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  • Isabelle Morley, PsyD

Just Say It: Why You Should Communicate Your Feelings and Needs

Your partner doesn't know how to read your mind. Instead of hoping that they will meet your needs and guess your feelings, take the more vulnerable path.

In our romantic relationships, we often feel so connected to our partners that we can't imagine that they don't just know exactly what we think and feel. We think to ourselves:

He can tell I'm stressed from my day, why didn't he offer to get takeout on his way home?

She knows I miss my family, how come she doesn't make more time for us to see them?

I keep saying how tired I am, why won't he get up with the baby?

I hate my old car, how come she hasn't just outright said that it's okay if I look for a new one?

When you do this, you set your partner up for failure.

Instead of continuing to play this game, here's why (and how) you can communicate with your partner.

Don't expect your partner to read your mind. If you do, you're setting both of you up for frustration and disappointment.

Mind Reading Isn't a Thing

How you're feeling might be obvious to you, but it isn't to your partner. I know you wish your partner did instinctively know all your thoughts and feelings, but they don't. I know you think it's obvious because you keep hinting at it and giving them the opportunity to swoop in and help, but they still don't know.

The truth is, unless you just say how you feel, people won't know. Nobody can read minds. Our internal experience feels so logical and apparent to us, but others are not privy to our emotions and needs unless we say them.

Don't expect your partner to read your mind. If you do, you're setting both of you up for frustration and disappointment.

Don't Force Your Partner to be a Detective

When we exhale loudly or close a door just a little harder than usual, it can feel like we are communicating our feelings very clearly. "I never leave all the dishes for the next morning, it should be obvious that I'm stressed and need some help with the chores!" But again, your partner isn't supposed to be a feelings detective who notices every subtle change and picks up every clue in order to know your emotional state.

In fact, you actually don't want to train your partner to be a detective. It will make them hypervigilant about your mood and they're more likely to read into things that weren't hints. For example: "You didn't kiss me twice before you leave like you usually do, I thought you were mad at me."

To put it more directly- you'll turn your partner into an anxious mess.

To put it more directly- you'll turn your partner into an anxious mess. They will keep looking for possible signs that you're upset or need something, which will be exhausting and confusing and frustrating. Plus, you're likely to get annoyed when they keep asking if you're okay, and you're likely to get angry if they do miss one of your "obvious" signs (and eventually, at some point, they will).

Just Say It

Relationships are built on communication.

Saying how you feel and what you need are important ways of connecting to your partner. It can feel scary to be so direct since it makes you more vulnerable than offering subtle hints as to how you're feeling, but vulnerability brings people closer.

Please know that you're allowed to say how you feel and ask for what you need.

Perhaps you were raised in a family culture where being honest about your emotions or needs was discouraged. Some people are taught that being open about these things is a sign of neediness or selfishness. Others learn that even if they do voice their feelings, people will dismiss or minimize them. Whatever the reason, please know that you're allowed to say how you feel and ask for what you need.

You can unlearn any negative messages you've internalized. You can work through the fear of being direct and you can find a partner who will respond positively to knowing your internal state. You deserve to be heard.

Asking for it Doesn't Mean You'll Get It

More on this in another post, but even though I'm enthusiastically telling you to share how you're feeling and ask for what you need, you also need to be prepared for your partner to either react poorly (they're humans too, after all) or to not meet your need.

Sometimes your partner is also having a bad day and might not be emotionally available to talk through your friend drama. Or they have a work event and can't skip it even though you'd love some extra help with the yard work.

Sharing your feelings doesn't mean your partner will stop everything to listen and empathize. They may be distracted by other things in their life, or they may feel too burnt out to be there for you, or they may not know how to be supportive when you're upset.

And asking for what you need doesn't mean your partner has to fulfill that request. They may not be able to they may not want to. You'll need to respect their decision, even if it stings.

This doesn't mean you should stop saying how you feel and asking for what you need, you just need to have reasonable expectations. Your partner might let you know in their response or they might not be able to fulfill your request, and that's okay. Keep trying. Don't stop communicating with each other just because it doesn't go perfectly every time.

Give It a Week

If this sounds like a big change to make, try doing this for one week. You can even prepare your partner by telling them you're going to try to be more direct about how you're feeling and asking for what you need. It's okay if they can't meet that need, it's all about the practice. You might be surprised by how freeing it feels to be honest and open instead of dropping hints and hoping your partner sees them.

Let me know how it goes in the comments!


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