Stepping Up Your Game

12/20/2011 02:40 pm ET | Updated Feb 19, 2012
  • Ken Solin Voiceover Actor, Author, Columnist, Date Coach for Women Over 50

Okay, you're not getting your needs met in your relationship. You're frustrated because your wife or girlfriend isn't getting your dissatisfaction. After all, she suggested you get in touch with your feelings, and you did. So why isn't she picking up on your feelings?

Because she's not a mind reader, that's why.

When I ask a man who has complained that his wife or girlfriend isn't meeting his needs, whether or not he's actually told her how he feels, his response is invariably, no. As long as men choose to be tight-lipped, rather than freely sharing their sentiments and clearly stating their needs, they're not going to get what they need from women, or from anyone else for that matter -- at least not on a regular basis.

Men often keep their emotions bottled up because that's what they were taught and what their "macho" media heroes practice. The fear that being emotionally open and vulnerable could be construed as wimpy or unmanly is a powerful prospect for men to reckon with. But even guys who are willing to vault that hurdle often realize that they simply don't know how to ask for what they need, on an emotional level.

Here's an example. I recently heard a fellow complaining that his wife doesn't do the loving things for him that she did in the beginning of their relationship. When I asked him how he broached the topic with his wife, he said, "I told her that I'm angry about not getting my needs met in our marriage." That statement not only didn't give his wife any concrete information to work with, but it also pointed the finger at her and likely put her on the defensive. Not a good opening for constructive dialogue.

If, instead, this guy could've said something along the lines of, "I'm feeling sad or hurt because I'm not getting the strokes I've grown to enjoy in our relationship any more. It meant so much to me when you used to tell me you believed in me and were proud of me." Such a statement is not accusatory and would help his wife better understand and empathize with her husband's feelings -- and give her a clue what to do about turning the situation around.

Okay guys, so here's the bottom line. If you want to get your emotional needs met, you're going to have to take responsibility for them and state them in specific emotional terms. Women can't read minds, and expecting them to isn't going to work for either of you. Saying, "I'm hungry" when asked what you want to eat in a restaurant won't get you a meal. It isn't specific.

Although this issue is more of a problem for men than women, the dynamic can go both ways. Some women aren't comfortable with or adept at emotional dialogue, either, and expect their partners to be omniscient and fulfill their unstated wishes. When I dated, I was occasionally chastised because I couldn't guess what was wrong with my girlfriend. The way out of this deadlock is for men and women to take responsibility and state their emotional needs in such a way that their partner has a fighting chance of meeting them. It isn't selfish to ask your partner for what you want. What's selfish is expecting your partner to do the work for you. Feeling misunderstood, angry, or sorry for yourself will get you--and your relationship--nowhere.

So open up, say how you're feeling, and ask for what you need. You deserve it and you won't be looking for a mind reader once you learn how to share.