Sometimes, being in a relationship is tough. You wonder if it’s impossible to get your boyfriend to understand how you really feel. Are guys clueless when it comes to our feelings? After all, men have been asking themselves ‘what do women want?’ for millennia.
Well, truthfully? For a long time, guys just weren’t really listening. However, thanks to a long line of feminist revolutionaries ranging from Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Oprah, we’ve come a long way, baby. Now, it’s all about telling your partner what you need from him (or her!).
Sometimes knowing what we ‘need’ from others is difficult… especially when we’re talking about the person we’re romantically involved with. It seems that it’s always easier to decipher what the needs of others are than what our own needs are sometimes. Sometimes you wonder why it’s so hard and what it will take to get your boyfriend to understand.
We spend so much of our lives worrying about others. We’re worried about what they think of us. We worry about whether we’ve done enough to please them. Do they think we ‘deserve’ whatever it is that we hope for in return?
Sometimes we just wonder if they think we’re fat.
The truth is none of that matters. Zilch. Nada.
Most of us have listened to enough Beyonce by now that we aren’t questioning rather that standard is warped. What we may not realize, however, is that by doing more, we are putting up roadblocks to our own happiness!
Don’t panic, we can fix this. You can get your boyfriend to understand.
Check out the steps detailed below and decide for yourself if you think it’s worth a try.
In fact, he just might thank you for it.
Step One: Acknowledge Your Quiet Sacrifices
Frustrations a b*tch. It’s also a huge barrier to great communication. Sometimes we can’t always pinpoint the root of a deep and quiet frustration in our bellies. We just know it’s there.
This frustration is often self-inflicted. We spend so many years adopting the cultural norms and repeating learned behaviors that tell us that we need to spend our lives putting others first.
Only after we’ve attended to our duties as a girlfriend, a wife, a mother, a daughter, or as a friend do we feel right about doing things that benefit only ourselves.
This is a behavior quite unique to women. Many women can attest that this is not a quality common in husbands, boyfriends, and sometimes even fathers.
The most woeful part about the notion that we must put everyone else first, is that there is just no one keeping score.
There is no vote tally in the sky for every sacrifice we make in favor of others. No bonus points for choosing to attend a college closer to the one he’s attending, instead of the school we had hoped.
In the words of Gloria Steinem, “Women are always better liked if we sacrifice ourselves for something bigger – and something bigger always means including men, even though something bigger for men doesn’t usually mean including women.”
The truth is, it’s just hard to say what we feel when we aren’t honoring our own needs in the first place. Identifying this quality is the first step in moving towards a happier life, better communication, and ultimately a better relationship.
Step Two: Putting Yourself First
Once you’ve identified where you’re giving more than you have to give, it’s time to make some changes.
The truth is, we have more to give as friends, employees, girlfriends, and wives when we’re all filled up on the good stuff.
(Sometimes the good stuff is pizza with extra cheese, but most of the time this just means doing the things that fulfill us and bring us joy)
So pull out a pad of paper and write down all the areas in your life where you make sacrifices. It might feel silly or self-serving but do it.
We’re gonna make some edits. Maybe you leave most of your evenings open to spend with him, but he decides what nights he wants to spend with friends. Maybe you’ve spent the last three holidays with his family and you want him to come home with you this time.
So often we end up blowing up over something little when it’s really not about that at all. We just get tired of pretending. we prefer hanging out with his friends over our own,
In a TED talk recently given by author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, she said,
“…I know a woman who hates domestic work, she just hates it, but she pretends that she likes it because she’s been taught that to be “good wife material” she has to be — to use that Nigerian word — very “homely.”
And then she got married, and after a while, her husband’s family began to complain that she had changed. (…)
Now imagine how much happier we would be, how much freer to be our true individual selves, if we didn’t have the weight of gender expectations.
Boys and girls are undeniably different biologically, but socialization exaggerates the differences and then it becomes a self-fulfilling process.
Now, take cooking for example. Today women, in general, are more likely to do the housework than men, the cooking, and cleaning. But why is that? Is it because women are born with a cooking gene?”
The audience laughs. They know there is no cooking gene. In other words? You can’t expect to get your boyfriend to understand when you’re pretending everything is ok!
Step Three: What Makes You Happiest
Alright, so we’ve finished the list of where we’re making sacrifices. Now it’s time for the happy stuff.
No seriously. We’re gonna write down all the happy stuff.
Write down a list of the stuff you can’t get enough of.
Stuff you could do for hours without batting an eye. It could be dancing, it could be writing that novel that’s going to change the world, it might even be something that you do with your partner.
It’s time to clean out the BS and make room for the good stuff.
When we stop hoping that our partners will notice how hard we work to be great girlfriends and we just start taking responsibility for our own happiness, our lives improve exponentially. When you stop worrying about how to get your boyfriend to understand and start worrying about all the stuff you care about, your life will radically improve!
All we have to do is start doing the things we love and declining the things we don’t. So sign up for that yoga teacher training or rent a car and take a cross country trip with a girlfriend that you’ve been mentally planning for years. Ultimately, your own happiness is the greatest gift of all.
Step Four: What You Need from Him
Ok, ladies. What’s left? We’ve eliminated the excess frustration, now it’s time to figure out what else needs to be expressed. Now is the time to get your boyfriend to understand!
Maybe you haven’t been clear before or maybe you have been clear and he didn’t take you seriously. By now you should have a clear outline of the things that make you happy and the things that frustrate you. Now it’s time to make a clear outline of your expectations and what you think needs to improve, in order for you to have a happier partnership together.
Remember, it’s not his fault if he disappoints you, if you’re counting on him to make you happy. It is his fault, however, if he’s hurting or abusing you.
Do not pass go, do not collect $200… If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, skip down to the “In Case of Emergency” section immediately. There are people who want to help.
Step Five: The Talk
Here we go. Don’t overthink it and whatever you do, don’t discount the things that are important to you.
When starting out a difficult conversation, sometimes it’s helpful to start with a statement that you can both agree on. Just because he doesn’t completely understand you, doesn’t mean he’s the enemy.
“I think it’s really important to both of us to be there for one another, which is why I think it’s important that we talk about (blank)”
Guys aren’t mind-readers and sometimes the stuff that seems SUPER OBVIOUS to us just doesn’t seem to register. So be clear about it.
When we sidestep our feelings and don’t say how we really feel, we miss giving men an opportunity to step up. Don’t make decisions based on what you think he’d think. Stop it. You’re doing yourself a disservice and you’re robbing him of the opportunity to step up to the plate.
If you’ve made it through the first four steps and whatever it is that you wrote is still on your list, it’s important. You have to get your boyfriend to understand the things that matter and you should make sure to keep your communication channels open, so he can do the same!
So tell him how you really feel and how you’d like to grow together as a couple. Get your boyfriend to understand the big important stuff and all the little things will fall into place.
In Case of Emergency:
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, do not hesitate to get help! Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse is never the victim’s fault and help is only a phone call or a text away. No matter how bad it seems, there is always hope and there’s a small army of people who want to help you!
To reach a LoveisRespect peer advocate:
Text* loveis (capitalization does not matter) to 22522 or call 1-866-331-9474
or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224 http://www.thehotline.org
If you’re struggling with thoughts of self-harm call 1-800-273-8255 or chat online with someone who can help.