You probably ask your partner a lot of things on a daily basis, perhaps without even realizing when you’re doing it. Can you please do the dishes or put in that load of laundry after work? What do you want to do for dinner tonight? In fact, it might seem like the bulk of your conversations are questions directed at each other — and there’s nothing wrong with that. But when it comes to the things in which we ask of our partner — things we ask them to do, to be or to change — it gets a little more complicated.
“There is nothing wrong with basic types of requests — they are part of the natural order of everyday togetherness, and each relationship will be challenged to accommodate such requests in its own way,” says Mark Borg, PhD, relationship expert and co-author of Relationship Sanity. “In fact, the most important requests that I see in couples that work — that function well as a system and make room for each person within — are ones that allow each person to feel accepted as a person with needs.” It’s the relationships in which the necessary requests for a partner to feel loved, needed, and valued are suppressed or overlooked that are inevitably going to be problematic (i.e. unhealthy, distant, even toxic,), he goes onto explain.
If you truly have your partner’s best interests at heart, here are some things relationships experts say you should never ask of them.
Never ask your partner to leave his or her needs at the door
We’re all human beings who have needs and desires. In fact, it’s these needs and desires that make us worthy of having a relationship in the first place. “Being able to have our needs addressed, taken seriously, and met is among the most profound ways that we humans experience being genuinely accepted,” says Dr. Borg.
Never ask your partner to go against his or her values
Everyone has a set of values, and these are the guiding life principles that make us who we are and that guide our life choices, explains Paulette Sherman, PsyD, relationship expert and author of The Book of Sacred Baths. “If you try and force your partner to do something that really goes against their core values, they will feel shame, guilt, and will ultimately resent you,” she says.
Never ask your partner to fend for him or herself
Whatever the situation may be, if you are truly a “partner” in this relationship, you should never leave your significant other to problem solve on his or her own. “A long-term romantic relationship, if it is going to work, is going to have to be a place where we and our partners face and find a way to work through the problems, issues, and conflicts of everyday life,” says Dr. Borg. “Your partner will present these issues both directly (I need help) and indirectly (problems will arise that challenge you to prioritize an issue that is challenging to them).” So, when he or she brings up their issues, listen and give the best advice you can. Because, hey, that’s your job as a partner.
Never ask your partner to settle
Be it for education, career or family goals, it’s your responsibility to support and inspire your partner, not halt their ambitions. “Relationships, especially romantic, when working at their very best will be the context within which you strive — and support your partners in their striving — for your greatest goals,” says Dr. Borg. “Relationships are capable of providing the most powerful social and emotional support.”
Never ask your partner to cut off ties with his or her friends and family
Unless said friends and family are causing physical or emotional harm to your significant other, which is an extreme case, you have zero place to ask them to cut ties with loved ones — no matter how obnoxious they may be. “While it can be common not to like your significant other’s family or friends, those were relationships they had before you,” says Dr. Sherman. “They can still have their own feelings about that other person and their own relationship with them, and they won’t appreciate you telling them how to feel and what to do in regards to those relationships.”