Desire smuggling; RSD’s cousin!

I have talked about RSD (rejection sensitive dysphoria) a few times now! Just in case you missed my blog posts (How To Explain Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria & Why rejection sensitivity dysphoria makes relationships so hard) here is a quick definition:

RSD is when you feel both physical and emotional pain because you experience real or perceived rejection.

Now that we have RSD covered, here is a new one: desire smuggling! I first heard the term yesterday from my friend, Sam, who is a fellow ADHD coach! When Sam told me about desire smuggling I could not believe that I had never heard of it before. My wheels kept on spinning because I was floored by all of the places that desire smuggling can show up in our lives. Naturally, I had to share it with you all!!

Desire smuggling: What is it?!

Essentially, desire smuggling is when we don’t ask for what we want. To elaborate it’s “hiding what you really want from yourself and/or a loved one, then, finding covert strategies to get (at least pieces of) what you want.”

the main reason we don’t ask for what we want is fear.

Fear of rejection, humiliation, and judgment.

Fear of disappointment, shame, loss, or guilt.

Fear of repeating the past, missing out, hurting your partner, or feeling like a failure.

Fear of “what they will think,” not getting what you want, or putting too much at stake.

Red flags that you are desire smuggling:

– Expect telepathy– Get drunk/high to remove inhibitions
– Makes wishes
– Ask if the other person wants the
thing you want
– Fake spontaneity– Rationalize cost/benefit
– Hint– Send articles about the thing
– Emotional withdrawal– Give statistics about the thing
– Make unspoken deals– Tack on obligation to a “gift”
– Issue ultimatums– Minimize by saying “just” or “only”
– Emotional blackmail– Say “people like…” (instead of owning it
– Be passive-aggressive– Look for other, less-scary places to get it
– Non-consensual taking– Punish your partner for not giving it to you
– Bully– Attack/judge someone asking for what you
– Get needs met without owning them– Attack/judge someone getting what you
– Tell a story about the
thing desired
– Shame yourself for having that
– Force– Shame others with the same desire
– Wait for a sign– Want the other person to guess
– Withhold– Wait for the right time
– Try to convince– Try to get the other person to say it
– Blame– Complain that you don’t get it
– Guilt-trip– Be “nice” and hope to be rewarded
– Be macho– Buy into a romance myth (“If you really
loved me…”)
– Avoid it altogether– Assume they should “just know”
– Settle– “Purchase” it by doing other things
– Compromise– Be loud and bombastic
– Criticize after the fact– Make sugar-coated demands
– Substitute something else– Martyr yourself in hopes of getting it
– Spiritually bypass– Don’t explore internal dissonance
– Play options roulette (where
one option is the one you want)

(list taken from

An example of desire smuggling from my life

I first noticed this through journaling. I spent a really nice day with my boyfriend last Saturday and I wanted to know how he felt about it. Rather than simply asking him how he felt I went fishing aka desire smuggling. I said to him “It was so nice spending the day with you”. He responded “yaaaaaaa”. My immediate thought was “what the heck, I give you that and you give me yaaaaaa…”. I felt a little bit hurt and my brain leaped to “uh oh, he didn’t have fun and he thought today was boring”. When I was journaling this I realized how ridiculous I was being; I was making total assumptions and ruining the day for myself. Before I even told him that I enjoyed our day I was expecting him to say something back. I am now laughing at myself at how silly it all was. Thanks to journaling, I also realized that the reason I wanted to know what he thought of our day was out of fear. I was scared that he was starting to think that our relationship is getting boring. We are coming up on 6 months of knowing each other and have gotten into this routine of asking each other what we want to do, coming up empty and then hanging out watching Netflix & chilling type thing. We then joke that “we are so boring”. This is perfectly okay with me but I actually don’t really know if it is with him.. It’s worth a discussion plus I want to explain to him that I have this tendency to desire smuggle.

How perfection gets tied up in all this

Sam and I were also discussing perfectionism a while ago and I shared with her that I don’t think I struggle with perfectionism. Boy was I ever wrong… the reason why I felt that way was because I struggle with perfectionism on so many levels. It was hard for me to see perfectionism in my life because it is so normal to me.

What does perfectionism have to do with desire smuggling? I have perfectionism around expectations of the way a situation should (there’s that pesky word!) turn out. I often expect the situation to go the way I thought about it/planned it in my head. So, not only does the situation have to be perfect but the way people respond also has to be perfect. If it doesn’t match my expectation, then it’s a problem.

Reasons why people may resort to desire smuggling

  • People who ask for what they want may be labeled as demanding and/or bitchy.
  • It is a way of avoiding rejection (not really, but our brains think so!)
  • Indirect way of saying what you want (you aren’t putting your feelings on the line as much).

What I’m going to do about desire smuggling

It’s so nice to have a term to label my thoughts with! As soon as I catch myself asking things in such a way out of fear, I can catch myself and label it “desire smuggling”. I have done this with my RSD and I can’t even explain the difference that it has made in my relationships & life.

I’m going to explain this all to my boyfriend/friends/family and ask them to help me come up with a way to realize if I am asking someone out of fear. I have nooo idea what this would be but already today I have caught myself asking what someone else wants at least 5 times! Just thinking about putting this into place feels like a huge weight off of my chest. Think about it: we are not responsible for the reactions of others.

Why RSD + desire smuggling go hand in hand

Desire smuggling stems from the fear or rejection and RSD is the pain from perceived or real rejection. In case you haven’t caught on.. they are both related to rejection! It could be said that desire smuggling is a coping mechanism of RSD; we have a fear of being rejected so rather than asking for what we want, we ask for it in a roundabout way.

If you would like to read up a bit more on desire smuggling, here are a few articles that I found:

So friends, remember: Ask for what you want!! But first, figure out what you want 😉

One thought on “Desire smuggling; RSD’s cousin!

  1. Awesome post! Will be looking for this in my life. One thing that stood out to me from the list is the shaming others for having the desire. I used to be religious beliefs that made me think I couldn’t do things just for fun or pleasure, like buying a camera for a photography hobby. And I would internally judge others who followed their “selfish” passions. Out of that line of thinking now but I’m curious where I do it elsewhere.

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