One of my big takeaways from the 2018 Imago Conference was this quote taken from a dialogue created by Kelly Patton, LMHC. She wrote, “ask for what you need ~ in a way that invites your partner to want to give it to you”. Now Kelly was referring to sharing how you want your partner to show up when you are sharing something difficult, but I think this instruction of intention is packed with so much power and possibility.
We all know that if you are wanting to experience some physical intimacy with your partner, there are ways that you can suggest that which are more appealing to your partner than others, ways that are more likely to get you want you want. And there are ways that you can ask for what you want that do not inspire your partner to give it to you or may even turn them off. What may be an exciting invitation to you may not be appealing to your partner. It’s not just your words, but your tone, body language, etc. The same is true for just about anything we communicate.
When I was working in Community Mental Health as a new therapist, I also taught dance classes to reduce stress and make ends meet. I have danced with complete beginners and with professionals; I even had to learn to lead a little. I tried to teach my students that a good lead is an invitation. In dance the communication is primarily through body language. The lead should invite the dance partner to do a turn or a move, but the lead should not physically force the partner to follow. In the same way, the lead has to be clear enough that the dance partner wants to follow it. If done well, an experienced follow can “quit thinking” and simply follow the lead smoothly, sometimes even with eyes closed. Sometimes the “fancy” dancers are pushing and pulling their partner through the moves. While there will always be a few newer follows who enjoy feeling like they did something they don’t know how to do, the majority of follows don’t want to dance with that lead (it can be painful!). We also don’t want to dance with the lead who is unclear, causing all kinds of confusion. I would much rather dance with someone doing a lot fewer fancy things but leading them well, inviting me to follow.
When you ask your partner for something, ask in a way that invites your partner to want to give it to you. You could be asking for help with the dishes, to attend a relationship workshop together, or to try something new in the bedroom. There are many ways to ask for all of these things that will not necessarily inspire your partner to want to say yes. How can you use your words, your tone, and body language in a way that truly invites your partner to want to say yes to your request?