When you think of being in a loving, committed relationship, the last thing you probably think of is being assertive. Surprisingly, ways to be assertive–and not aggressive—is a common question.
Some people have been in a long-term relationship and feel their partner is taking them for granted, and they want to know how to step up. They don’t want to be confrontational. They want their partner to appreciate them for their contributions to the relationship.
Unfortunately, this topic is a little more complex than asking questions like, “Where can I take my partner for date night?” So it can be challenging to answer because there are varying levels of assertiveness.
First, we must define “assertive” before understanding how to be more decisive and proactive in our relationships.
Sadly, not everyone has this trait. However, you can learn assertiveness regardless of your age and what stage of life you’re in.
Assertiveness in a Relationship
There are different types of assertiveness. There’s being assertive with your boss, your family, and friends, and in your relationship. But every type has the same goal; to be respected.
It’s natural to want to see your partner happy. However, being assertive in your relationship means that you are also content. Even though we want to make our partner happy, we also want to pay attention to ourselves.
When you’re assertive in your relationship, you can talk honestly and openly about things and share your thoughts and opinions without repercussions. (Ex: Your spouse gets angry at you for respectfully speaking your mind and gives you the silent treatment for an entire week.) Assertive people look at issues head-on rather than allowing them to grow and fester from within.
One significant aspect of assertive communication in your relationship is listening to your partner and admitting your errors while apologizing for the mistakes.
Assertive people understand when they’re wrong. Then, they try to repair the damage their mistake may have caused. If you genuinely want to improve how you assert yourself in the relationship, start by considering your actions and correcting any wrongs.
You must be willing to admit your errors and appreciate the opportunity to learn and grow from them. It’s not just putting your foot down in the relationship and loudly proclaiming, “It’s my way or the highway.”
Assertive communication in a relationship encompasses sharing the responsibility to do what is suitable for you and your partner.
Aren’t you tired of being a doormat and allowing your partner to walk all over you?
You may not feel like they’re walking all over you, but you do feel they could approach you more respectfully.
How Does Assertiveness Affect Your Relationship?
Practicing assertive communication can impact every relationship in your life, but none more than a romantic relationship.
Assertive communication can:
- reduce stress conflict with other people
- ensure that your partner is meeting your needs and you are meeting theirs
- provide social support
It also allows couples to become closer and grow together, enabling them to express their needs proactively and productively.
Since assertive communication is built on a foundation of respect for you and your partner, it demonstrates that you love and care about their needs as much as you do your own.
If you’re naturally timid in your relationship interactions, learning to be more assertive isn’t going to make you angry or mean. It’s not about changing who you are. Instead, it will make you speak your mind on what you need to make the relationship work and listen to what your partner needs.
Practicing assertive communication is one of the most powerful methods to enhance your bond to increase overall happiness for both of you.
How to Enhance Your Relationship by Being Assertive
When you think about enhancing your relationship, you think about candy, flowers, date night, and spicing it up in the bedroom.
Being assertive isn’t on that list, but it can enrich your relationship in many ways. When your goal is to improve your assertiveness, you open up the doors to endless possibilities that can lead to candy and flowers.
For instance, you may have hesitated to talk to your partner about what you like in the bedroom for fear of being judged. So instead, you keep quiet and continue with unsatisfying sex.
Now you’re not happy, and you may even resent your partner. Satisfaction only comes when you’re assertive and openly communicate your wants and needs.
Being assertive doesn’t mean you have to be rude or aggressive to your partner. It means comprehending that you are two different people who can embrace those differences while working toward the common goal of making each other satisfied and happy in the relationship.
It would be great if everyone could share their needs and express their feelings confidently and openly. The truth is that many people struggle with being assertive because their desire to make their partner happy often outshines their own needs.
Furthermore, we don’t want to appear demanding, so we keep our comments and opinions to ourselves. There needs to be a healthy balance.
Are you interested in learning ways to be assertive in your relationship? Good, because here are 15 tips to help you be less timid and more assertive regarding your relationship.
15 Methods to Help You Be Assertive in Your Relationship
Learning the art of assertiveness can be challenging, especially regarding relationships. It’s much easier to tell a stranger how you feel in an assertive manner because you’ll probably never see them again.
But what happens when you tell your partner? It’s different because you don’t want to risk hurting their feelings. This is why respect is imperative, especially on sensitive topics.
There is a difference between being assertive and being aggressive. However, learning to be assertive is vital to ensure your overall happiness in your relationship and is essential to the success of your partnership.
So, if you’re wondering how to be assertive and not aggressive in your relationship, the following information can help.
1. Know (And Understand) Your Worth
If you don’t understand your value, there is little to no hope for assertive communication in your relationship. So, the first step is to know your value and allow it to be your guide.
You can only learn to be assertive in your relationship if you realize your significance. You bring much worth to the table. You have value. You just need to know how to express it.
One issue with being timid in a relationship is that you may have a lot to say, but you won’t say it because you fear it may hurt your partner’s feelings or you don’t want to seem complicated. This is the opposite of assertiveness.
Of course, you don’t want your partner to feel bad, but holding in your feelings can do more harm than good. So, next time you have something to say or suggest, give your partner a little more credit and say it.
Remember, in every healthy relationship, your partner wants to make you as happy as you want to make them. Most often, they’re glad you’re expressing yourself because now they don’t need to guess how you feel. You’ve told them.
2. Keep to the Facts
Conflict sometimes happens when we respond to information that isn’t a fact. You don’t get bombarded with additional and unnecessary information when you stick to facts.
When you’re learning how to become assertive in your relationship, remember that you can’t argue the facts. Someone can gaslight or challenge how you feel, especially if they feel attacked or cornered. But facts are just that, facts!
For example, if your partner comes home late without calling, you may tell them it hurts your feelings. Then they may say, “You’re always acting like you’re worried when it’s no big deal.” In this case, your partner is gaslighting and disregarding how you feel.
In the same example, you can state the facts and follow up with how that made you feel. “You came home late (fact). This is the fourth time this week you’ve done this without calling (fact). It hurts my feelings when you do that.”
3. Change Your Communication Methods
To be more assertive, start with the way you communicate. Let’s go back to the basics and utilize these tactics in everyday situations.
Effective and healthy communication is linked to learning how to be assertive in your relationship. It will assist you in making your point so that your partner receives it respectfully.
We’ve mentioned respect several times throughout this article. That’s because it’s the main difference between being assertive and aggressive. To successfully make your point to your partner in an assertive manner, you need to deliver the message with careful consideration.
So, even if you need to communicate something to your partner that they may disagree with, they will more likely listen if you do so respectfully.
On the other hand, communicating aggressively typically ends in disagreements or arguments, which is what you don’t want.
Studies indicate that satisfaction and communication in a relationship are interlinked, and one impacts the other in many different ways.
4. Be Less Judgmental and More Understanding
Why is it so easy to assume that we know what our partner is thinking? You’re not a mind reader. Stop judging your partner’s behavior because you believe you know how they think and feel. Instead, allow more objectivity by looking at the situation from their perspective.
In the staying out late example we previously used, you may be upset that your partner didn’t come home on time again. You may assume they’re doing this on purpose because they know it makes you mad. This also makes a good case for sticking with the facts (see above.)
However, the reason why your partner stays out late without calling probably has nothing to do with you. You make yourself angrier by assuming they’re just doing it to piss you off. They may just like hanging out with their friends and lose track of time.
Instead, communicate your feelings and ensure they understand that you don’t like this behavior. This way, you know they know.
5. Use the BRF Method (Behavior, Results, and Feelings)
To get results faster and with less conflict, stick to this formula. State the bad behavior that caused the problem. Then give the result of that behavior. Lastly, share how the behavior made you feel.
Clearly outlining the problem and sticking to everything you understand about the situation reduces the chances of an argument.
For instance, when you are late and don’t call (behavior), I am home worried about you (results), and that makes me feel like you don’t care about my feelings (feelings).
6. Practice Positive Affirmations
Positive self-talk plays a crucial role in assertive communication in your relationship. We often forget that we also have a voice, which matters just as much as everyone else’s. Your needs are equally important; if you forget this fact, remind yourself regularly.
Practice this daily by stating positive affirmations in front of the mirror, or you can write them down in a journal. The important thing is to remind yourself of your self-worth.
First thing in the morning or right before bed works best. Try to keep to a scheduled time, so you remember. Look online for a list of affirmations that work best for you. You can also purchase affirmations from a bookstore.
7. Personify Assertiveness
Being assertive is much more than simply words. You can read about how to be assertive all day long for the next twenty years, but if you don’t embody it, you won’t become it. You have to believe it’s you. To do so, use positive body language to make your motives clear.
- Stop fidgeting
- Stand tall
- Maintain eye contact
- Speak clearly
These things are easy for some, but others struggle with them. Until you display confidence, it won’t be easy to be assertive. Don’t worry if you don’t have the confidence yet. You can always fake it ’til you make it.
8. Begin Small
Going from timid to assertive doesn’t usually happen overnight. Often, a complete overhaul of your interactions with the world is required.
Start small, and then give yourself time and space to adjust so you can grow into it. Doing so at a steady pace ensures your success.
9. Set Clear Limitations
Setting clear boundaries is a must-do in any relationship. Not only should you set them, but you need to stick to them. Know what you will and won’t deal with, and share these with your partner at the very beginning of your relationship.
Understanding your limits is essential if you want to be successful at learning to be assertive in your relationship. These hard limits are non-negotiable lines your partner should never cross.
Don’t know your dealbreakers? You may be surprised that most people haven’t thought about it, and if you don’t know your limitations, how can your partner?
You may already have obvious limitations in your head, like, infidelity and lying, but take a moment and write down others you haven’t thought about.
Is someone who stays out all night without telling you a dealbreaker? If not, how often will you put up with the bad behavior? Often, we only know what we’re willing to deal with once we get into a relationship, but it’s good to have guidelines.
Once you’ve figured it out, clearly communicate your list of deal breakers to your partner.
10. Practice Regularly
It’s not like you get a degree in assertiveness and then you’re done. Being assertive in a relationship will take time to master and won’t happen overnight. It requires time, patience, and practice, like any other acquired skill. Additionally, repetition can help you become more at ease with it.
So, as soon as you fall back into your old habit, get back into it immediately. You’ll soon find yourself being assertive in your relationship with minimal or no effort.
11. Seek Outside Assistance
Yes, being assertive takes practice. But, if you struggle with your footing, consider seeking outside help. Counselors and therapists can help you. They can help hold you accountable and offer assistance when you’ve lost your way. Also, confide in your family and friends if you feel comfortable enough.
12. Stop Talking and Listen
You may think being assertive means you’re doing the talking and setting all the ground rules. It’s not.
One of the most significant aspects of becoming assertive in your relationship is figuring out when to stop talking and listen to your partner.
When you listen and hear what your partner is saying, you can respond to how they feel in a controlled and precise manner that can help you avoid conflict.
13. Don’t Feel Guilty
A significant obstacle to assertiveness is the inability to get past the guilt of saying “no.” We’ve finally learned that we cannot be everything to everybody, so to maintain our mental health, we’ve established saying no.
However, it doesn’t end there. Sometimes we feel guilty and forget that we’re only saying no to the request and not to the person asking.
Understand that you have the right to say no to any request that makes you feel unhappy or uncomfortable. Protecting your well-being is way more important, so stop feeling guilty.
14. Take Time to Chill
Things don’t always go how we’d like, and that’s OK. When this happens, take a second to breathe. This gives you a chance to get your thoughts together. Breathing helps calm people down and helps reduce stress.
15. Share What You Understand
Even if you assume you know what the other person is thinking, you don’t know for sure. So, assertive communication in your relationship requires sharing how you feel.
When you do, use I statements to pinpoint the issue and effectively share your feelings with your partner. Doing so reduces the perceived hostility in a discussion and can lead to more productive conversations.
When you express your feelings in a receptive environment, your partner won’t feel like you’re backing them into a corner.
Becoming more assertive in your relationship can be challenging. It would be best to first examine how you communicate your needs to others, especially your partner. Understand that your needs are equally as important as theirs, and remember, you have a voice, and your thoughts matter.
Being assertive is never about winning. It’s about your partner understanding your needs just as you know theirs. When you improve your assertiveness in the relationship, you will have a happier, healthier, and more successful connection with your partner.