Happy Labor Day to my US and Canadian Friends!
I was recently asked this question by a partner in my international online community (Partner’s Healing & Empowerment Online Forum):
I made a request of my (sex addict) partner, and he never gave me answer. In the meantime, the requests I made have become requirements for me. What can I do?
This is a great question—and unfortunately not uncommon when you’re in a relationship with someone struggling with an addiction. Ignoring a request is a form of avoidance, and it’s often an effective strategy . . . provided the person making the request doesn’t follow up or otherwise persist in getting an answer.
If you’ve made a request of your partner and your partner hasn’t responded or has essentially ignored your request, here are 5 steps to take:
Read my post Requests, Demands, and Ultimatums here.
This article will give you an overview of the request-making process, as well as the basics of how to tell the difference between making a request, a demand, or issuing an ultimatum.
Review Your Initial Request
When partners—or anyone–are learning how to make requests as part of establishing effective boundaries, they sometimes overlook details that can make the request process go more smoothly.
For example, when you made the request did you ask for a timeframe for the other person to get back to you with an answer? If not, it will probably be helpful to start by restating your initial request. If you did establish a timeframe for receiving an answer and the deadline was ignored, I would still advise bringing up the initial request and offering the other person an opportunity to respond—this time with a clear timeframe and/or deadline.
Revisit & Restate the Request
In the spirit of giving the other person a second chance to address your concerns, start by restating your initial request.
When restating a request after receiving no response, if you—again—don’t get an immediate answer or the other person says, “I don’t know” or otherwise delays giving an answer, ask them when they can get back to you.
If they don’t—or won’t—give a date, then you can establish one yourself. You could say something like, “I would like to get a response from you by [date]. If I don’t hear back from you by then, I will need to figure out what that means to me or what I will need to do to take care of myself.”
When setting a deadline, make it reasonable but not too generous. For example, if you’ve asked your partner to get a therapist, it would not be reasonable to expect him/her to have a new therapist the next day. On the other hand, if you’ve asked your partner to attend a 12-step meeting and there are 2-3 per day in the city where you live (in addition to online meeting options), giving your partner a month to get back to you about going to a meeting is excessively generous.
When you ask the other person to set a deadline for getting back to you—or you create one yourself—you are protecting yourself from open-ended situations that require you to follow up, or worse, leave you with the impression that your request is unimportant or you’re being ignored.
Review—and understand—the other person’s rights
when receiving a request
As a quick review of the request-making process, remember that when a person is presented with a request of any kind, there are three possible responses:
- The other person says yes, and agrees to the request
- The other person says no, and doesn’t agree to the request
- The other person negotiates an alternative agreement/solution (somewhere between a no and a yes)
Keep in mind that a request is not a demand.
When you make a request of another person, they always have the option of saying no.
Since the partner asking the question states that the requests she made have become “requirements” for her, she will need to determine what it means to her if her partner responds with a No or wants to negotiate an alternate solution. If “requirement” means the requests are now non-negotiable boundaries for this partner, that means her requests are relationship deal-breakers.
What if the other person still ignores my request?
This is a tough one. If you have followed all the steps above and the other person continues to ignore your requests, he (or she) is stonewalling. As painful as this can be, remember that the other person is giving you valuable information about who he is and his capacity to be relational—intimate—with you.
If you haven’t gotten a response after restating your request and setting a firm timeframe, you now have a new issue to address. If you’ve read my book Moving Beyond Betrayal: The 5-Step Boundary Solution for Partners of Sex Addicts and are familiar with the 5-Step Boundary Solution process Clarifier*, this new information—your partner ignoring your request—is the data you will enter into the first step of the Clarifier: Identify Your Reality. Complete a Clarifier on this new issue and determine any actions you’d like to take.
Having a request ignored by your partner is a serious issue. At the very least, it indicates an inability on his or her part to communicate in a clean, transparent, adult-adult manner with you. At worst, he is stonewalling, deflecting, and avoiding being known or establishing a meaningful, intimate relationship.
*The 5-Step Boundary Solution Clarifier is a tool I created to help partners—and anyone wanting to create and maintain effective boundaries—walk through a process of identifying and establishing boundaries. You can download a free, fillable PDF 5-Step Boundary Solution Clarifier here.
© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2016)
All submitted comments are subject to editing to protect confidentiality and maintain anonymity.
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