Have you ever had the opportunity to ask your partner, “What do you need from me right now?” I have no doubt that there absolutely has been opportunity. If you’re human and you’re in a relationship with another human, then, yup, there’s been opportunity to ask this.
So, now check your memory and be honest. Have you asked your partner this question? If yes, way to go you! If not, that’s OK – ‘cause doing something new in a relationship can be a good thing and this could be one of your new good things.
Keep reading and we’ll get into why asking your partner this question can be a really great way to make a healthy and intimate connection.
What are you noticing right now?
Before you can ask what do you need from me right now?, you’re likely wondering, why would I ask it? Maybe your question is when would I ask it?
It helps to understand what’s at the beginning, so before we look at the asking, let’s take on the why/when first.
And, I’ll say it up front. It’s hard. I get it. It involves taking risk, owning your stuff, and being vulnerable.
Start with yourself
What are you noticing about yourself in your relationship right now? Are you feeling connected to your partner? Or have you felt like things have been distant recently or for a while? Do you show up in your relationship as someone you’d rather not be all the time (such as “always angry” or “checked out”)?
If you have been missing a connection with your partner and you’d like to start moving things back on track, notice and be honest about your feelings. And then get ready to be vulnerable.
Asking your partner what do you need from me right now? when you are willing to acknowledge and own your own feelings of disconnection or being a different kind of self can open the door for your partner to show up with their own vulnerability.
This could be the beginning of a whole new relationship for the two of you.
Start with your partner
What are you noticing about your partner? Does your partner often come home from work stressed or angry? Does your partner seem to be easily upset? Does your partner seem to avoid you in some way? Is your partner avoiding a sensitive topic that could benefit from discussion?
Does it feel like it would be hard for you to ask your partner what do you need from me right now? If your answer is yes, it’s probably because you’re not currently having connected conversations and being vulnerable would probably feel awkward or uncomfortable – generally a sign that you need to move into the discomfort and take a risk.
“What do you need from me right now?”
This is a loaded question. There’s a lot in it. These are 8 rather important words in a relationship. In asking these 8 words, this is who you are willing to be in this conversation and what you are letting your partner know:
I recognize that you have a need for connection right now
I am asking you to be vulnerable and take a risk with me
I will not judge you or your request
I am part of what happens next
I am here for you
I can handle your response and your need
I am listening to understand, not to respond
You have my undivided and dedicated attention
I am committed to being here with and for you until we meet your need
I know that you may not know what you need from me right now
We are in this together
When you let your partner know all these things, they will feel like they matter to you. They will feel important to you. Wow! Whoa! And you will matter to them – because, in this moment, you are helping them meet their need with your undivided attention. Wow! Whoa! Again! This is BIG.
What might the response look like?
Your role, as the asker of this question, is to listen very carefully to your partner. Let them tell you what they are looking for from you in the moment. The ways they respond to you and your question can vary. Again, listen carefully and closely.
Your partner may be able to verbally articulate to you their need. It may come in the form of something like one of these below. These are only a few examples.
Partner: I just need to RARRRR!!! on my day! (partner continues) I can’t believe so-and-so said that I’m _____ and I felt so [mad | humiliated | embarrassed | whatever] and now I (and the story continues).
You: You’re the receiver of the venting. Do not interrupt their story. Do not try to fix. Listen and offer supportive murmurings throughout (as appropriate), such as, “Yikes, that sounds sucky” or “oh no” and so on.
Partner: Could we talk?
You: Of course. Where would you like to sit? OR Of course. Would you like to go for a walk? (And the two of you engage and listen and respond with curiosity, openly and non-judgmentally.)
Physical touch (non-sexual):
Partner: Could you just hold me?
You: You pull them in and let them lean into you for as long as they want and need to. (Contact is non-sexual unless your partner’s need shifts into something sexual. If you are noticing yourself getting aroused, that’s OK – notice it and make a note to take care of yourself, either with your partner or solo, later. In this moment, it’s about your partner’s needs.)
Partner: Could you rub my shoulders?
You: You’re the strong-handed shoulder-rubber, so do your thing. (Again, contact is non-sexual – see comment just above.)
Partner: Could you make dinner tonight? I’m exhausted | need a break | need to sit | can’t think about a healthy menu | etc.
You: Of course. Glad to. Does insert dish here sound OK? I can have that ready in xx minutes. (Then you’re the dinner-maker who also gladly serves partner wherever they are sitting.)
Know too that their telling of their need does not have to be a verbal telling. Your partner may be someone who is more comfortable guiding you, such as to a sofa so you can sit next to each other and wrap each other up in your arms. Or they might pull themselves into you for a wordless, full-body, long-lasting hug.
(Here too, if your partner communicates to you via pulling you into a hug or some other physical touch, this is meant to be non-sexual touch unless your partner initiates a move to physical intimacy once their initial need it met.)
The initial request may not come in words.
A response of “I don’t know”
Or, as mentioned above, they may not quite know what it is they need in the moment. “I don’t know” is a valid response. It can communicate that your partner is still processing, or is feeling overwhelmed, or is not yet grounded in their body and hasn’t identified a need yet. Here’s how that could go:
You: What do you need from me right now?
Partner: (sighing) I don’t know what I need right now . . . . I had a long day.
You: Is it OK if I give you a hug now and then ask you again later, sometime before we go to bed tonight?
Partner: Sure – I just need to process my day first . . . .
Note the commitment to the follow-through you’re making here. You’re letting your partner know that you’re in it together as you commit to coming back around to meeting their needs.
Putting it into Practice
In all the examples offered above, note the non-judgmental stance you’re taking. Notice that you’re not prescribing any fix or trying to appease your partner. You’re practicing embracing the idea of you remaining in the moment and listening to understand and not to respond.
Asking a partner What do you need from me right now? is meant to be reciprocal. It is certainly not one-sided. It’s reciprocal. It’s mutual. But if neither one of you has ever asked the other this question, it will take one of you to get things started by introducing this question and stance (see the list above under what you are letting your partner know).
In practicing and honoring this openness, curiosity, acceptance, and giving, you are opening doors to creating a healthier pattern of relating in your most intimate relationship. Having healthier relational patterns often leads to feeling more connected to your partner. Feeling more connected usually leads to increased satisfaction in a relationship, more sex or more satisfying sex, more joy in life in general.
We need to be noticed. We need to know that someone wants to take care of us – yes! even as adults! (watch for a future blog on adult attachment). We sometimes need someone to bring us the chicken soup (literally or metaphorically). We need to feel that we matter to another person. We need to feel important.
Notice your partner’s down moments. Notice your own. Ask what do you need from me right now?
If you’d like to explore practicing this question and stance with your loved one in a safe and non-judgmental space, contact me for help in finding or refining your formula for your healthy, connected, and sexy relationship. I look forward to meeting both of you.