Normalising talking about your needs in a relationship

How to normalise talking about your needs in a relationship...Maybe that’s something we all think is and should be a given in our relationships, but you would be surprised to know that actually often the opposite is true, and how many of us forfeit talking about what we really need because we’re afraid. After our instinct to survive, a relationship is our source either of unhappiness or happiness in our lives.


Helping those in relationships whether with others or with self, needs fundamentally to be a “corrective emotional experience” led by a coach or therapist who truly understands the essential nuance of the truth rather than the many myths that exist around this kind of delicate navigation, because it calls on our vulnerabilities.

Sadly many do not, and you have a perfect right to know that real results of someone’s therapeutic stature and standing rather than just letters after someone’s name create the necessary trust that is the bedrock of any good relationship including those of a therapeutic kind, where the brave journeys of those seeking healing begin. This involves being able to have your emotional needs as well as your vulnerabilities.

Seen, heard, known and understood 

There is a form of reparenting that takes place and sometimes as well as learning new beliefs we need to unlearn ones that become the negative stories we tell ourselves which keep us passive and in the dark of our own hearts.

Here is what that actually means.

Being seen:

Ultimately we need relationships to create and therefore exist in a shared environment where the “self” can develop naturally...without employing alteration to be there..which is in fact authenticity. 

Inauthenticity creates fear and ultimately resentment and a “hiding” wherein the message to self is that being who you truly are and and asking for what you truly need is not accepted or indeed possible.

This is a miserable status that so many of us live with. We know little of our rights when we are children, helpless to speak up and without the vocabulary to describe the feelings that hurt us in our silence. As children, we live only in a feeling world. We need mirroring and focus, without them we develop attachment styles to survive. 

Those who both insist and rely on our silence can often be those who define us through their own issues, frailties and inabilities, consequently believed by us to be flaws that we possess not as a result of the fears or lack of others, they are owned by us, where we were not allowed a voice not because we didn’t have one but because we were prevented from having one.

Being in that kind of emotional wasteland is a savage isolation that results in so many kinds of mental health problems as well as affecting our physical health and sense of well-being. 

This is so common in relationships especially romantic ones, mostly because of the either imagined, or potentially actualised fear of maybe potentially losing the relationship if the true self is, or becomes known.

Mostly this originates from an early childhood experience of not being accepted or “seen”. 

With the children of a narcissistic parent or parents, their children can be felt as a threat to their own limelight and the child’s gifts can be either ignored completely or downgraded, and/or seen only as an extension of them, (the parent), as anything good about you as an individual will only ever be “a chip off the block”, your qualities or gifts not being, or felt, as yours, but only an extension of them (the parent), heaven forbid you aspire to something they can’t relate to...then it simply has to be relegated to the invisible.

This results in impaired identity. Where self was never either celebrated or allowed. I had an entire childhood of this is a deep wound that has taken me many years of study and soul searching to recover from and most probably what set me on the path of helping others, therefore l know first-hand that recovery is entirely possible. I did this by my own hand falling and failing many times but never giving up on the promise of feeling whole under my own skin.

I have also exited so-called friendships and relationships in my own recovery where talking about my own needs was either ridiculed or treated as a kind of emotional leprosy. Repeating relational dynamics that were corrupt but familiar. It was tough because real grief was involved for me in letting go of people l had loved that actually mostly made me feel awful about my frailties and resented my individuality. That is until l started joining up the dots.

I have also with my own eyes seen my patients flourish with what l have had and have the great privilege to teach them and what they were brave enough to both face and change. To be part of another’s epiphany is a blessing.

When we are “seen” and loved not only for it, or in spite of it but BECAUSE of it, we flourish in the glow of belonging which is the bedrock of healthy relationships both to self and to others.

Being heard:

When we give and are given the respect and the space of being heard we learn that it is safe to express our views. We can enjoy spontaneous responses without fear that the Sword of Damocles will fall upon us at any given moment. We have no need to worry that someone’s interest in us and our thoughts and views are feigned, but indeed genuine and not only respected, valued and sought after. We feel relevant. Also, we have a sense of being a contributor. We do not need to stand or hide in the shadows of our silence. We are given a voice. Our self is being recognised as worthy.

Being known:

How wonderful is the feeling of being known? As if someone has taken the time to discover us, who we are and what matters to us. We are here, known and remembered and celebrated for our uniqueness. We are considered, a place made for what counts for us and our senses and sensibilities. This can come to us in many forms, such as considering what we like to eat, or through a gift that has just had us in mind, a knowing of us. We feel visible and here again, valued.

Being understood:

Here l think is where our vulnerabilities are gently held and cared for, we are not expected to fall in with others because it is easier, we are not an inconvenience where our fears are made fun of or ill-considered. We are not mocked, teased, laughed at or criticised. We feel safe within the belonging of being understood for being wholly and gloriously ourselves. This is where real growth takes place where there is both room and celebration of who we are. Not just a change of symptoms, but a real change of being. Being is felt, being is visceral not about what we know or have been taught or learnt. It is about who we are.

As Joni Mitchell penned in one of her songs  on her album The Hissing of Summer Lawns, “Don’t interrupt the Sorrow"

“Anima rising
Queen of queens
Wash my guilt of Eden
Wash and balance me
Anima rising
Uprising in me tonight
She's a vengeful little goddess
With an ancient crown to fight”

It is in fact our soul coming into the light.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London, N8
Written by Gail Berry, Emotional and Relationship Coach
London, N8

Written by Gail Berry Emotional Coach - both a therapist and an alternative medical practitioner who works with healing people’s core wounds and uses Bach Flower Remedies alongside talking and behavioural therapy to make real change and transformation possible.
07771 715072
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