There was a debate going on in a forum I read concerning the ideas of giving what you want to receive, or asking for what you want. This could be the shortest blog post ever, with me saying that doing both is really the way to go, but brevity is apparently not my strongest suit, so let's delve into those ideas a bit more!
"Ask for what you want." It's just about front page on any poly manual out there. Your partners aren't psychic. You want something? Just wo(man) up and say so! Hmmmm... yet, why would we need to cover this over and over again if it weren't quite so simple for most of us? Societal training, particularly for women, says that you should wait for things to be offered to you, hint around it, make suggestions, or otherwise obfuscate what you _really_ want.
Apparently, it isn't lady-like to say: "I really want you to bury your face in my womanly-bits until I pull you up for air." Go figure. Instead, we are trained to be subtle, or just do without needs being met until such time as your partner spontaneously finds themselves interested in the same idea. Of course, by that point, it's likely that toys have been employed and the need no longer exists, but there's still a bit of resentment at being "denied" what was desired by one's own silence. Passive-aggressive much?
"Give what you want to receive." This sounds great in theory, but there are times where it just doesn't fit. Let's say that I'm kinky (just theoretically, you understand...), and that I want to enjoy public play as the Dominant. I offer that up to my partner, waiting for them to appreciate that gift. Hmmmm... they are vanilla, and not into public play. Well shoot, what do I do now?
This idea works better in intention than in specifics. Let's use the above example and instead of that specific scenario, I offer up an evening out, handling all of the childcare arrangements, so that there is a slot of totally free time available for use by my partner. This is getting closer, but let's face it, giving a gift and expecting reciprocation isn't much of a gift. Until I open up my mouth and say: "I'd really like to schedule an evening out, totally free of kids, to run a scene at a party. Here are a few times that events are running in the next month. Can we get that on the schedule, as well as a similar time slot for you to enjoy?" there is just an amorphous blob of vague wants and expectations that aren't likely to find the desired path on their own. It's the difference between going north, hoping to hit Canada, and plotting out a course with a specific route in mind. One is going to be MUCH more direct than the other.
On the flip side, let's suppose you want something. You best be prepared to set that up for your partners in return! Let's say you're the first one to have an outside partner. When the time comes that the shoe is on the other foot, work on wrestling any "But it's _different_ when it's you!" sorts of thoughts to the ground. They don't belong. You asked for it from them, you want it from them, pony up on your side of things!
Being upfront in negotiation with partners is really the fastest and easiest way to get what you want without jumping through a lot of extraneous hoops. Even if you get a no, at least you are aware of what you're working with, instead of waiting for the Relationship Parity Fairy to swoop down and bestow the perfect resolution.
Men, in contrast, have the idea that expressing a need is, well, needy and perhaps emasculating. They might do some of the same things, as far as indirectly asking, as a woman would do, but not usually for the same reasons. For example, I know a proud male Massage Slut. I am open to giving him massage, but find the approach of pathetic whimpering and whining with lots of hints to be less than appealing. ;) I'd rather just have a direct request, say yes (or no), and put a time frame around it. It's not needy to make a request, it's needy to expect someone to _notice_ that you _want_ to make a request.
Continuing to be aware of what your needs are, and how you generally go about trying to bring those needs to the attention of others in your life is an area of growth for most of us. Often, I find that if I'm feeling frustrated with my partners, it's because I didn't ask for something, or they didn't. Back-tracking and picking up that missed connection is usually a big step in the direction of resolution and getting everyone on the same page. Give what you want to receive, but also make sure you are communicating that clearly. The Relationship Parity Fairy will be pleased with you...