Commanding vs. Demanding
By: Kathy
February 17, 2010

It is mighty important in a relationship that we understand the difference between ‘commanding’ and ‘demanding’. We often demand something from our partners in an effort to try to fill one of our needs. But then wonder why our partner can’t or won’t give it to us easily. We mistakenly assume that they just don’t love us enough to be able to meet our needs. Understanding the difference between these two similar but very different terms, might be just exactly what we need to start moving in the right direction to get our needs met.

Definition of ‘command’

My definition of ‘command’ is a very +/+ or positive way of telling my partner what I need. I may even have to be assertive in getting what I want from him. All the while, I recognize that it is MY need that I am trying to get him to help me fill. I am also quite aware, when asking for him to help me meet my need, that he has the choice to meet the need or not. No shaming, no blaming, just him deciding if he can or cannot help me meet my needs. He may not even be able to meet it exactly, but we may negotiate how I can get my need met within his boundaries.

I have effectively said “Here is my need. I need your help in meeting it. Are you willing to help me meet it in some way? I need you to try because it is really important to me.” If he can’t do it, I don’t get angry, I just figure out a healthy way to get it met another way. If he consistently can’t or won’t help me, then I need to consider whether this is the right relationship for me or not.

Definition of ‘demand”

My definition of ‘demand’ is a very negative, shaming, critical way of telling my partner what I need. It’s an “I am hurting and you need to do this so that I can stop hurting.” directive. If I am so dependent upon my partner that they have to do something or stop doing something so that I can feel okay, then my relationship is extremely unhealthy.

What it usually looks like when it hits my office is that person A is brutally bashing person B because person A is in a lot of pain. So we naively bloody and bruise our partner so we can stop feeling bloody and bruised! I’ve got to ask the question, how is that working for you in getting your needs met? ‘Demanding’ has the efficiency of trying to pound a square peg into a round hole. We go to a lot of effort, splinter a lot of wood, and in the end, it still doesn’t fit like we thought it should.