If she flies across the country to surprise me on my birthday, I’ll know we really are best friends.

If he reaches out to me and shares the details of his challenges when times are tough, and if he calls me to share his good news when things are going his way, I’ll know he really cares.

If only she would move in with me after my baby is born so I don’t have to do this mama thing alone, I’d know I really matter to my mother.

If he buys me that necklace I gushed about at the artisan shop, it proves he loves me.

If she calls me twice a week, even when she’s super busy, I’ll know I matter.

If he spends every night with me, even when he’s tired and wants to be alone, I’ll know I’m cherished.

What Expectations Do You Have?

Most of us have hopes and expectations about how our friends and loved ones will behave, but how often do you actually communicate these wants and needs to those who might be happy to meet them?

If you’re like many of us, you may play games with the ones you love, games that go something like this.

Games People Play

I shouldn’t have to tell him what I want for Christmas. If he loves me, he should just know.

I don’t want to ask my mother to prioritize time with my kids. A good Grandma should just want to.

If I ask him to [text me sweet nothings right after our date/ spend the night/ go down on me/ make me breakfast] it’s not the same as if he offers in an unsolicited way.

Even though I want it, I can’t ask my friend for that. It would be too much of an imposition.

People Can’t Read Minds

I know it’s awesome when you desire something from someone you care about and they spontaneously anticipate and then meet that desire.  When you’re exhausted after a long day at work and arrive home to find that your husband has bathed the kids, prepared dinner, cleaned the dishes, and adorned the table with a bouquet of your favorite flowers, you feel so appreciated, understood, held.

But what if your husband doesn’t know how much you would appreciate such a thing? What if you’ve spent five years waiting for that moment to happen, and because it never has, you wind up resenting him?

Yes, it’s fabulous when your BFF surprises you with a grand gesture that proves how much she values you. But what if she wants to offer some grand gesture, but just isn’t sure what grand gesture would float your boat?

When You Expect People To Read Your Mind

What if your loved ones were all just waiting to be instructed about how to demonstrate their love for you? What if your needs could be met, if only you’d clarify for yourself what they are and share those needs and desires with those you love? Can you imagine how much better your life might be?

When I share this idea with clients, many of them respond by saying, “But I don’t even know what I want and need from [my best friend/ my father/ my boyfriend/ my sister].”

Then how in the world can you expect your best friend/ father/ boyfriend/ sister to please you?

Know What You Want & Need

If you’re not clear on what you want and need from those you love, it’s not fair to expect them to meet those fuzzy, ungrounded, unclear expectations. In order to help people demonstrate their love to you, you have to start by clarifying what you want and need, in as much detail as possible.

Have A Conversation

Once you know, the next step is initiating a conversation with your loved one about your desire to deepen the connection so both of your wants and needs get met as often as possible. Start by telling your loved one you no longer want to be expected to read his or her mind and would greatly appreciate renegotiating the relationship such that both parties are responsible for knowing and expressing their own wants and needs as often as possible, knowing, in good faith, that the other will make attempts to meet those wants and needs as often as possible, not out of obligation, but out of a genuine desire to demonstrate love.

It’s Okay To Say No

Part of the agreement, however, has to include a disclaimer, because nobody should feel obligated to meet the wants and needs of someone they love simply because it’s desired. For example, if you want sex every night, and your partner just isn’t up for it, your partner shouldn’t be expected to put out just because you want it. But perhaps your partner wants daily sex as much as you do and didn’t even know you desired it.

I know it can feel super vulnerable to expose what you desire from a relationship, whether it’s deeper intimacy, more time together, a stronger commitment, a different kind of sexual relationship, or evidence that the person is making your needs and desires a priority. When you make your wants and needs known, you risk not having them met and the accompanying disappointment.  If you’re brave enough to ask for what you need and the other person never chooses to meet those needs, that can really sting. But isn’t that good to know?

Giving Is Two Way Street

In a healthy relationship, both parties get pleasure out of pleasing each other and meeting each other’s needs.  In unhealthy relationships, one person does all the giving and the other does all the receiving. If you’re in a relationship where you feel like you’re doing all the giving, it may feel risky to ask for what you want and need. After all, what if he or she fails to step up to the plate?

You may even find yourself backpedaling in order to make excuses for the other person. “Oh no… I didn’t really want that. My needs aren’t so important.”

But really? Why do you want to expend your energy on relationships that aren’t reciprocal? We don’t give in order to receive, but real love means both parties in a relationship want to give.  By expressing your wants and needs clearly and with permission not to meet all your needs all the time, you simply make it easier for someone to demonstrate the love they’re happy to express.

Are You Brave Enough To Make The Big Ask?

Will you have this conversation with the people you love most? Will you have the courage to make your desires known? Will you be willing to do what you can to meet the needs of others, knowing that giving is a two way street and it’s not fair to ask for something if you’re not willing to return the favor?

Tell us what you think!

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  1. Becky

    Lissa, this post gets to the very core of failed relationships: unspoken needs and unmet expectations. If you’re familiar with Harville Hendricks’ work with the Imago model, you’ll know there’s a beautifully structured way to teach people how to ask respectfully and lovingly, and to give and receive freely. I just finished his weekend workshop and it was transformative for my already very loving and strong relationship with my fiance’. I’m going to have to work harder to put the Imago on some of my other relationships when they haven’t done this work themselves, but all that matters is that I now have the knowledge and can operate from a whole new way of being.

    • Andrew

      I guess I still can’t read my partner’s mind. 23.23 years of being married and still have found it difficult to read her mind. I really don’t have a problem with that. All I can do is give give give. She definitely can read my mind though

  2. Ella

    What are friends, who are friends?
    For me there is no reason, no box…

    I love them, i do not want anything…
    It is a feeling, a feeling so deep, they

    Are who they are and I simply do not
    Know Why, they do not need a why…

    …a reason, a box, perhaps they do not
    see me as I see them….i do not care..

    Because I see them as my friend, so far
    No friend can and could ever diappoint

    Me…. Why?   Because they are my friends
    I love them, they are human…like me..

  3. Sabrina

    What about thinking of rekindling a relationship that horribly failed because one was absolutely in love and the other wasn’t at the same page?

    I think of it every day and lately the wish of having his news, keeping in touch with him again, is eating me alive.

    Point is I am freaking scared. I am scared of falling into this hole again and giving too much and receiving nothing in return…

  4. Michelle Medina

    Sometimes you just have to let it go.

    I have made a vow to myself to get new relationships off to a great start by being open and honest and vulnerable from the BEGINNING!

    I have with my family however stopped, because I’ve done it before, had the conversation and had it thrown back in my face.

    For me it’s a case of knowing exactly what I Desire, asking for it and not receiving it, EVER. *In relation to my family that is*.

    For Example: I want a hug because I’m afraid and Dad says I don’t clean the house enough. One is completely unrelated to the other.

    I do thank you for this Lissa because it’s allowed me to write out just as concretely here the thoughts in my head! Smile.

    And what better way to be then to start off every brand new relationship in a vulnerable manner, asking for what one Desires? Then you won’t have to go back and ‘fix’ it later!

  5. Michele

    I am one to always express my feelings and my needs in a gentle way. I am a giver and do not expect anything but love, respect and kindness in return from people. When I am in a relationship I do expect my lover to show me the same love and respect I show him. I have definately learned a very hard lesson this past year, that you must LOVE yourself more than you love your man and do not ever compromise your values or your beliefs for anyone. We are all here to be kind and show love and compassion to one another. If you are not receiving that from any of your relationships, whether it be from a family member, friend, co-worker or lover it’s time to end the relationship. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to recommend books on this blog but if anyone is interested “Loyalty to Your Soul” by Drs. Ron and Mary Hulnick from Amazon.com. The best book I’ve read all year. You won’t be disappointed.

    Have a great night all!

    • Sussie

      i agree with Michele,

      i am also someone who can talk and express one’s feelings in a direct AND gentle way….and a giver – than a taker, i like making my partner/friends happy – it’s in my nature….but there comes a day (in everyones life) when you give, and give, and give ….and receive nothing…you wait and wait and wait some more and nothing…you express and express and your words fall on DEAF ears and then one day you find yourself angry and exploding….it’s definitely true a good relationship is about giving and receiving….just be mindful of who is giving too much and who is taking too much….
      And totally agree with Michele, when she says; ….I have definately learned a very hard lesson this past year, that you must LOVE yourself more than you love your man and do not ever compromise your values or your beliefs for anyone. ….

      .i also have learnt that one the hard way….because i was raised to look after your man, his needs etc,…be a good girl….. but it got to a point where i was asking myself….what about ME….??? …who wants to know what I WANT and NEED?

  6. Mary Ann Loeppky

    Hi Lisa, this will be the first time writting to you. So to start with I Thank You for all the time you have taken to email me and sooooo many others on (The Daily Flame). I really look forward to receiving The Daily Flame and I have printed each one that you have sent me, so that on my “low” selfestem days I only have to open my Daily Flame binder and read what you have written to me. It makes my heart lighter and makes me feel sooo much better about myself and gives me a clearer mind to continue on with my day or to fix the “thing” that needs fixing. I am greatfull for your insight and reading your words on a daily basis really starts my day off on the right track.

    Now on to my thoughts on the subject of; “Well YOU should know by now what I want!” I have had too many personal experences with this way of thinking and at least 95 % is my own fault. I am not a shy person and have never had a problem doing what I wanted to do, nor asking the other person, being friend or “partner” as to what they would like. But for some reason I always end up being the “doer” and not often enough being the “doee” only because I had not stated what I would like as often as I should and could have. As much as I am a strong willed person, I am also a gentle, kind, compassionate, guiding, loving, caring, and forgiving person. I have never been married (of my own choice) even though I have had a few opportunities to be married I have never felt the need to say “I Do”. I feel that when two people bond as true soulmates, “I Do” is not needed to seal the bond between these two people, true love will always with stand any obsticles in “their” path. Unfortunately, a few of my “partners” felt the need for the “I Do’s” and so therefore I have never married. (the words “I Do” scare the hell out of me! Not too sure why but they really do!) I have been a Flower Girl at my older sisters wedding, a Brides Maid 4 times for my friends and a Maid of Honer for my younger sister, BUT thats as close as I want to get to being a “Bride”.

    BUT I do have a wonderful loving son who is now 26. And yes he does need to be told when to cut the grass, do the dishes, take out the garbage and pick up his dirty close and put them into the hamper, etc..
    But for some odd reason he won’t message my feet when I ask him to!

    When one aquires a true friendship, or a soulmate, or a special family member, then speaking out your needs and wants should be welcomed by the other. So many people do not know nor can they guess as to what the other truly wants. I have learned that it does not make you a lesser person to ask for what you require, as a matter of fact, many, many times it has made the other person more willing and pleased to fullfill your request.

    My mother (in her wisdom) would often tell me;”never be afraid to ask a question or make a request, the very worst that can happen is the answer to either could be a No, but that only takes you back to where you started. Now go forth and try again and again with new ideas. Somewhere someone will say Yes and then you will be on your way”.

    It is now time to say, see ya later only because “good bye” always sounds so final.
    I will blog again, just don’t know when, but until then, stay cool & keep that sparkel in your eyes!

    a “Daily Flame” reader
    Mary Ann

  7. ingrid

    wow! great reminder that communication is the key. we know this stuff when we’re kids…what the hell happens? great changes to the web page btw! been following you for a while and it just keeps getting better with you, lissa! so glad you are doing this work (instead of the obgyn shizzle). it’s so valuable! love your vision!

  8. Lissa Rankin, MD

    Thank you all! I’m not familiar with Harville Hendricks’ work, but thanks for introducing me Becky! Ella, I LOVE your poem! Sabrina, I feel you on the fear of falling into that hole. As someone twice divorced, I certainly have no business giving relationship advice. All I can say is that when I met the love of my life, who I’ve now been with for ten years, it just wasn’t hard. All the relationships I had to work too hard to “achieve” never worked out. But you just never know…

    Michelle, my dear, you so deserve that hug- and a whole lot more.

    Michele, book recommendations are ALWAYS welcome on this blog!

    Mary Ann, welcome darling! And thank you for the uber sweet words about the Daily Flame (secret: It’s my FAVORITE part of my job! Thanks for reading!)

    And Ingrid, you had me at “shizzle.”

    Love you all

  9. Laney (Naware/Aradia)

    (I personally posted this to your page, but I wanted to share it here as well!)

    Your email about expectations is UTTERLY mindblowing…how many of us would save ourselves so much heartache if we followed this “simple” advice…It’s importance makes me want to print it out, make fliers and pass it around! THANK YOU for putting this out there, being the vessel, and sharing the goodness with us all! ♥

  10. Lissa Rankin, MD

    You’re so welcome Naware!

    I’m actually thinking of teaching a single teleclass about this, since it keeps coming up for me and my clients!

    So glad you found it useful. So simple, but we somehow forget…

    Much love

  11. Jewels

    Thank you for your words Lissa and to all that left a comment. This article really spoke to me. Even the style of writing from Lissa’s usually writing voice struck me. I have worked on this one for a long while now. I did real good for a few years after reading a book called “If Buddha dated”. Then I lost my self love and worried about all the wrong things. I now keep the mantra “successful people have failures and they get up again and try again.” Giving and not receiving and being afraid to ask for anything. The response was never good so I gave up for a while. So I stopped hoping that I ever would get anything back. Lucky sometimes life sends you an angel that melts all the walls and helps you hope again. Or even makes you willing to be vunerable again. Thank you angel :)…

    I want to give Michelle a hug too. (( )) my internet hug to you all. I had been looking for a feeling of connection to like minded souls today and I got it. Thank you. Peace, Light and Love.

  12. Lissa Rankin, MD

    Jewels, thank you for the sweet comment. I do hope you’ll be brave enough to keep believing you’re worthy of relationships in which you’re blessed to receive.

    Keep your heart open, love!

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    Thank you for your words Lissa and to all that left a comment. This article really spoke to me


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