You are currently viewing Episode 392: How to ask for what you need in a way that increases connection

Episode 392: How to ask for what you need in a way that increases connection

Everybody in a relationship needs to learn this! Join Laurie and George today as they discuss and teach an integral relationship skill, asking for what you need from your partner in a way that increases connection. Each individual in a relationship has their own set of longings. Expressing a longing in a vulnerable way is SCARY. It’s scary because we fear a negative reaction from the person we love the most. That fear drives us to mask and express the longing in a more protected way. Instead of, “I miss you and I really want to spend time with you.” We end up saying, “Oh, so you’re going to be late again.” And BAM, we are in a negative cycle. George and Laurie are experts at showing us how and why it goes wrong and the strategies to set it right. Make sure to download this episode and share it with your partner so you can both learn how to express your needs in a way that increases connection, emotional and sexual in your relationship today!

Join us on September 8th at 9am EST for our virtual couples retreat, Great Love and Great Sex to learn more conflict resolution skills and keys to a more loving relationship and how to keep it hot after all these years!

Check out our highlighted sponsor for this episode:

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Show Notes

Passion and Effective Communication
– The speaker expresses admiration for George’s passion and excitement about their message.
– They encourage vulnerability and expressing longing in relationships instead of criticism or demands.
– The importance of practicing this mindset before communicating with a partner is emphasized.
– The speaker mentions paying attention to the body’s reaction as a sign of effective communication and letting longing be seen by the partner.
– Expressing one’s wants and desires directly is emphasized.
– The riskiness of wanting and the need to improve communication around desires is discussed.
– An example is given of the negative impact of criticizing instead of expressing wants directly.
– The importance of openness and creating an open space in relationships is mentioned.
– A positive example of expressing a want in a loving and forward-looking way is provided.
– The speaker discusses the importance of reframing communication habits to improve the chances of effective communication.

Packaging Feedback and Understanding Erotic Minds
– An example is given of a scenario where a direct request may not be the best approach.
– The speaker proposes reframing the request in a more positive and loving way to increase the likelihood of a positive response.
– The importance of avoiding criticism to create a safe space for communication is emphasized.
– The speaker explains that criticizing your partner’s actions can make them hesitant.
– Expressing desires in a positive and longing tone is suggested to make it easier for the partner to receive feedback.
– The importance of packaging feedback in a non-critical way is emphasized.
– The speaker acknowledges their own vulnerability and imperfect understanding of their own erotic mind.
– They express excitement about learning more about themselves.
– The need for gentle invitations to open up for withdrawers is mentioned.

Sexual Initiation Techniques and Observing Defensiveness
– The speaker discusses two types of sexual initiation techniques.
– Failures in initiating are explored, such as when a partner does not perceive the initiation as sexual enough.
– The importance of pausing and questioning how the partner perceives the invitation is emphasized.
– The speaker highlights the importance of recognizing defensiveness in communication.
– The need for therapists to observe and address openness or defensiveness in the moment is mentioned.
– Addressing defensiveness in order to regain openness is emphasized.

Expressing Wants and Desires in a Positive Way
– The importance of expressing wants and desires in relationships is emphasized.
– Many people believe they are better at expressing their wants than they actually are.
– The tendency to focus on fears and hurts, which can come across as accusations, is mentioned.
– The speaker’s role in helping couples break down expressions of wants and dissect how they communicate them is discussed.
– The importance of being aware of one’s partner and protecting them in a conversation is highlighted.
– Expressing needs and desires in a positive way that allows the body to expand is suggested.
– Contrasting positive expression with negative expression is mentioned.
– The role of communication in relationship coaching and premarital advice is discussed.


Joe Davis – Announcer [00:00:00]:

The following content is not suitable for children.

Laurie Watson [00:00:02]:

We got to focus as pursuers on talking about our longings. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind if my withdrawing partner every once in a while talked about their longings too.

George Faller [00:00:11]:

Let’s do it.

Laurie Watson [00:00:14]:

Welcome to foreplay sex therapy. I’m Dr. Laurie Watson, your sex therapist.

George Faller [00:00:19]:

And I’m George Faller, your couple’s therapist.

Laurie Watson [00:00:21]:

We are here to talk about sex.

George Faller [00:00:24]:

Our mission is to help couples talk about sex in ways that incorporate their body, their mind, and their hearts.

Laurie Watson [00:00:32]:

And we have a little bit of fun doing it. Right.

George Faller [00:00:33]:

G listen and let’s change some relationships. Isn’t that the whole damn point, Laurie? The longings for connection, for positive emotions, desires, need like that is why we’re in relationships. It’s the heart of what we’re striving for. So to get better at putting our words to that, I think most of us think we’re better at it than we are. A lot of us will say, I want you to come home on time. You’ll say you want something, but you’re really focusing on your fear, your hurt that it’s not happening, and you’re trying to correct your partner’s behaviors. So that doesn’t typically motivate the other person and say, oh, you want me. It lands as an accusation, not an invitation. Right? So that’s what I’m trying to break down moment by moment with my couples. Let’s dissect how you just express your want. I think a lot of people are going to notice.

Laurie Watson [00:01:31]:

Wait, how about just like, I want you to come home because I’ve been thinking about being with you all day long.

George Faller [00:01:41]:

That’s a very different response. That is the longing. The longing is I want you. I want to do this good stuff with you. The longing focuses on the opportunity, the hope, the dream. It’s positive affect longing. Fear is focusing on the negative side of things. Both are important. But a lot of people describe their wants with the fear, and it dilutes the message. So you saying, I want you to be less critical. It’s not really describing your want. It’s describing the impact of the fear, of what happens to the criticism. So, yes, we want less of the negative, but wanting less of the negative is not true. Wanting of the positive, does that make any sense?

Laurie Watson [00:02:28]:

The wanting of the positive is about our need, and it’s more vulnerable to talk about that. It’s not that I want you to be less critical. It’s like, I want you to be interested.

George Faller [00:02:37]:

Yes, the wanting is the most risky thing of all. Right? I want you to initiate. I want you to choose me, fight for me, desire me, love me, need me. I mean, that wanting that we all have. How do we get better at asking for that directly instead of doing it indirectly through the criticisms or the fears? When I was working with a couple the other day, when the partner says, I want you to be home more often. That’s really focusing on changing the partner’s behaviors. I want you home more often implies you’re not home enough to a partner who’s sensitive to that criticism. They perfectly pick it up, and their body responds in a defensive, closed way. I want an openness two people being in this open space with each other, not in this defensive space. So I could say the same thing. I want more. I love the way you said it. I’m looking forward to us having time together tonight.

Laurie Watson [00:03:41]:

So just for the record, I do want to note that that was actually sexual, but I said it in such a feminine way without anything explicit. I knew you read it as emotional, and I think that is just an aside. I think as a woman, women need to hear that sometimes when they think they’re saying something sexual, it’s being read as emotional because they don’t really lay it out there. I said, Because I’m thinking about being with you all day. In my mind, I was thinking that would be a come on.

George Faller [00:04:20]:

Yeah. It’s hard for my brain to hear, I want to spend some time together. Usually when you say that, that means we want to talk about something or go on a walk or that’s what some kind of quality time is. I don’t hear the word sex or I want to get naked, or I want to like it needs to be a little bit more explicit for my brain. But again, this is really helpful because I think most of us are not clear about our longings. It’s risky to put it out there, so we hedge our bets and we camouflage it in these kind of safer ways. But it sends a diluted message.

Laurie Watson [00:04:56]:

Yes, good point.

George Faller [00:04:58]:

So how do we get better at listening to our longings? If I’m the sexual pursuer and I want to be intimate tonight, that’s my desire if I ask it in, hey, what do you think? Is tonight going to be a night? You’re in a mood, right? You can see how I’m already not in the mood. Thank you. I’m good at this, aren’t I? Ask it in a way that’s emphasizing what normally you don’t do. How is that such a big turn on? Yeah, but how do I change that language that instead of focusing on you and your hesitation to focus on my desire, which is, I’m thinking so much of you, and I really super stoked to be with you tonight if you want. Does that sound any different?

Laurie Watson [00:05:56]:

A lot better. A lot better. Because you put the focus on her, on your want of her, not on the way that the cycle usually plays out, which is her resistance. And also, I think the other thing, just as a woman, right? The first ask is so tentative, it lacks confidence. The second one is really vulnerable and takes courage. So it’s like that part of a woman I think just responds much better to the confidence, to the vulnerability, than to the doubt and the fear. Here we go again. That’s our cycle.

George Faller [00:06:43]:

We’re just going to throw out scenarios just to reframe. That’s what we’re trying to do, reframe the old habit of communicating to a new way that has better mathematical chance of landing. So if we’re in bed and I say, well, do you think you could do something uncomfortable and stretch yourself a little bit? I know that’s hard, but maybe you can try sucking my toes, right? It’s probably not going to super prime you up. Yeah, but if instead of saying that, I say, you know what, I just love when my toes have sucked, baby, right. Maybe that gets your brain in a spot where it’s not being criticized. We have a much better chance of responding when that button is not hit.

Laurie Watson [00:07:30]:

Exactly. Yeah, that’s good. I can feel it.

George Faller [00:07:36]:

We see this so often, right? Saying a woman gives feedback like, no, stop that. You’re going too fast, or that goes too hard. That feedback is not expressing any kind of longing. It’s going to land as criticism. But to be able to say, oh, baby, that feels great, just a little bit slower, that just totally gets that old person’s brain to be like, okay, a little bit slower, right? Because that’s the longing. The longing wants slower. The fear is saying it’s too fast. What do you want to emphasize? What is a little off and wrong or what you really want? That’s a real difference in message.

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Laurie Watson [00:08:43]:

There’s something in our brains too. My husband is an NLP guy. Anyway, like you should never tell a kid, don’t forget your backpack. Because what the brain hears is forget your backpack. And it’s sort of the same thing with this. What your brain hears is, that’s too much, that’s too hard. It hears that hard. It doesn’t hear the word soft. It’s like you have to put the emphasis on what you want and long, you know, really need that, but I need it a little softer right now or something. You have to think about how the brain listens.

George Faller [00:09:25]:


Laurie Watson [00:09:25]:

Especially when you’re aroused. I mean, one of the things I hear so much, George, is women who say, I’ve told him what I need. I’ve told him what I like. And I’m like, I know, but when his brain is aroused, it’s like you have to tell him again. I mean, his brain just kind of goes somewhere else. And don’t take it personally it’s like, just say what you do want.

George Faller [00:09:48]:

I also think so important just to highlight what you’re saying, Laurie, because I don’t think most people do this. I think when they give feedback and they say what they want, they don’t recognize it lands as criticism, right. To say, like, I really don’t like when you kiss me so hard. Yes, I’m expressing what I want.

Laurie Watson [00:10:07]:

Kiss me so hard.

George Faller [00:10:08]:

That’s what my brain, it lands as criticism, and it makes your partner a little bit more hesitant. But if you instead say it differently, like, I love that kiss. If you could just gently tease my neck, right? I love that, too. I think I want that even more right now. Again, you see how it shifts into that positive, longing place. It’s so much easier to get that partner to shift a little bit with you and kind of take that feedback and groove right in the flow of what’s happening. But if you express what you want in a very critical way and you don’t think it’s critical, it’s so healthy that you’re saying that, please, I hope people are going to write in saying, oh, now we’re saying people should know. You should. We’re just trying to get you to package it in a way that gives you a best chance of hearing it.

Laurie Watson [00:10:54]:

Second package is sexy. It keeps the mood, it increases the mood. The first way is a block stop. Everything just goes okay? I messed up. I didn’t kiss the way I was supposed to kiss. And it’s like, okay, here we go again. It’s just your body blocks. But the second way is a sexy sort of invitation. What I said in the very beginning when it was too soft and it wasn’t sexual enough, I think a lot of sexual withdrawals, they like sex. They want to have sex, and they have times that they want to initiate. And sometimes it fails for that very reason that it doesn’t hit their partner’s brain as sexual enough. I mean, I had women all the time who are sexual with stars who say, but I do initiate. I’m like, okay, how do you initiate? It’s like, Well, I often stand at the bathroom before I have to go get ready, and I’m like, hey, are you tired? I really don’t think his brain.

George Faller [00:12:02]:

Sometimes I think you do recognize some of those cues, but they’re still not desire cues. Like to say, hey, are you done with the computer yet? Sometimes you hear that and the person knows, maybe that means that there’s a little bid here, but are you done with the computer? Is not the same as, hey, I’m actually doing a rare thing here because I’m initiating, because I actually want sex for myself. I mean, how can you express that want? Which is amazing in a way that’s not talking about the damn computer. Yeah, well, let’s come back and talk about, again, more practical ways of applying this. Cozy Earth, one of our favorite brands.

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George Faller [00:14:48]:

All right, Lori. So I think we’re trying to package this in a way that’s just being more aware of your partner, trying to protect them in this conversation, you want to have success with your need, right? With that desire. It’s also more fun for you if you express it in a more positive way. It allows your body to expand, to highlight that feeling that’s inside of you. So when you say, I love what you’re doing. I just want a little bit more of this, that gets your body like, yeah, I want this. Right. It was so different than saying, hey, don’t do that. That’s not working so well for me. That’s just good math. I don’t know why we’re getting married or whatever. We’re doing precane or whatever. Our little advice kind of coaching thing we go to. This should be part of it. How do we give communication in a way that protects our partner and gives us the best chance to meet our desires and longings?

Laurie Watson [00:15:44]:

You’re absolutely right. Everybody needs to learn this premarriage or at any point in the relationship right. Where they can ask for what they need in a way that increases connection, increases sexual desire. So how can we help people with this. Maybe we could throw out the wrong way to do it, and then you do it the right way or I’ll do it the right way.

George Faller [00:16:11]:

Okay, and just to expand that, this is both we talk about in the emotional cycle and in the sexual cycle. Just trying to get clearer about how do you ask for what you want in ways that the other person hears as an invitation to join you, to meet you, to be in it with you because it’s asking for connection versus an accusation they’re doing something wrong. It more likely elicits that yellow brain and defensiveness. Okay, so maybe we could give examples of both, both the emotional and the sexual cycle.

Laurie Watson [00:16:47]:

Okay. Sexual withdraw a woman who just said it to her partner, who thinks she wants to spend time with him, not wants to go to bed with him. So what I would have needed to say is something more explicit. Naked. Something has to be in. Sex has to be in that sentence.

George Faller [00:17:06]:

So the wrong way is you could drop some hints that aren’t really clear or you could expose ask me to do something like maybe you can take a shower. So often we focus on the behavioral request that lands as a criticism. We don’t realize that, and we’re going to just try to change that into a direct expression of want.

Laurie Watson [00:17:32]:

Okay, so, hey, when you come home tonight, I was thinking, how would you feel about taking a shower? And I’ll probably come up and join you too.

George Faller [00:17:44]:

Go, mama, you had me at hello there.

Laurie Watson [00:17:48]:

You knew what I meant.

George Faller [00:17:50]:

That was green light right there. That was very direct. So now how would you say that the wrong way? That I might have no idea that that’s what you’re talking about.

Laurie Watson [00:18:00]:

Honey, when you come home, I really wish you’d take a shower before you come down to dinner.

George Faller [00:18:08]:

I don’t even want to come home now. Right. That want for me to take a shower is healthy. How you ask for it is going to make all the difference.

Laurie Watson [00:18:20]:

She may be thinking, I like to make love to a body that’s clean. So I’m kind of in the mood. So she’s trying to get the evening set up, but it does sound critical. She doesn’t say that like, I’m thinking about sex, but the first way she says it, she’s thinking about sex.

George Faller [00:18:38]:

Great. So let’s do the emotional cycle. Let’s try to do it wrong first. How can you ask me for some time to talk tonight?

Laurie Watson [00:18:48]:

I got some heavy stuff I’m sorting through in my brain about work, and I just would love it if we could go sit by the fire and have a glass of wine. And I just need your wisdom. I need your ears. I need you to help me think about this together. I trust your brain with my brain. I really could use maybe a half an hour. Do you have that kind of time tonight?

George Faller [00:19:13]:

Okay, so that was a good way. I can feel the openness of it. Right. The invitation. And that’s asking for my wisdom and the space, and it needs that help, which is pretty awesome. Right? So now let’s do it. And again, why wrong? I just mean less effective. It’s still expressing a want, but the fear is slipping in. Right. And a lot of times pursuers emphasize, typically what the withdrawal doesn’t do, and it perfectly hits their button. So you want to try that one?

Laurie Watson [00:19:45]:

I’ll try that one. So I was just thinking, I know you’re really busy and I don’t know if you’re just going to be on the computer all night or something, but I don’t know if you had any time. You probably don’t have any time for me tonight because I know you’re working on that talk, but it’s like completely.

George Faller [00:20:12]:

And it’s the pressure.

Laurie Watson [00:20:13]:

Little accusation.

George Faller [00:20:15]:

Yeah. Typically you don’t have the time. Typically you don’t make the time. Typically you have too much going on. It’s never the right time. I know it’s never the right time for you. We never really get a chance to talk. A lot of times the pursuit is reminding the person of the context, the historical context, but all that does is prime the defensiveness in the other person.

Laurie Watson [00:20:37]:

Right? Exactly. Okay, now you do it. One I think you should try is when you want your partner to open up sexually, like, talk about what’s in their sexual brain. That one. People mess that one up all the time.

George Faller [00:20:55]:

I’m going to do it the wrong way first and then the right way. Okay. I was reading this book, and it seemed exciting. And I know you don’t like kind of reading books or thinking about this stuff, but when you never think about kind of who you are sexually, if you don’t explore your erotic mind, nothing really changes. So I’m really hoping that you’re going to face that part of yourself and do the work, because I think it could really help us.

Laurie Watson [00:21:29]:

You’re really good at messing it up.

George Faller [00:21:31]:

Thank you. Everything in me just ran, but just notice the longing it is for me is so healthy. It wants more of your erotic mind, but the way I go about getting that just lands like a sledgehammer.

Laurie Watson [00:21:46]:

Exactly. Okay, now ask me in a better way.

George Faller [00:21:49]:

All right, this might be hard. I’m really excited. Like, I was reading this book about tapping into your deep erotic mind, and I just felt more freedom. I felt like I was understanding myself better, and I would love to understand you better, so if you wanted, that would be cool. But this was so much fun that just like no parts of me that I didn’t even think were there.

Laurie Watson [00:22:19]:

Interesting. So partly it was vulnerable. It’s like you’re saying you haven’t been perfect at knowing your own erotic mind either. And you’re kind of giddy with excitement about learning about this, which is kind of fun. And it’s that thing that withdrawers need. Right. You’re not necessarily pointedly asking something, but you’re coming alongside them and saying something about yourself. So it’s a little bit of an invitation, but it’s not stare at you, criticize you do this. It’s not quite as direct, which gives me a chance to get used to the idea like, oh, he’s doing this, and I could feel the curiosity, okay, what’s he doing? And of course that’s going to spread inside as curiosity in me too, and.

George Faller [00:23:12]:

Maybe make that more explicit and start off with, I’m so excited. If you want to know about any of this, let me know. Keep it focused on me and kind of engaging and inviting that part of you out instead of directly kind of putting it under the spotlight.

Laurie Watson [00:23:27]:

I think you might could have too, especially when she said interesting. You could have said, I’ll read you the passage if you want, and then all I have to do is associate to the passage. I don’t have to yet do something for you.

George Faller [00:23:43]:

Better yet, I’ll read the passage in Spanish.

Laurie Watson [00:23:47]:

French, baby, French.

George Faller [00:23:48]:

All right, whatever romantic language I don’t speak, but for you I will speak it. Okay.

Laurie Watson [00:23:55]:

That’s right.

George Faller [00:23:57]:

Okay, so what about the emotional cycle? The emotional cycle? Oh, this is I will talk about the with, you know, so I really do want you to be less critical, less angry at me. And the longing is I want to enjoy you more. I want to just kind of have that awesome time. So again, how do I ask for that? So the wrong way would be, hey, can’t you see when you’re angry all the time and negative, that doesn’t kind of bring out the best in us. Can you work on that?

Laurie Watson [00:24:35]:

Thanks a lot.

George Faller [00:24:36]:

All right. How could I say that same thing? That longing that you say is, you know what? I kind of miss that special time me. You were so good at when we’re just on the same page. I just want to figure out how to get back there with you because there’s nothing better than when me and you were flowing together.

Laurie Watson [00:24:59]:

Yeah, that’s good.

George Faller [00:25:02]:

And see the difference. If you can’t see Lori’s face the first time, it’s like you are going.

Laurie Watson [00:25:09]:

To be able to see our face, right? Eventually we’re going to post this.

George Faller [00:25:12]:

All right, cool. Well, I want you all listening just to think about pause after you’ve said something and just ask yourself a quick question. Do you think your partner heard that as invitation? I know that’s what your heart is looking for, but a lot of times that’s not clear. Or did it land as an accusation? Do you see defensiveness? I’m always training therapists moment by moment. Look, do you have openness or you have defensiveness? We need to do the same thing in relationships. Is our partner in an open place? Great. Keep going. Doing what you’re doing. You’re doing awesome. If your partner is defensive, we have to deal with that. There’s been something missed between the two of you in that moment that we need to deal with, we need to name, because once we name it, we can work with it and get back into that open place.

Laurie Watson [00:25:57]:

I love it.

George Faller [00:25:59]:

Longings, desires, wants, curiosity, these are all hallmarks of openness, of a positive cycle of people in a safe space. This is where people are great lovers, they’re great partners. This is where we thrive as humans, and things get in the way of that for good reasons, we need to work with that. But really recognizing the power of longings to really rock our world. Baby.

Laurie Watson [00:26:27]:

Preach it, baby, reach it. I love your passion for it, George, I really do. And the more you talk about it, I think the more excited I get about our message, getting over to people that this is possible. You can think about being vulnerable, expressing longing instead of the blocking and the criticism or the demand that shuts our partners down. I’m thinking about it for me, like, how do I go home? How do I do this? Do it better. I mean, even if it’s incrementally better, just by practicing. Practice it in your own mind before you say it to your partner and listen to yourself. Does it feel critical? Is there any little bit of nagging in it that’s going to shut them down? But if there’s that open vulnerability, and I think maybe one little test inside is what does your body feel? Does your body feel a little electric? Does it feel a little scared? Like in the excited sort of way to say it with longing. Maybe that’s the signal that you’re doing it right, that you’re doing it with letting your longing out and letting your partner see that longing.

George Faller [00:27:33]:

I love it. You go, girl. I always tell in my trainings, body in, body out, body in is where is that fear? Where is that threat? Where is that hurt? When you’re able to kind of work through that, it should lead to body out. Body out is a release of that. If you’re releasing a negative, it should shift into the positive. Those longings, those wants, those desires. It’s a whole damn point of the whole connection anyway. So that’s our wish for you all. Go forth and connect deeper and more fully because that’s where all the good stuff happens.

Laurie Watson [00:28:08]:

Thanks for listening.

George Faller [00:28:09]:

Keep it hot, y’all.

Joe Davis – Announcer [00:28:12]:

Call in your questions to the Foreplay question voicemail dial eight three three my. Foreplay. That’s eight three three my. The number four play and we’ll use the questions for our mailbag episodes. All content is for entertainment purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for therapy by a licensed clinician or as medical advice from a doctor. This podcast is copyrighted by Foreplay Media.

Speaker Ads [00:28:35]:

Hi, I’m Sarah May. And I’m the host of your new favorite show, Help Me, Be Me. It’s a self help podcast for people who hate self help. Help Me, Be Me is full of practical tools to help you overcome a variety of emotional challenges delivered in a way that’s caring but frank. So if that sounds up your faller, I would invite you to check out Help Me, Be Me on the iheart app on Apple podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks.