In my relationship, I have preferences. For example, I love foot rubs. To me, no person alive doesn’t want their feet rubbed every night.
That would be fine if the story stopped there – I want my feet rubbed every night.
But it doesn’t.
My favorite way to make something out of nothing is to go into my super reliable memory (ahem, no.) I charge myself up with supporting evidence why I should get nightly massages.
All the times I have given foot rubs… All the meals I have lovingly prepared… All the work I do… I compile a list in my head of all the ways I am SUPER DESERVED of what I want.
Then I like to ruminate, make correlations that are actually unrelated, and cause myself some suffering.
Why he is not giving me more foot rubs? Why is he just so happy to receive, but not give right back? Why do I end up doing the dishes most of the time? That would be a nice way to show appreciation for a delicious meal…
I need to say something, I think. This is patriarchy! I deserve better.
Now I’m upset. Perfect time to share my feelings – i.e. complain about his lack of foot rubbing. It’s a perfect time because obviously I’m thinking clearly and rationally. Obviously I have supporting evidence. Obviously I deserve foot rubs. Obviously there’s a discrepancy in foot rub ratios.
To recap here are the 3 Steps to a Perfect Complaint:
- Unspoken Desire
- Evidence of Deservedness
- Justice Seeking
So why do women complain? In my opinion, it comes down to self-worth.
Everywhere, everyday, on most media we consume, in most relationships we observe, we are modeled a representation of social dynamics between the sexes.
A few exceptions exist, of course. But to be fair, most women in the west grow up questioning their worthiness. Their right to be here. Their deservedness of love, security, autonomy, and pleasure.
We play out what we have learned about ourselves in the way we get what we want.
Our secret weapon: manipulation in the form of complaint.
In the above example, I would complain about all the things I do for him. All the times I have given foot rubs. Likely I would express it out of a sense of entitlement and expectation. All because I have proven to myself, in my flawless reasoning, why I am deserving of what I want. Why it’s only fair that I should get it.
This feels very disgusting to a man. It doesn’t inspire him. If he’s been exposed to this type of manipulation for a long time, he may just cut his losses, not argue the point, and do it. But will his heart be in it? No.
Or he may become angry, and push back on this complaining with more complaining. Eventually an argument ensues about who is the more deserving, and who is in the deficit.
Not an outcome that a woman was after. Now she feels he has worsened her self confidence, and his push back becomes a personal affront.
There is another way. I know this because my partner has helped me see. How do you think I know the intricacies of complaining and manipulation?
I’m a recovering complainer.
My man has realized what is at the root of my complaining, and when he hears me start, he stops me. And asks me a very powerful question that makes the entire dance of worthiness proving obsolete.
What is it that you WANT?
This takes a huge devotion to integrity on his part. He knows I am not a woman who feels unworthy at my core. He sees that there is an immature “team player” at work to gain some feelings of worth and safety.
The thing is – worthiness and deservedness are innate. They do not be attained, or given. It’s perpetuating a lie to seek them.
When I try to get them from my partner, it usually has a flavor of desperation. If I think I need them, I have forgotten my innate nature. This never feels good inside, and causes a lot of urgency and messy relating.
I have come to realize that all of this can be avoided if I do just one thing differently.
I have to ask for what I want. Plain and simple. No story about why I want it. No reasons why I deserve to get it. No comparison or score boards.
What I have discovered in fleeting moments of clarity: I can stay in my own experience of my best self, know my worth, and I can ask for anything without a flicker of self doubt.
There are a few tips I’d like to give you, before you skip off and ask for your partner for 1,000 foot rubs.
The art of an inspiring ask:
- Don’t have expectations, they aren’t sexy.
- Don’t pressure or coerce.
- Don’t explain why, or list reasons.
- Do share with your partner what you loved about the last time.
- Do address your partner as a hero who can fulfill your desires better than anyone else alive.
- Do take 5 breaths and land in your best self first.
- Do let there be silence after your ask.
- Be okay with a No.
The art of graceful receiving:
- Do tell your partner 3 things you loved about their gift.
- Do this in a slow, meaningful way, with lots of eye contact.
- Touch is key, a little hand massage while you share your gratitude.
- If you have feedback, take a “Yes, and…” approach. “Yes I liked this part, and I would offer this small improvement to make my heart soar next time.”
- Notice any feelings of unworthiness that may make you reject the gift of another. This robs them of the joy of giving, and is not a caring way to receive.
In my work I often come to a point in the conversation with my clients when we get to this realization:
I don’t ask for pleasure.
I don’t take pleasure.
I don’t know what I like.
I don’t know where to begin.
Does this sound familiar?
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