Being assertive of what you need is crucial, especially for people with an anxious attachment style. According to the authors of Attached, it’s easy to fall into because the culture we live in shames us for our needs and makes us feel illegitimate in the process.
Whether your needs are legitimate for someone else or not is besides the point. They MATTER for YOUR HAPPINESS. Therefore, they are legitimate.
Vulnerable communication is done in secure, healthy relationships, and it also creates secure, healthy relationships.
It’s important to resist the temptation of indirect methods of trying to get your needs met (such as making your partner jealous). I highly recommend anyone who is struggling to feel secure in a relationship to write down how you feel.
Not only will this make the story in your head more clear about your desires, but it’ll help you get over the fear of having cold feet or forgetting what you need to say. It will make it easier for you to talk to your partner with confidence.
1) What am I feeling? What specific events make me feel this way?
2) What specific actions by my partner would make me feel better (your positive need)?
The difference between vulnerable communication and non-vulnerable communication is clarity. Vulnerable communication only has one meaning, but non-vulnerable can be interpreted in multiple ways. In Attached, the authors demonstrate the difference between fuzzy communication and vulnerable communication
|What’s Happening?||Fuzzy Communication||Vulnerable Communication|
|She seems more focused on the TV than listening to you when you’re talking. This makes you feel unimportant and unloved.||Stop talking mid-sentence and walk into a different room (hoping she’ll follow to apologize).||Can you turn off the TV for a moment? I feel like you’re not listening to me and I really value your opinion and want to know what you think.|
|She talks about her ex-boyfriend, which makes you feel insecure.||Talk about your ex-girlfriends to make her feel insecure. Or shame her for talking about her ex.||Let her know that the conversation makes you feel insecure and unsure of her feelings towards you and that you need to feel secure to be happy with her.|
Note: Vulnerable communication is not the answer to all of your problems. If you have low self-esteem, vulnerability can drastically boost your self-esteem and decrease neediness. But if you continue to suppress yourself and see yourself as unworthy due to bad belief systems then you’ll struggle even in healthy relationships.
Individuals “who are troubled by low self-esteem might project their self-doubts onto their partners, leaving them uncertain of the constancy of their partners’ affections. As a result, occasional self-doubts or personal failures might turn into relationship insecurities.” 2
As Brene Brown highlights, true belonging in relationships only happens when we share our authentic, imperfect, and vulnerable self with our partners. The paradox is belonging can never be more than accepting yourself. When you accept yourself, you bravely ask for what you need and want. And that courage deepens your relationships with your partner and yourself.
If you want to transform conflict into material to build a stronger and more connected relationship then read Kyle Benson’s conflict blueprints here.
Book: Mindwise: Why We Misunderstand What Others Think, Believe, Feel and Want by Nocholas Epley (2014) Pg. 183 ↩ Murray, S.L., Holmes, J., MacDonald, Ellsworth P., (1998) “Through the Looking Glass Darkly? When Self-Doubts Turn Into Relationship Insecurities. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol.75, No.6, 1459-1480. ↩
Written by Kyle Benson Originally appeared in Kyle Benson