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Published May 31, 2012, 11:30 PM

Linnares: Find courage inside, reach out to partner

Why does it sometimes seem so hard to express what we want? A lot of women are really good at taking care of everyone else’s needs but tend forget to express – much less, fulfill – their own needs.

By: Chris Linnares, INFORUM

Why does it sometimes seem so hard to express what we want?

A lot of women are really good at taking care of everyone else’s needs but tend forget to express – much less, fulfill – their own needs.

I visited with a friend a couple weeks ago who literally runs away from her needs and desires She shared with me that she can’t stop participating in marathons even after her doctor advised that her knees couldn’t handle running anymore.

When I joked “So, what are you running from?” she started crying and said how much she misses spending time with her husband. She feels like they had become just roommates raising kids instead of a couple who truly enjoy each other’s company.

“How many times have you told him that you want to spend more time with him?” I asked.

She hesitantly answered: “Never. I’ve never had the courage to tell him.”

How can a woman find the strength to run 26.2 miles and yet feel powerless to take a few steps to reach out to her own spouse?

What I’ve noticed in my own life and by working with women’s groups is that many of us tend to think we’re being selfish or ungrateful when we express to our partners what we want.

“He is such a good father. How can I tell him that I need time apart from the kids and get away with him?”

“He is such a loving husband. How can I say that I need time for myself?”

“He does so much for me. How can I tell him that I would like him to learn how to dance salsa with me?”

Oops. I will be honest – that last comment was my column confession moment!

Coming from Brazil, where we find any excuse to shake it, dance has always been a big part of my life. As a teenager, I dreamt about someday being a young 75-year-old woman dancing salsa and samba with my husband in my grandkids’ weddings.

A few years into my marriage with my North Dakota man, who doesn’t even line dance, I realized my teenage dream was far from becoming a reality –unless I could do something about it.

I remember not expressing this need because I didn’t want to sound as if I was complaining or dissatisfied with him. For a while, just like my friend, I found excuses to dance away from my desire: “Why do I really need to dance salsa with my husband anyway? His ancestors apparently made out just fine without it.”

Sure, I don’t need to dance with my husband in order to be happy. But the fact that I don’t need it doesn’t make it any less important.

One of the reasons I believe it’s hard for us women to express our desires is because we’re often confused about the words need and important. If it’s not an absolute need, we don’t find it important.

“Need,” in this case a noun, expresses that we require something because it is essential – we can’t live without it. We need air to breath; we need food to live.

“Important” is an adjective used to indicate that something is of high value to us, that we want to “import” it into our lives.

Once I was able to understand the difference between what I need and what is important to me, it was easier to share what I wanted without coming from a place of lacking or “needing’” but, rather, from the desire of wanting to create new possibilities within my relationship.

It took courage to finally communicate to my husband that I want to “import” dance into our relationship, but in order to do so, we would definitely need to take some dance lessons together. I was concerned that he would feel offended by the implication regarding his German DNA; but if even Nietzsche said “A day without dancing is a wasted day,” I figured I had to take the plunge.

Instead of saying: “I need you to learn how to dance salsa with me,” and take the chance of making him believe that I wasn’t satisfied; I expressed how important dance was for me and how much I would love to share this passion with him.

Was I able to turn my North Dakota man into a salsa dancer? Well, that is a story for my next column.

I believe a relationship isn’t a marathon that we run at our own individual pace; it is like a challenging dance in which, sometimes, we need to slow down, adapt to each other’s rhythm, and dare to dance into the unknown.

We can’t transform our relationships alone. It’s true that it takes two to tango, but it takes just one to ask:

Will you dance with me?

Chris Linnares is an international author, Brazilian psychotherapist and creator of Diva Dance. She is the founder of Naturally Diva and Diva Connection Foundation for women’s health and empowerment.