It is common for people to feel taken for granted and unappreciated in their relationships. This can especially be an issue in romantic relationships. When it feels like there is a lack of reciprocation and you do more than you get, it makes sense to feel taken for granted. This can lead to stress, anxiety, and resentment. What can you do when you find yourself in this situation? Talk to the other person; explain your feelings and what you are asking for. Don’t assume that the other person knows how you feel and what your needs are. Often finding reciprocity and balance in a relationships comes down to communication.
HOW TO EXPRESS YOUR NEEDS WHEN YOU FEEL TAKEN FOR GRANTED:
First off, clarify what your needs are. You need to check in with yourself and get clear on what it is you need and what it is you are not getting. Think about what the other person is or is not doing that is making you feel unappreciated and taken for granted. You can’t effectively express yourself if you don’t first have a good handle on what it is that you think, feel, want, and need. Once you have that clarity, you can then approach the other person.
The DBT skill of DEAR MAN can be helpful in how you communicate how you feel. It is not always easy to know how to express yourself and this skill helps break it down in a way that makes it easier to fill in the blanks. DEAR MAN= describe, express, assert, reinforce, mindful, appear confident, negotiation.
- DESCRIBE the facts of the situation from an objective viewpoint. Describe the facts without your perspective and feelings, that part comes later. Example: You said you would be home for dinner by 7 but then did not come home until midnight.
- EXPRESS what YOU feel. Now you add your feelings and how the situation and actions of the other person impacted you. Use I statements so that it does not seem as if you are attacking the other person. “I want or don’t want” vs. “you should or shouldn’t.” Stick to your feelings rather than judging the other person. “I feel hurt,” vs. “you are a bad boyfriend.” Example: When you come home much later than you said, I feel hurt and disrespected.
- ASSERT what outcome you would like, whether it’s an apology, a specific action, or a change. Example: I would appreciate it if, in the future, you will call me to let me know that you will be late.
- REINFORCE the other person and show them how it benefits them to comply. Example: It would make me so relieved, and I would not have to call you every 20 minutes to check in.
- BE MINDFUL of your goals and don’t let the other person steer you away from the focus of the conversation. When expressing a criticism to someone, they may start throwing out there all the things they are unhappy with, get defensive, or try and distract you as a way to avoid having the conversation. If this is the case, it is important to make sure you stay on task and just keep repeating your DEAR script.
- APPEAR CONFIDENT so that the other person takes you seriously. It can be scary and nerve-wracking when approaching a conversation like this. However, it is important to not let it show because it can give room for the other person to take advantage. In your wording, be firm and state what you want. Body language and tone of voice are important here. Maintain eye contact, try not to stutter/stammer, don’t whisper, etc.
- NEGOTIATE and be willing to compromise. Think back on your needs and priorities, and let go of smaller things for the sake of the ultimate goal. Offer other solutions. For example, if your request is for the person to call you when they are going to be late, they might say something like “I am busy working and don’t have time to call you.” In that case, you may suggest “how about you send me a text instead?” If the other person is not agreeing to any of the options, turn the tables, ask them what they think a good middle ground would be.
Remember it may take a few of these conversations until the other person finally catches up. Essentially, you are trying to change the dynamic of the relationship, and it is important to give the other person time to make changes. However, if there is no progress and you are still being taken for granted after numerous conversations, that is when you re-evaluate the relationship. When you are being clear on your needs and willing to compromise, but the other person is not budging, it may just not be the relationship for you. At that point, you may want to talk to a friend or a professional to determine the best course of action moving forward.