Love Letters to Humans (no. 66) — on Asking for what we want

When you want something with or from another, do you request, invite, demand, coerce, manipulate, or silently expect them to know?

If you’ve ever been in a conversation I’ve facilitated, you’ve probably heard me encourage you to go after what you want. I say it a lot. Your wants are precious and worthy of regard. Go after what you want. It rankles some folks to their bones, and for good reason.

More than a few of us—especially girls, women, and AFABs—have been raised to disregard our own desires, to caretake, to people-please, to be “good,” to not disrupt, not make a scene, not be high-maintenance. When we want to something—material goods, satisfying food, satisfying sex, healthy emotional connection, enjoyment of our own bodies, pleasure, success, power, authentic self-expression—we are labeled any number of things: greedy, irresponsible, undisciplined, wanton, immoral, needy, shameless, vulgar, bossy, pushy, weird, ugly… I could go on and on. We’re taught that only bad, careless, harmful people are free to go after what they want.

When our own desire is disobedient, punishable even, we learn to hide and suppress what we want. If this, then that. If desire is bad and good is safe, then desire isn’t safe. Going after what we want can be, initially, a massive undertaking that requires us to take the radical first step of *knowing* what we want. It can be a big, uncomfortable deal. For a lot of us, it’s courageous AF. …and…

Beyond simply knowing what we want, how do we go after it?

Relationally, if we’re unskilled at even knowing what we want, we’re probably equally unskilled at asking for it. Some of us (🤚) can get up to some funky and woefully ineffective strategies for getting what we want. We demand even though a request would suffice. We manipulate because we’re afraid to invite. We coerce. We say nothing at all and expect people to magically know what we want.

We shut down, roll our eyes, judge ourselves, talk to anyone but the person who needs to hear us ask, pretend a command is an invitation, diminish our own request, pretend we don’t care—anything to avoid feeling our feelings and taking responsibility. The maneuvers are exhausting.

We come by all of this relational fuckery honestly -and- we can choose to try something else if our best-worst strategies aren’t getting us the joyful connection we want in our most important relationships.

Do you know what you’re up to?

What unspoken expectations are you holding and insisting that someone else’s “should” know, while you continue not getting what you want?

Where could a request or an invitation be more effective and joyful than a demand?