Communicating what you want isn’t needy; it’s normal. No one wants to be called needy. It’s an unsavory label, a punch to the gut. Moreover, it’s an unfair way to describe someone just because, well, they have needs. Who doesn’t? You can need more attention. You can need better sex. You can need your partner’s mother to stop emailing you her family recipes, you can even need her to stop emailing you altogether. But in any relationship, be it with friends, lovers, family, or colleagues, there’s a pleasant way to ask for what you want. It’s all in the delivery: Make requests with tantrums and tears, and you’re hypersensitive. Make them in a calm, cool way, and you’re a grown-ass woman. Here are some guidelines for expressing your desires in a noncombative, even approachable, fashion, while leaving room for others’ needs, too.

 

Figure out what you really need. Yes, some of us desire daily love notes, weekly peonies, and the perfect surprise-birthday extravaganza attended by all of our closest friends. Well, as Mick Jagger taught us, you can’t always get what you want. Still, if you’re feeling unsatisfied in a relationship, put some serious thought into what’s truly missing. If you want more fancy date-night dinners, think: Is it about getting the impossible reservation? That’s a want. Or is it about needing to feel special and prioritized? The pettier-sounding wants are probably secondary emotions to something real.

 

Be honest and open. It’s key to communicate your needs with grace. Sometimes the answer will be no, and you need to ask yourself which sacrifices you just aren’t willing to make. It’s important to listen to other people’s truths, like it or not. Maybe that means reevaluating your needs, maybe that means turning the page, or maybe that means finding satisfaction another way.

 

Learn to fulfill your own needs. Self reliance is a strong word, but it actually has soft edges. The ability to know yourself well enough to provide the pleasures, answers, and inner balance you require is a beautiful thing. Relationships, romantic and otherwise, enrich our lives in many ways, but don’t underestimate the unique power of self support. To test how self reliant you are, simply try it. Work through an issue all by yourself, be your own date to the movies. Only another person can give you that back rub, but your heart and mind are capable of taking care of so much else.