We all know that you're supposed to be assertive in your workplace and you're supposed to be assertive in your career goals, etc. But let's face it, a lot of us wouldn't be assertive if we didn't have to be. The thought of going out of our comfort zone to talk to people in an attempt to get what we want is just exhausting. If you ask me, there's a reason that people only work 8 hours a day.
If there's one place where a lot of us like to put our hair down and just be our (unassertive) selves, is in our relationship with our spouse/significant other. I mean shouldn't you be able to be a little more vulnerable in this relationship and not feel like you have to be on guard or always asserting yourself? Well, yes. Relationships should be like this. In fact, the most healthy relationships occur when both partners are very vulnerable with each other. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't be assertive, though. You can be assertive and vulnerable.
Being assertive in a relationship simply means to make your needs, wants and desires known. How is your spouse supposed to help fulfill your needs, wants and desires if you're not making them known to them? Yes, It would be nice if our spouse’s just knew us well enough to anticipate what these are but that usually only happens in fairy tales. Besides, spouses love it when you cut them some slack and just tell them what you want so they don’t have to be guessing all the time. Plus it helps them to feel good when they know they are giving you exactly what you want. Yes, this does require assertiveness on your part to actually come out and tell them exactly what you expect in your relationship and exactly what needs you have, but it carries with it a huge potential to actually make you happier, too. Being assertive is just a small to price to pay, really.
Being assertive in your relationship can even help to create a stronger relationship between you and your spouse. Being assertive means being vulnerable, that’s why not many people like it. It means you have to stop playing games and put it all out there for someone else to accept or reject. To lay all your cards out on the table and tell your spouse exactly what you want/need leaves yourself open for rejection. And if your spouse says the wrong thing (laughs at you, tells you no, etc.) then that can leave you feeling rejected and embarrassed. But if you’re assertive in telling your spouse what your wants and needs are and they respond in a way that is supportive and affectionate this helps both partners be able to trust each other more and strengthens your relationship immeasurably. This also sends the message to both partners that ‘you can trust me’. And when partners sincerely trust each other, lots of good things begin to happen in your relationship.
Couples who I see in my clinic are often pleasantly surprised when they face their fear and try being more assertive in their relationship. They usually find that their spouse is more than willing to listen to them and help them in whatever way they can. And the strongest relationships occur when both spouses are trying to help each other and fulfill each others’ needs.
Guest Article By: Aaron Anderson
Aaron Anderson is a therapist and owner of The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, Colorado. In addition to his private practice, he is a speaker, presenter, adjunct faculty, and is a regular contributor to various blogs and websites all related to marriage and families. He is also on the Board of Directors for the Colorado Association of Marriage and Family Therapy.
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