How To Figure Out What You Desire
Why 'I don't want' is not the same as 'I want'
Many women struggle to articulate what they want. Which seems odd, as we usually have a clear idea of what we don’t want.
We don’t want to do all the housework. We don’t want to get up at 5:30am when the kids decide it’s morning. We don’t want those parallel lines between our brows, a hallmark of the burden of our mental load. But knowing what we don’t want is not the same as knowing what we want.
Herein lies the issue: often women only know what they want when it’s in reference to what they don’t want. I’ll give you an example, one I’m sure you know well.
It’s 6:00pm. The winter sun is setting and I’ve recently finished the last of my six coaching sessions for the day. Elbows on the desk and fingers circling my tired eye sockets, I receive a text.
What do you want for dinner?
Immediately I think, how is this my problem again? You said you were getting dinner. Just choose something, no Q & A necessary. Tiredly, I text back:
Whatever you want, I’m easy.
I’ll pick up a steak and salad then.
Umm, no thanks, I don’t feel like steak.
And here we are again at my first question. What do you want for dinner then?
Anything but steak.
Yeah, if we must.
So no Thai?
If that’s what you want.
But you don’t want Thai?
Not really. Sorry.
I could go on, and this did go on. For another half dozen messages until he was so frustrated he stopped responding. We had burritos.
And so, through a tedious process of elimination we eventually arrive at something in the ballpark of what we want. Fingers crossed.
We might even say that gaining clarity on our wants comes with the same frustrations as having a word stuck on the tip of your tongue. You can sense it. It’s there mucking about on the periphery of your brain like a child’s game of hide and seek. Only you can’t get your mouth around it.
Why is figuring this stuff out so hard?
Because women are socialised for the group. We are taught from a young age to put other people’s wants and needs ahead of our own.
We’re not born people pleasers and self-sacrificers, and we’re sure as hell not born to carry the mental load of every human within a 5 mile radius. Or maybe we are. Regardless, this kind of conditioning is fantastic for the harmony of community and family but falls well short of ensuring a satisfying, vital life for women.
So what will deliver us from the nightly dinner negotiation?
Owning the wanting.
Let’s set aside the tough decision about whether to have fish or pizza for a moment, and turn our attention to the bedroom.
My partner and I are out for dinner with some good friends. The restaurant is the product of a Hamptons/New York Industrial love affair; plenty of cane, blue hues, and ocean landscapes with a dash of copper piping and navy leather.
She and I are seated next to each other on the slick leather bench seat, the men opposite on their upmarket cane chairs. We chat about the kids and their recent holiday, toying with the stems of our fancy cocktails.
Somewhere between the main and dessert, the men turn their attention to Australian politics and we turn our attention to the politics of the bedroom.
‘I’ve been researching female desire and was interested to find that many women are numb and disinterested in sex a lot of the time,’ I begin.
‘Oh yeah, between mothering small children and working, I’m completely exhausted! But there’s a voice in the back of mind that says if I don’t do it he’ll eventually go somewhere else,’ she shares.
‘So we do it from a place a fear?’ I ask.
‘Maybe not fear, I mean, it’s just reality isn’t it? Men have needs and I want him to be happy. Plus, even if I’m not super into it at the start, after awhile I am,’ she says.