Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Why is it so hard to ask for what you want?

Anonymous commented on my last post, "[...]Ask yourself what kind of relationship message you are putting out? You are afraid of getting hurt and so often keep men at arms length. That message comes out that YOU are afraid of commitment as well. That YOU aren't capable of being close to another person, because of your fear."

In an instant I recognized this as truth. The timing of the comment was perfect, because its message was actually something that I have been thinking about a lot over the last couple days. In one of the most surprisingly helpful conversations I have ever had with Pete, he led me to this fairly life-changing idea: If you're not getting what you want, why don't you try asking for it? Ask for what you want. 

My gut reaction was immediate and visceral: No way! With his well-duh question of "Why not?", suddenly, in a flash, I finally saw myself from the outside, saw every relationship and pseudo-relationship of the last few years, and their freakily similar demises: boy meets girl. Girl hopes against hope that boy will fall madly in love with her and give her everything she's ever wanted, all the while pretending she could care less. When inevitably he doesn't give her what she had hoped for in the time frame she would have desired, girl writes off boy forever. He gets vilified as a jerk for not giving her everything she wanted, when the fact is, she never asked for anything in the first place. 

The fact is, the past four and a half years I have been so afraid of not getting what I want that I've been afraid to admit that I want anything at all. I've been so afraid of getting told 'no' that it seemed easier to never ask a question at all. This whole time I've been waiting for "The One," he who would fall madly and deeply in love with me and prove this with overwhelming displays of his passion and also long-term commitment, only after which would I finally feel safe and secure enough to begrudgingly admit that I returned his affections. If this plot sounds familiar it's because it's at the root of every single rom-com ever made, but in real life? PEOPLE DON'T DO THIS. Any kind of relationship is a mutual endeavor and requires effort and encouragement from both parties; it's not supposed to be some big pass/fail test that the guy doesn't even know he is taking. ("YOU FAILED!" "Wait, but...what was the question?" "Didn't you know you were supposed to read my mind? You lose, get out!")

Pete's advice was surprisingly pragmatic. So, I am upset that the Moroccan doesn't seem to want to spend more time with me. Have I asked him to spend more time with me? Well, no, he should just want to! I am upset that he still has his online dating profile up or that he has not Facebook friended me, but have I asked him what he thinks about taking down his profile? Have I sent him a Facebook friend request? Well no, but... "But what?" Pete says. I don't want to be that girl, I think, and then just as quickly I think, wait, what girl? The girl who has a boyfriend? Suddenly it occurred to me that all these married women I see everywhere probably didn't just sit around twiddling their thumbs until someone asked them to marry him, and when he did they probably didn't respond by saying, "Oh, gosh, wow! Honestly I had never even thought about it before, but now that you ask, well, okay!" But, in a way, that's what I've been doing for years. I've been so afraid of scaring guys off that I wait around hoping he'll give me something, and when he does I say, "Well, ok, if that's what you want!" But I have never once even hinted at what I want. 

It seems so revolutionary, and at the same time so astonishingly simple: Ask for what you want. ASK for what you want! It's a new way of life, it's a new way of dating, maybe a whole new me. 

Of course, the downside of "ask for what you want" is that you could be told no. But, as Pete put it, at least then you know where you stand, and you know it a lot sooner than if you keep dragging things out indefinitely as some people (ahem) are wont to do. 

I should mention after my last post that the Moroccan is not a jerk, and he is not just like every other guy. I was disappointed that things weren't progressing as I wanted (even though I had never told him what I wanted), and I wrote that post under the influence of some pretty serious hormonal fluctuation. I am not saying that things are all good, but they might not be as hopeless as they seem (although they also might be). 

Stay tuned for part 2 of the "Ask for what you want" saga, otherwise known as, "But you might not like the answer..."


  1. I really like this post. It's so true in all aspects of life that you often just have to ask!

  2. As someone who never, ever thought I would find a guy -- and who was engaged within three months of finally meeting him -- I must disagree here. The right guy is effortless. There's none of that questioning, waiting, fretting, wondering whether he will call, etc. You know he will call.

    I must have had several hundred dates, maybe 400 or 500 -- before I realized I simply didn't want to do that anymore. It was emotionally exhausting and draining and time-consuming and eventually became counterproductive. Nobody felt right, and the guys I liked didn't pan out.

    My husband was effortless from the get-go. All my married friends say the same thing.

    Best of luck, Why, because luck is all it is.


  3. Asking for what you want is important. But more important is knowing that you deserve what you want.

  4. Great post. I think that you should ask for what you want AND he should just want to spend more time with you.

  5. Your right guy experience is not anyone else's right guy experience. There is no formula, no precisely right way to end up married or committed.

    Marriages have failed to happen and failed once they happened due to not asking for what you want. Absolutely ask for what you want, and don't compare your romance to anyone else's.

  6. I never thought of it in terms of finding the right guy, but as part of my father's speech during my wedding, he said, "Tell him what you want. Tell him when you need help. You have to ASK -- he can't read your mind."

    I have to tell you, as a VERY independent person (I was even independent, in many ways, as a child), this was difficult for me. Seven years into this marriage and I still sometimes struggle with it, but I do it. And it feels damn good because it gets things done and resolved. No, I might not like the answer all the time, but I'm not sitting there wallowing in my anger of his not doing something when "he should know" that he should. Just asking "Can you do this...?" makes me feel 50% better. If the answer is positive, then I feel 100% better. But even if the answer is negative, I feel 90% better, just because I've "released" and expressed the want.

    Does that make sense?

  7. Alright Charlie Brown this isn't a comment for you it's a comment on a comment--- PT- what fucking planet do you live on? effortless? engaged after three months? all your friends say the same? can i have the same meds you take cuz they seem to make the world like a big fluffy wad of pink cotton candy, seriously, people don't even know how their partner likes their toast after three months but you got engaged and it's been a fucking fairy tale ever since, my guess is your hubby has a piece on the side that keeps him happy, that advice was a steaming pile of dogshit and detrimental to any sane person seeking relationship advice, there is no "one" and the phrase "meant to be" is bullshit, if shit was meant to be then i'd either be in the fucking NBA or living in Amsterdam growing chronic so fuck that shit too, relationships are work and anyone who doesn't think so or recgonize that is higher than me...

    okay i'm done, boy do i feel better, i need a drink.

  8. Kono, that's interesting, because when I read PT's comment, my first thought was, "yeah, that's how it worked for me." I don't believe in "the one" or a soulmate or "meant to be", but I do know that when I met my partner, it felt comfortable and easy and right immediately, completely unlike anything I had experienced before. I had absolutely none of that wondering if I should call or worrying about if he was going to call. I had ALWAYS been stressed in every relationship before, reading novels into every little thing he said or move he made, wondering if he would call, and making myself sick over the fact that he called 10 minutes later than I expected (not that I ever told him when I expected him to call, of course...obviously, he should have just known) and that all went away with this guy.

    I'm not saying that it's not work sometimes, because it is, but I'm never afraid to be myself or tell him what I feel and what I want, or ask him what he feels and what he wants. What it boils down to is that from day one, I've never been afraid he's going to run away just because I show him that I want to be with him. It's different and stronger and better (and considerably longer) than any relationship I've been in before.

    So yeah, I totally disagree with anyone who says (like I saw in the comments on the last post) that you need to play the game and ignore him until he becomes interested again. Who wants to have to deal with that? What if that never stops? What if you're still playing games after years have gone by, just hoping to keep him interested? And damn right, ask for what you want. Know what you want, and say it. Tell him you like him, and you want to spend time with him. Call him when you want. FB friend him if you want to. Ask him about his dating profile, and if he's seeing someone else. Like Pete said, it's better to get it out and know now rather than let it drag along forever before you find out he's never been all that interested.

  9. Maybe the key to PT's change of fortune is in that comment that she just didn't want to do it the old way anymore. She apparently had an attitude change before the angels sang and everything fell into place. It really does seem to get easier when you stop trying so hard. I doubt the concept of "the one" or "happily ever after" as much as anyone. But I have observed (from inside and out) that confidence and self sufficiency can be highly attractive to others and a comfortable place from which to negotiate terms.

    Back to the asking for what you want part - it does work for all the reasons mentioned. Underlying the willingness to ask for what you want is some degree of certainty that you have a reasonable right to at least ask and along with that goes an implied willingness to accept the answer, positive or negative. That is harder than asking unless you believe on some level that you can and will survive even if you don't get what you want.

    In a way it comes down to accepting and respecting yourself enough to realize that you are responsible for your own happiness - nobody else can give you everything you need.

  10. I love these kind of realizations. And I think you're totally right. I've learned to ask for certain things right away, e.g. "Hey if we're going to have doritos I don't want you to have any with anybody else." Girls hesitate with that stuff because we think it sounds clingy or "moving too fast," when really it doesn't sound clingy if you say it simply and matter-of-factly, and I've found (certain) boys to even be relieved at your straight-forwardness! There are some sad truths like we all want someone more who's unavailable, THAT'S exactly the kind of thing that (mostly) goes away when you find the right person. It's OK to ask for what you want, as long as you do it simply and clearly. Then you don't have to make up bullshitty reasons or never talk again if it doesn't work out.

    Good ephiphany, lady! Sorry for my incoherent rant. Just excited.

    (I hope my post shows up, they always disappear!)

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  12. Aha! I was afraid my comment would upset you. I am glad it had the effect I originally intended - Find the Rachel I know is in there!

    I didn't realize is would cause such a ruckus in your comment section though! Woooh, incitement of hatred!

    ALAS, the comment was for you, not anyone else and I am glad that you found your strength. I am interested to see where the tale of The Moroccan is going...

  13. If you can get one valuable thing out of PT's commment, it's that she feels comfort around her husband. It seems like you feel comfortable being around the Moroccan, conversation is easy, good times are had, etc... Now you just need to do exactly what you wrote about and tell him what you want.

    I'm married with a non-psychic husband and if I don't tell him what I want then I don't get it. I find that's true with everyone.

  14. I'm excited - can't wait to find out what happens now that you're going to start asking for what you want.

  15. I need a Pete. Where do I find one?

  16. I dated my last boyfriend on and off for six years. I told him exactly what I wanted. I told him I wanted to get married...and that I wanted him to communicate more...and that I needed him to open up to me and stop cheating. I was clear. He told me...maybe. So I stayed. Finally I said, if you want to move in with me then ask me to marry you...I haven't seen him since. So yeah...sometimes when you flat out ask for what you want..and become that girl..and really put yourself out there..you get told no. Or you get told nothing..which is just a silent no. But then you know what happened? That ROMCOM situation you were talking about. Where this guy just swooped in and couldn't resist telling me how much he loved me and wanted a long term relationship with me and wanted to merge our families and never fall asleep again because real life is better than a dream.

    So why am I still unsure. Must be something wrong with a guy who really really wants to be with me. Right?

  17. I think asking for what you want is a huge part of getting it! Huge.

    Things with IC and I are pretty effortless, but that's in part because I made an effort to say what I wanted and what I needed. I promised myself I'd tell him when he annoyed me or when I felt like my needs aren't being met and when I loved him and I wouldn't let either moment pass because it's uncomfortable.

    So definitely say what you want - because the Moroccan definitely can't read your mind.

  18. this is a great post! i've been reading your blog a long time, and whenever one of your relationships sour, i've always wanted to say "maybe it IS you?!" but didn't want to come off as harsh as that would sound.

    i think you have completely nailed the major problem in your romantic dept, and while it is not so simple to get over, at least you're now aware of your behaviors.

    in my own situation: i had reached a point of being sick of ending up with guys that were pieces of shit, and i made the decision to no longer play games and to be upfront about my feelings - if a guy was gonna get freaked out by that, then he wasn't the guy for me. and guess what: it totally worked!