Understanding and Expressing What You Want in Your Relationship —Yearnings: Your Inner-GPS
03.16.2016 by Dr Judith Wright
Do you feel like you’ve been fighting over nothing lately? Does every little thing become a nitpicky fight between you and your partner?
After you cool down and step away for a moment, maybe you find yourself thinking:
- “If we could just get away for a few days, everything would be okay,” or…
- “If we’d just have sex, I’m sure we would feel reconnected.”
Perhaps you feel a sense of dissatisfaction, but you can’t pinpoint the actual problem. You know neither of you is having an affair and no one has a substance abuse problem. Yet maybe you find yourself thinking about other partners or feeling like your partner just doesn’t make you feel the same sense of excitement they once did.
Essentially: the thrill is gone.
All of these common relationship issues are rooted in our yearnings. Yearnings are something we all have.
- We yearn to be acknowledged and known.
- We yearn to be seen, valued, and loved.
For most couples, yearnings and unmet yearnings are at the true heart of the fight. Our yearnings are what drive us. They point us in the direction of greater happiness and satisfaction. They push us toward the things we want.
Yearnings make couples tick, and unmet yearnings tick couples off.
Imagine for a moment: all your yearnings are met in your relationship. Think for a moment of a time when you got home and your partner told you how much they missed you—maybe their eyes lit up when they saw you and they were excited to hear about your day.
Imagine telling your partner about something wonderful that happened during your day and knowing your partner is thrilled for you. Imagine asking your partner for something you really want—a dinner with them, a long walk, and conversation, to really connect—and having your partner enthusiastically agree. Or imagine telling your partner something you’re dissatisfied with, being acknowledged, and working together on a resolution. These interactions speak to our inner yearnings.
In a relationship, when our yearnings are ignored or unmet, we can find ourselves drifting in opposite directions. Maybe we’re feeling distant from our partner, but we’re not really sure why. We can become afraid to bring up problems, we may start sensing that hidden middle finger, or we might even withdraw from the relationship completely.
Expressing Your Yearnings: It’s Not Actually About His Socks on the Floor
Yearnings are powerful. They aren’t as simple as wishing your husband would stop putting his socks on the floor. They go much deeper. However, sometimes something as simple as socks on the floor can make us feel like our yearnings were ignored or brushed over. If having a clean and organized home is very important to you but it’s not something you’ve clearly expressed to your spouse, perhaps he doesn’t realize your frustration over the socks. Maybe you’ve said, “Hey, pick up your socks,” and he continues to ignore your request.
Years of socks on the floor later, your frustration builds more and more every night as you silently pick up his socks and seethe about it. Obviously, this can lead to resentment. Soon, you’re making something he hates for dinner and ignoring the jokes he makes about his day because you’re angry. He feels confused about why you’re so annoyed with him.
Perhaps you grew up in a household with a different standard of cleanliness. To him, socks on the floor mean he’s relaxed and comfortable. To you, socks on the floor mean, “I don’t care about the work you put into our household. I don’t respect you or notice your efforts.”
We are often engaged in these power struggles—yet we’re not even aware they’re going on. All of these little resentments and actions build up, causing explosive fights which seemingly go nowhere.
At the root of the fight is often an unmet yearning.
Your yearnings, at their core, are typically things like:
- Yearning to be respected,
- Yearning to be cared for,
- Yearning to be safe and secure,
- Yearning to nurture and grow, and
- Yearning to be appreciated.
So, in this situation, your true yearning probably isn’t “pick up your socks.” It’s actually something more poignant, which runs much deeper. Yearnings are part of the core of our humanity and existence.
Wanting vs. Yearning
There’s a difference between wanting and yearning. We often express our wants, yet when we get them, we still feel unsatisfied or like the larger issue is still there.
- We can want our spouse to have sex with us more frequently.
- We can want her to clean out the car when she uses it.
- We can ask him to stop splashing toothpaste on the bathroom mirror.
Many times, we express our wants, then our partner complies, but we still feel annoyed. We haven’t addressed the deeper yearning behind those desires, and so a superficial action (like putting down the toilet seat or picking up dinner on the way home from work), doesn’t really address the heart of the issue. We find ourselves running around mopping up the spills without fixing the pipe and correcting the source of the leak.
True satisfaction and intimacy comes from expressing your yearnings and understanding WHY your “wants” matter to you. If your partner simply complies with an expressed want, without addressing the deeper yearning (perhaps to be acknowledged, appreciated, or loved), the solution feels hollow and even superficial.
When it comes to fighting, we don’t yearn to “win” the fight. We may WANT to win the fight, but after we feel superior and proud of our status as the “winner,” we often realize we didn’t really resolve anything at all. At the heart of many of our conflicts is a fear (or a simple fact) that our yearnings aren’t being met.
Yearning is at the core of our very survival. Yearning to love and bond is what keeps mothers caring for their children. Yearning to be safe and sheltered, to communicate with others, and to be respected all have a biological imperative behind them. We experience a flood of feel-good emotions and chemicals when our yearnings are met, and when they are unmet, we experience a rush of fear, adrenalin, and stress hormones.
Understanding the neuroscience behind our yearnings can help us identify why they’re so powerful and why they play such a strong role in our fights and conflicts with our partners.
If you want to build stronger connections and have your yearnings met, you must first identify them and then work toward expressing them to your partner. Acknowledging these yearnings is the first battle—and it’s a battle we must wage within ourselves. As we come to a greater understanding of what drives us, we can better express these feelings and desires to our partner. You can begin expressing what you want in your relationship, strengthening your bond, and ultimately bringing you and your partner closer together.
If you’d like to learn more about bringing out your best self, and getting a deeper understanding of who you are, we urge you to join us for our next Foundations Weekend Training. Visit www.wrightliving.com to learn more about this opportunity and others. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a question or if you’d like us to address a specific topic during our Wright Living weekly podcast. Let us know how you’re finding your own happiness!
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.
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