How Anyone Can Get What They Want (and Need) in a Relationship

Photo: Unsplash/Tallie Robinson
Whether you’ve been in a relationship for two years or two decades, figuring out how to get what you want from your partner can be tricky. And that's once you hone in on what your needs are, which can be the most difficult part. Often, one partner expects the other to “just know” what they need even when they don’t say it out loud. Or, even if you're able to share your thoughts, you might not be speaking the same language, emotionally. Yikes—that’s a lot to unpack.

But that’s the bad news. Here’s the good news: As long as both partners are on board when it comes to improving relationship satisfaction, small tweaks can go a long way. Here’s your step-by-step guide to finally getting what you want out of your relationship.

There isn't a one-size-fits-all answer to what women want in a relationship. But if you follow these 4 steps, you'll be well on your way to getting what you need.

1. Have an objective for your relationship

It’s pretty hard to get what you want out of a relationship when you don’t actually know what you want. Everyone wants to feel loved, safe, appreciated, and connected. But regardless of gender—men, women, and everyone—express love and appreciation differently.

“When seeking out what you want, it’s important to concretely know what makes you feel appreciated, what makes you feel loved, what makes you feel connected and understood,” explains relationship coach Jillian Turecki. “And it’s not just you—you need to know this about your partner, too. An extraordinary relationship is one where each person knows the other’s language and criteria around this and then they go out of their way to fulfill those needs.” (Not sure where to start? Take your personality type into account.)

Once you’ve worked these kinks out, take it a step further by agreeing on your common goals. You don't need to whip out the magazines and scissors to go full vision-board, but Suzann Pileggi Pawelski, positive psychology expert and author of the book Happy Together, does think you should put pen to paper with what you decide. “I think couples should have an overall [intention] for their relationship and then commit to focusing their attention on one small thing every day to help become better together,” says Pileggi Pawelski.

Whatever your objectives or intentions may be, once you write them down, put them somewhere where you can easily reference them on those days when getting what you want out of your relationship feels difficult.

2. Beware of common relationship mistakes

Here’s a fact that shouldn’t be all that surprising: When it comes to relationships, people make a lot of mistakes. That’s not always a bad thing—hey, mistakes are how we learn!—but making the same relationship mistakes over and over again can cause quite a bit of wear and tear. So it’s important to watch out for the most common ones, and course-correct so that you and your partner both feel loved and feel safe.

“One of the main reasons a couple loses satisfaction in their relationship is because one or both partners start taking the other for granted,” explains Turecki.

She adds that people end up going to work and being the best version of themselves around their boss and coworkers, then comes home and start unloading. “You’ve got to stop bringing your emotional leftovers home,” Turecki says. “If you’re on your A-game with co-workers and strangers, your partner deserves that as well—at least most of the time.”

Pileggi Pawelski notes that one huge mistake people make is looking to their partner to complete them rather than complement them. “It’s important to maintain a healthy passion rather than an obsessive one toward your partner and relationship,” she says. “When you look to your partner to complement you, you’re recognizing the importance of maintaining your own identify, which has been linked to healthier and more sustainable relationships.”

3. Slowly back away from the smartphone

At the end of a stressful day, taking time to connect with your partner can feel almost impossible. Guess what feels easier? Mindlessly scrolling through your Instagram feed. Easy it may be, but it’s not good for your mental health—or your relationship.

“It takes zero energy to put away your phone and be present with each other,” says Turecki. “Keep it mellow. Read together, watch a movie, or enjoy a quiet dinner together. Take a bath. Go to bed early together and sleep. But whatever you do, don’t zone out into social media.”

Pileggi Pawelski adds that even on the busiest of days, it’s always possible to find just 15 minutes to connect (tech-free!) with your partner. “Taking 15 minutes to ask about one good thing that happened to them that day or one thing that you are proud of or looking forward to,” she says “It’s something my husband and I do to help connect on especially busy days.”

4. When you’re feeling dissatisfied, act

Even when you take all the steps to get what you want out of your relationship, moments of dissatisfaction are natural. But whatever your grievance, big or small, don’t place blame. “Instead, focus more on the intimacy that you wish to have more of in the relationship,” suggests Turecki. “Approach it with your vision in mind of what you do want, and share your dreams with your partner. He or she may have no idea that this is how you feel. If the subject matter is serious, you may want to suggest outside help from a relationship coach or therapist.”

Another thing that works? Focusing on positivity rather than dwelling on what’s wrong. “Even in the direst of situations, we can usually find at least one thing that is going right,” says Pileggi Pawelski. “If we start with that one small thing we appreciate in our partner, that’s a good way to bring up any serious concerns.”

She adds that coming from a place of openness and curiosity is crucial. “Blame and defensiveness will get you nowhere,” she says. “Tough times can draw us apart or be an opportunity to bring us closer together depending on how we approach the situation.”

Got all that? Good. Now take all this sage advice and apply it to your relationship. You’ll be happier in no time.

This post was originally published on July 16, 2018; updated on February 20, 2020.

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