fbpx

Dr. Judith Wright | March 10, 2022

Yearnings: Follow Your Inner-GPS to Express Your Wants and Needs in a Relationship

Do you feel like you’ve been fighting over nothing lately? Does every little thing become a nitpicky fight between you and your partner?



Are you expressing your wants and needs in your relationship? It’s a tricky question, but one that most of us have pondered before.

We believe (or maybe expect) that a relationship should meet our wants and needs. We hope that our partner will “get” us and do those things that help us feel connected, happy, and fulfilled. But most of us have probably realized that our partners aren’t mind-readers. We have to express those feelings to get them on the radar—but how?

If we want to meet our wants and needs in a relationship, we need to dive in and discover our yearnings. Here’s how.

When the Thrill is Gone

It may sound harsh, but even the best relationships hit rough patches. As the old song goes, “The thrill is gone,” and some of us might be wondering where it went

When a relationship starts, we’re often energized, engaged, and ready to put our “best foot forward.” But after a few months or years, we shift out of the lavender haze and may start to feel a loss of connection. We may feel like we’ve been fighting over nothing lately. Every little thing becomes a nitpicky fight between our partner and us.

After we cool down and step away for a minute, we might think,

We may feel dissatisfied, but we can’t pinpoint the actual problem. We know that neither partner is having an affair. No one has a substance abuse problem. We still genuinely love and care about each other, but we don’t get the same sense of excitement we once did. We may even find ourselves thinking about other people or remembering other relationships fondly.

Essentially—the thrill is gone. But is it really? And more importantly, can we get it back?The good news is that all of these common relationship feelings are rooted in our yearnings.


We long to have our wants and needs met in a relationship, but we might not know how to get there. These longings are what we call yearnings. They are feelings that we all have—hunger of the soul. They go deeper than “I want to look good naked” or “I want to go on vacation.”


Yearnings speak to the desires of our heart:

For most couples, yearnings and unmet yearnings are at the root of dissatisfaction and at the heart of every fight. Our yearnings drive us. Like GPS, they steer us toward the direction of greater happiness and satisfaction. Our yearnings push us toward the things we want.

We often say that yearnings make couples tick, and unmet yearnings tick couples off.

We can imagine for a moment: what it is like when our yearnings are met in our relationship. Think of a time when we got home, and our partner’s eyes lit up when they saw us. They told us how much they missed us and couldn’t wait to hear about our day.

Imagine telling that partner about something extraordinary that happened during the day and knowing our partner is thrilled for us. Envision asking them for something that we really wanted—a dinner, a long walk, a conversation, physical contact—and having them enthusiastically agree. Or imagine telling them something we’re dissatisfied with, and they acknowledge our feelings and work together on a resolution. These would be examples of interactions that speak to our inner yearnings.

When our yearnings are ignored or unmet in our relationship, we may find ourselves drifting in opposite directions. Maybe we’re feeling distant from our partner, but we aren’t sure why. We might be afraid to bring up problems and discuss our feelings because we’re sensing a hidden middle finger (or giving one ourselves). We might withdraw from the relationship and feel a sense of disconnectedness.

Expressing Your Yearnings: It’s Not Actually About His Socks on the Floor

Our yearnings are extremely powerful. They go deeper than wishing that our spouses would stop putting their socks on the floor. But sometimes, something as simple as socks on the floor can make us feel like our yearnings are ignored and brushed aside. If having a clean, organized home is important to one partner but not the other, there might be an incongruency. That difference is underscored when the preference isn’t something that’s been clearly expressed. Often one partner doesn’t realize the importance of picking up the socks, while the other partner feels ignored and frustrated.

Years of socks on the floor pile up, and so do frustrations. Each night the irritation builds as we silently pick up our partner’s socks and seethe about it. Eventually, this can lead to resentment. We make a crack about our spouse’s sloppiness to friends. We make something he hates for dinner. We ignore his comments about his day. We’re silent and angry, and our spouse is confused about why we’re so cold and annoyed with them.

But at the root, we probably grew up in different households with differing standards of cleanliness. To one partner, socks are no big deal—a sign of feeling relaxed and comfortable. To the other partner, socks on the floor are an affront that says, “I don’t care about the work you put into our household. I don’t respect you or notice your efforts.”

We’re often engaged in these little power struggles in relationships, and we aren’t even aware that they’re happening. These little resentments and actions build up and can even cause explosive fights that seemingly go nowhere. Our partner might start picking up the socks, but it doesn’t resolve the underlying issue. At the root of the fight is often an unmet yearning.

Yearnings are significant wants and needs in a relationship. They may be:

Notice that nowhere on this list is “yearning for picked-up socks.” That’s because the true yearning isn’t really about the laundry pile. It’s something more poignant that runs much deeper. Yearnings are connected to the core of our humanity, existence, and identity.

Wants and Needs in a Relationship vs. Yearnings

It’s important to understand because there’s a difference between basic wants and needs in a relationship and yearnings. We often express what we think are our wants and needs, but when we get them met, we still feel unsatisfied, as though the larger issue still looms.

When we express our wants, our partner often complies, but we may still feel annoyed. We feel like we’re nagging them or like we always have to tell them what we want. That’s a sure indication that we haven’t addressed the deeper yearnings behind our desires. A superficial action, like putting down the toilet seat or rinsing a dinner plate doesn’t really address the heart of the issue. We find ourselves running around mopping up water without fixing the broken pipe and addressing the source of the leak.


Real, true satisfaction and intimacy come from expressing our yearnings and understanding why they matter to us. This can happen in or out of a relationship. It’s about first doing the work to understand what’s going on inside our hearts and minds.


The great part is that when we identify our yearnings, we can find many different ways to get them met. It’s not just about relying on one person to do a specific action. We may yearn to connect with others, and we can do that by connecting with friends, coworkers, family, or our spouse.

If our partner simply complies with our expressed demand without understanding or learning our underlying yearning, the interaction might feel hollow or superficial. We aren’t getting those feelings of being acknowledged, appreciated, or loved. We’re simply training someone to pick up socks.

Our Yearnings Matter!

So, what about when we fight? We don’t really yearn to “win” the fight when it comes to fighting. Yes, we may want to express our point; we may think we want to win. But after we feel briefly superior and proud of our status as the “winner,” we might realize that we haven’t solved anything at all.

At the heart of many of our conflicts is fear (or the simple fact) that our yearnings aren’t being met and that we aren’t clearly expressing and requesting them from our partners. Yearning is at the core of our survival. Yearning to love and bond keeps mothers caring for their children. Yearning to be safe, sheltered, connected, and respected all have a biological imperative behind them. When our yearnings are met, we experience a rush of feel-good emotions and chemicals. When our yearnings are ignored, we experience a flood of fear, adrenalin, and stress hormones.

When we understand the neuroscience beneath our yearnings, we can quickly see why they’re so powerful and why they play such a strong role in our conflicts, especially with our partners—the people we rely on and trust.


When we feel frustrated about something our partner did, we can step back and ask ourselves, what is the underlying yearning? What do I really want from them? Is it that I want to be seen? Heard? Respected? Connected? When we identify those yearnings, we can try expressing them.


What would happen if we asked our partner for more physical contact? What if we explained why a clean house makes us feel more secure? What if we “went there” in conversation and brought our yearnings out into the light?

If we want to build stronger connections and get our yearnings met in our relationship, we must first identify them within ourselves. Then we can take steps to express our yearnings to our partner. Acknowledging our yearnings is the first battle, one we must wage within ourselves. As we come to a better understanding of what drives us, we can start expressing those wants and needs to our partners. Ultimately, when we say what we really want in our relationship, we’ll strengthen our bond and start getting closer.

For more ways to strengthen your relationships, visit Wright Now. We offer an array of courses to help you build stronger connections, discover more about yourself, and move towards the life you want—a life of more. Start getting what you want today!


About the Author

judith

Dr. Judith Wright is a media favorite, sought-after inspirational speaker, respected leader, peerless educator, bestselling author, & world-class coach. She is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University.


The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.

SHARE THE LOVE!

RELATED POSTS