Making Demands VS Making Requests


Most fights are fueled by unmet needs like the need for a kind touch, meaningful words, fun, financial or emotional support, sex, meals, romance, space, gifts, affection, meaningful conversation, quality time, a tidy house, and acts of service. When those needs aren’t met we tend to get frustrated and do one of three things.

  • Go silent and fume to ourselves, “If they really loved me they’d meet my needs. They don’t care!” Remember, it’s not fair to expect your spouse to give you something you never ask for. They can’t read your mind.
  • Explode in anger with non verbal messages that say, “I’m going to make you meet my needs with guilt, shame, manipulation, pouting, anger, and arm twisting.” Remember, God loves a cheerful giver and so do you. A need met out of obligation, fear, or to dodge your wrath isn’t a very meaningful gift.
  • Nag, pester, whine, and pout, “My happiness depends on you; you’re my oxygen and until you shape up I’m going to be moody, surly, and uncommunicative.”  Remember, this comes across as controlling, codependent, and childish.

A better way to get your needs met is to make a request without being demanding. What’s the difference?

Requests are made with calmness.

If requests are ignored we stay calm.

They don’t hurt the one we talk to.

Requests lead to discussion and negotiation.

Responding to requests is freely given.

Respondents feel equal to the one requesting.

Requests come across as kind and open.

Requests are like a vitamin in a relationship.

Meeting a request leads to growth and change.

Requests are a forgotten ingredient in communication.

Requests are easy to give if you don’t have childhood wounds.

If done right requests don’t sound nagging.

Requests are free of criticism.

Requests inspire our partner make good requests.

On the other hand….

Demands are made with agitation and anger.

If our demands are ignored we explode.

Demands usually hurts, intimidates, or angers the one we talk to.

Demands lead to fights and verbal jousting.

Responding to demands can lead to resentment.

Responding to a demand makes us feel subservient to the one demanding.

Demands come across as controlling and bossy.

Demands are like poison in a relationship.

Meeting a demand leads to reactions and frustration.

Demands are a damaging ingredient in communication.

Demands are easy to give if you have childhood wounds.

If done wrong demands ARE nagging!

Demands are loaded with criticism.

Demands inspire our partner to retaliate and make demands, too.

Take turns talking calmly making your request. To Make a Request finish these sentences with actions that are clear, specific, doable (don’t ask for the moon), brief (don’t ask for twenty things at once), and positive (IE ask them to do something, not stop doing something):

  • There are certain things that you do that trigger my frustration. It would be helpful and healing if you would…
  • There are certain things that you do that trigger my fear. It would be helpful and healing if you would….
  • I have unmet needs and it would be helpful and healing if you would…

Fear of Nagging

This may come as a shock coming from a marriage counselor, but nagging isn’t a crime. I often wish some conflict avoidant marriage partners would nag their mates more.  Here’s why.

Stuffed complaints can build to volcano-sized eruptions. Let frustrations out before the lava flows!

Some marriage partners blithely dabble in high risk, illegal, immoral, unhealthy, and marriage killing behaviors all the while thinking, “My partner hasn’t complained so therefore my behavior is okay.” So speak up!

Hoping your partner will “love and understand me so much they’ll just know what I’m thinking” is folly. People aren’t mind readers; let ‘em know what’s bugging you!

Being called a nag isn’t as risky as bitterness, a dead heart, or failed marriage. If I had a dollar for every time I heard a client say, “I should have spoken up sooner” I’d have over one hundred dollars! So speak up before it’s too late.

Marriage researcher John Gottman calls the fine art of nagging, “Lowering your marital poop indicator.” This means not staying silent while the marital poop piles up. Lower your tolerance for marriage destroying behaviors and increase your courage at speaking up.

Least readers think this blog post is license to turn into psycho partner, here are some guidelines.


  1. Understand what nagging is. Telling somebody what they do that bugs, concerns, worries, or irritates you isn’t nagging. It’s called communicating. Telling somebody something twice after they heard it once is called nagging. Telling them ten times is called dysfunctional.
  2. Monitor your marital poop indicator. Only you know how much pain you can put up with. It’s better to speak too soon and risk being called a nag than waiting too late.
  3. Choose your battles wisely. A dirty sock on the floor might not be worthy of starting World War III. Suspecting an affair, prescription drug abuse, or violence is.
  4. Stay calm. When policemen and policewomen issue tickets they don’t yell, whine, or threaten. They just enforce consequences. (Please don’t ask me how I know this).
  5. Complain, don’t criticize. Saying, “When you don’t talk to me I feel lonely, can we chat?” is different than saying, “You maggot. I married a loser.”
  6. Be clear. Hinting, hoping, and suffering silently won’t get you anywhere. Tell your partner what’s bugging you and what you want from them.
  7. Be prepared to back down. If your complaints make matters worse or if you slip up and become dysfunctional, it’s time to try a new approach. Your unwillingness to try a different approach puts your partner’s attention on your complaints and off their misbehaviors.
  8. Weigh your options. If your complaints don’t prompt your spouse to end their irritating mannerisms, risky behaviors, or marriage killing actions you’ve got three options: leave, get thicker skin, or find a new approach to get what you need.
  9. Pay attention to what works. If your spouse gets defensive and refers to your endless complaints as slow torture your approach isn’t working. Keep trying new approaches until you find one that does work. Counselors and marriage coaches can help here.

Partners suffering in silence, start your engines: get ready to speak up!