There are many reasons people seek couples counseling…as a marriage and family therapist associate, I’ve heard many reasons that usually come down to people being unhappy in their relationship and wanting their partner to change. They are not satisfied with what they are getting- the costs to be in the relationship are outweighing the benefits. According to Thibault and Kelley’s (1959) social exchange theory, over time, the costs and benefits should balance for both people in a relationship. If that’s not happening in your relationship, you are understandably unhappy. Here’s one way you can take action that may lead to you being happier in your relationship, and if it doesn’t, you will still be healthier than you were before. You can’t lose.
So how can you get more of what you want out of your relationship without your partner thinking you are controlling or nagging? The answer is assertiveness. Assertiveness is the ability to express your feelings and ask for what you want. It is not bossy or demanding but being able to communicate clearly with your partner (or anyone in your life) about your needs and preferences without ‘stepping on their toes’. It increases your chances of success and happiness in your relationship, and is a necessity for your personal health.
How can you become assertive? Chances are, if you are reading this and struggle with being assertive, you may also have low self-confidence and doubt your ability to improve your assertiveness. The good news is there is a connection between assertiveness and self-confidence. The more you can practice assertiveness, the more self confidence you have, and the more self-confident you are, the more you can assert yourself in a relationship. So, start practicing!
To improve your self-confidence, start small. Find a place to volunteer where you feel you can be beneficial and go be beneficial! Or, pick one thing a day you can do to improve your health. Any way you can increase your self-confidence increases your chances of being able to be assertive. To improve your assertiveness, start small…think about what you want to say, practice in a mirror if you need to, and go assert yourself! Every time you are assertive, your self-confidence will improve, and the cycle of positivity continues! If you want your relationship to last without losing yourself, be confident that you can improve yourself and the relationship by being assertive with your needs and preferences.