this past weekend, i flew to the bay area to surprise my best friend jason for his 30th birthday. his girlfriend vana was thoughtful enough to hit me up a couple of months ahead of time (far before she even knew what the plans were for the weekend) in an effort to be sure jason could have all of his people there. as i sat next to jason at this amazing japanese bbq restaurant (if you are ever in san mateo, make a reservation at gyu kaku and thank me later – there are about 40 locations nationwide), he must have thanked me at least a dozen times for just showing up. he was like, “i know how busy you are – it means to world to me that you made it!” i assured him that there was no way i would miss it and that vana is the one to thank for thinking to hit me up ahead of time. then i had this thought about a post i had seen on one of my favorite instagram accounts, therapy for black girls.
“we get what we ask for in relationships, not what we put out.” -dr. marisa g. franco
i started to think about why showing up for jason (in my mind) was not even negotiable. some might say it is because quality time and acts of service are my top two love languages so perhaps i am loving jason in my preferred love languages. some might say it is because i was having bay area withdrawals. while both of those things are not inaccurate, one of the things that i thought about is that over the years, jason has made it incredibly clear to me that the thing that is most important to him in friendship is simply showing up. that part of him has not wavered since we met in the residence halls back in 2008. after a rough day, he was happy to just visit each other in our rooms and talk, listen to music or watch a movie. as we have gotten older, maybe that quality time is now spent over a good meal or traveling somewhere together. nonetheless, jason thanked me profusely but he had given me a road map because he did something simple – he asked.
much of my early/mid 20s was spent in what i like to call situationships. you are definitely seeing this person and there are some feelings there however it is a bit murky and lacking clarity. like, would you know how to introduce them (aside from their name) if you ran into a family member unexpectedly? friend does not seem like the accurate label but neither does boyfriend/girlfriend/partner. anyway, i often found myself frustrated because i felt like i was pouring into these situationship type of relationships and not getting what i wanted out of them. after taking a step back to reflect and also, do some much needed work on myself, i realized i cannot penalize these men for not giving me something i never had the guts to ask for. it is also not someone else’s job to be a mind reader or to just mimic my behavior, especially if i was doing things they were not even explicitly asking me to do.
the more i think about this quote, the more that i see how it applies to all relationships, work included. i worked for years at car dealerships and was somewhat perplexed by the lack of feedback and training provided for new hires. it turns out that some of management felt the same way but it just had not really been addressed. when i started doing things like asking for reviews and expressing the importance of not being called into the head honcho’s office just because things were going wrong, things started being done differently. we even came up with a new hire training checklist so it would not just feel like you were being thrown to the wolves. once again, that is something i had to ask for. just because it had not been done regularly before did not mean it was not something that would be useful for me and dozens of other associates.
with family, i think it can be harder than any other relationship to ask for what you want out of the relationship. while i was in the bay over the weekend, i met this bright and beautiful two year old named luna. my ovaries practically exploded with just under one hour of interactions. when i was about to leave the apartment, she seemed sad. her little bottom lip was puckered and pouty. when i crouched down to her level and asked her if she wanted a hug, she said no. part of me appreciated that she was not just trying to hug someone she had known for under one hour. then this other part of me wanted to just squeeze her. now, i probably stood at the door saying goodbye for a couple of minutes. once the door shut behind me, i could hear the dialogue between luna, her mom, aunt and uncle. they could tell she was sad and told her how she could have hugged me because i did in fact offer. what i loved is that they respected her decision. no one forced her to hug me. in thinking about how children are often treated within their family units, it as though they do are not allowed to have their own thoughts or feelings. it is an expectation that they hug people without any consideration of whether or not that makes them feel uncomfortable. i think this then contributes to not necessarily feeling comfortable confidently stating what they might want or need from a relationship, even once older. it is as though there is this behavior that has to be unlearned. it took me going through a masters level counseling psychology program to be able to ask for what i need from my family in relationships.
how many times have i been disappointed in the way a relationship is going because my expectation is to get what i am putting out versus simply asking for what it is that i want? that is definitely something i have been making an effort to work on and it is something i will continue to work on as i navigate all of the relationships in my life.
now, something to consider is that you can clearly ask for what you want in a relationship and the person on the other side may not give you what you requested. when that happens, i think there is a greater decision to be made. don’t you?
are you asking for what you want in your relationships?