Getting What You Actually Want from your Partner— Part One: Clarifying and Prioritizing Your Goals

We’ve all been there; we ask our partner to take out the trash, be more spontaneous in bed, or even remember that we have that dinner party on Saturday. And sometimes, it happens. Though other times, they fall short of our expectations. We may blame this on our partner. We may say, “If they were more attentive, trusting, intelligent, or romantic, we would get what we want.” But, the fact of the matter is that it is not only your partner that plays a role in this; it is also you and how you may be asking for what you need.

The first step in getting what your want from your partner is to clarify and prioritize your needs.

Any ask has three types of goals: objective, relationship, and self-respect.

Your objective goal, or “objectives effectiveness,” as it is labeled in DBT, is what you want from your partner. For example, if you want your partner to take out the trash, that is your objective goal. If you want your partner to be more spontaneous in bed, that is your goal.

When creating your objective goal, ask yourself, “What is it that I want from my partner?” You want it to be as straightforward as possible. A good rule of thumb is to make it one sentence and to focus on one thing. So, if you are writing, “I want them to love me the way I want to be loved,” that isn’t precise enough. Narrow it down. What does it mean to be loved the way you want?

For you, maybe that means you want more kisses or more time spent talking about each other days. If this is the case, then your Objectives goal is: “I want to spend X amount of time each day talking about Y.” The more specific you are in your ask, the more likely your partner is going to be able to grant your request.

The next goal is the relationship goal or relationship effectiveness. When approaching this goal, ask yourself, “How do I want my partner to feel after this interaction?” Going back to the example of taking out the trash, perhaps you want them to feel good about doing the actual task or feel you aren’t pushing them into something they don’t want to do. Sometimes, we may say, “Well, I don’t care how they feel about it. I want it done.” Remind yourself that you get more flies with honey. We can say we want them to feel neutral or even calm after you ask for what you want.

The last goal is the self-respect goal or self-respect effectiveness. When figuring out this goal, you ask yourself, “How do I want to feel after this interaction?” Maybe you want to feel confident, proud, or like a badass. Or perhaps you want to feel relieved. Again, there are no right or wrong answers here.

Once we have our three goals for our interaction, we want to prioritize them.

In a “perfect world,” we want all three of these goals met, and occasionally this happens. However, often only one or two get met, so ranking them in order of most to least significant is crucial.

So, if your objective goal is, “I want my partner to take out the trash,” and your relationship goal is, “I want them to feel good about doing the task.” Your self-respect goal is, “I want to feel as if I did something good for myself by asking,” which is the most important goal for you to meet in this interaction? Again, there is no right or wrong answer here. Maybe this is the 4th time asking them to take out the trash, so you believe the objective is the most important. Or perhaps you feel as if you have been asking a lot of your partner lately, so the relationship is more important. Remember that your ranking depends on what you think is the most important presently.

Once these goals are ranked, we can go about actually preparing to ask for what we need. Continue to check in for the second step: setting the stage for your conversation.


Shelby Milhoan, LCPC

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