Self-advocacy: selfish or powerful? How to use self-advocacy to strengthen your relationship.

written by Erin Garwood, M.A.

Relationships are often comprised of a balance of compromises for each partners’ needs. In order to accomplish a healthy balance, all partners need to be able to express their emotions and needs. Some relationships may struggle if one or more partners feel as though they cannot express themselves or feel they are being demanding of others. Self-advocacy is a helpful way of ensuring that you are able to voice your needs within your relationship. However, self-advocacy is often confused with selfishness. What comes to mind when you think of the term self-advocacy? If the image that comes to mind looks at all like a young child demanding candy, then you may be confusing it with selfishness.


Self-advocacy involves understanding your needs and boundaries and communicating that with your partner. This includes knowing yourself and believing in your right to have needs and boundaries within the relationship. The clearer you can be in understanding yourself, the more effectively you can share your inner world with others. Being able to advocate in your relationship may take some practice and exploration of yourself. You may need to practice saying “no”, rehearsing what to say, or writing down your thoughts. It may also be helpful to cite specifically what you are needing from your partner and why.


Given that self-advocacy can be thought of as a selfish act, you may be nervous about how it would impact your relationship. The truth is, strong relationships involve all partners being able to understand and express their needs. Being able to tell your partner how you are feeling and what you need may increase your ability to authentically connect and significantly strengthen your relationship. The more you can communicate with your partner, the more they will be able to understand how you are doing and what they can do for you. Self-advocacy will allow you and your partner to create deeper connections with each other and strengthen your relationship.


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