened?
Make some notes about what you’ve observed as you answer the question and study yourself. Most guys who aren’t making themselves known don’t feel like doing it for some reason. For some there is an underlying belief that they’ll be happier not showing what they want. For others they’re scared of rejection. Either way they don’t want to be open and honest with those around them.
I’m going to argue that no matter how to slice it, making it clear to those around you what you want is the right thing to do.