5 min read

·

Caitlin Harper

Why Don’t I Feel Loved By My Partner?

If you’ve ever been in a romantic relationship, there may have been a time when you haven’t felt loved by your partner. Ups and downs are normal in any relationship, but if you consistently feel like you don’t matter, these two questions could help you figure out why.
Why Don’t I Feel Loved By My Partner?

This guidance is not for relationships in which there is physical or emotional abuse. Everyone deserves a healthy relationship. If you are experiencing physical, mental, or emotional abuse, you can call 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) or TTY 1.800.787.3224, text "START" to 88788, or chat live twenty-four hours a day.


If you’ve ever been in a romantic relationship, there may have been a time when you haven’t felt loved by your partner. Maybe your partner didn’t show affection as much as they used to or you realized that you both spent all of your meals on your phones instead of engaging with one another.

Maybe you felt taken for granted, not supported, or like they weren’t interested in what you do, say, or need. It’s totally normal to have ups and downs in relationships, but occasionally, in relationships that are basically healthy and nurturing, there can be some aspect that might make you feel like you don’t matter enough to the person.

Sherry Amatenstein, a New York City therapist and MyWellbeing community member, says that not feeling loved by a partner is one of the top topics her clients bring up. To figure out why, she prompts them to ask themselves these two questions:

Do you depend on a partner’s love to feel lovable?

Very often, we gauge our own self-worth by how loved we are—or feel we are—by someone else. In order to understand why, or to spot some themes in our lives, a little bit of self-reflection is in order.

One homework assignment Sherry gives clients is to write a romantic resume. First, write down the names of each of the partners who have had the biggest impact in your life, including your current partner if you have one. Then write down:

  • The person’s good qualities during your relationship
  • Their negative qualities during your relationship
  • Your good qualities during the relationship
  • Your negative qualities during the relationship

Writing down your partners as well as their negative and positive qualities and yours can help you examine your relationship patterns. For example, if your parents frequently complimented you or criticized you, this could have left you feeling hollow inside and constantly seeking some grand gesture from your romantic partners. Grand gestures can provide a brief adrenaline rush, but then you’re left feeling needy again, because at the end of the day, filling the void is an inside job—yours.

So if you see a pattern that your partners have either performed grand gestures of love or not, you’ll be able to see if that has been something that you have sought over time and start to think about how that affects your relationships.

This first question is about examining the most important relationship you will ever have—the one you have with yourself. Until and unless you feel like a lovable person simply because of who you are and not whether or not someone does something that gives you the rush of adrenaline you crave, it’s impossible to feel good about yourself.

When you feel unworthy of love, you can actually shut down and stop sharing things that really matter

Then, you consistently feel disappointed that your partner doesn’t understand you. The pain of that disappointment might be something you keep seeking simply because it’s familiar—if you grew up with it and you continue to feel disappointed in your romantic relationships, you might gravitate toward people who continue to cause you disappointment to maintain that sense of familiarity.

But this will only cause you to stay shut down and try to protect your heart from the pain anyway. In order to feel loved, you have to break down your walls and let people in. Which leads to Sherry’s next question:

When was the last time you asked your partner for what you really need?

The chances that your partner will be able to read your mind and do exactly what would make you feel more loved and valued is slim—if they could, they would probably already be doing it!

In order for your partner to truly understand you, you have to offer them a window into what’s really going on underneath your facade.

As a couple, Sherry recommends doing an exercise called Show and Show—you show your partner your vulnerabilities and they will show you theirs

While it’s not a substitute for therapy, it’s an exercise that couples who have a solid foundation of kindness and respect toward one another can use. Here’s how it works:

  • Set a timer for ten minutes
  • While one person talks, the other just listens without interrupting, giving advice, or making any comments
  • The person who is talking should try to open up about something that they have never admitted
  • After ten minutes, the listener can chime in with a phrase that validates the speaker’s experience, like “that sounds scary” or “it makes sense that you decided to do that.” They can also offer words of support or encouragement, like “I’m sorry you never told me, but that you decided to do so now just makes me love you more.”
  • Switch to the other person

Unless you take emotional risks with your partner and open up so they truly understand how you feel, it might be hard to feel secure and loved. It’s only when we keep secrets that might cause us shame, regret, or pain that they gain power over us. Once we share and see that our partner’s love for us hasn’t changed or diminished, we can feel truly loved.

If Show and Show is too intense as a first step, some simple feedback could help

Say you mention that you’re nervous about an upcoming meeting with your boss. Your partner might try to reassure you that you’ll do a great job. You might smile and say thanks, but then the conversation moves to a different topic when in reality, you wanted to take the next step to admit how scared you really feel and how much more reassurance you really need.

You could say, “Hey, I know we just started talking about X, but I wanted to open up a little and say that I’m actually pretty nervous about this upcoming meeting and it’s been weighing on my mind. I appreciated that you said that I’d do a great job, but I just can’t seem to keep my confidence up.” You could:

  • Mention a time when they supported you really well: “When I was getting that promotion, you said/did X and it made me feel great. I’d love it if you could do that again.”
  • Let them know if there’s anything they can do: “Tomorrow morning, I know I’d feel awesome if I got a text from you before the meeting letting me know how much you support me.”
  • Tell them exactly what you need: “Maybe we could talk about it for a bit longer? It always helps me feel more grounded when you listen.”

Chances are, your partner will appreciate the guidance to help them know exactly how they can support you. If you and your partner aren’t used to giving and receiving feedback, it might feel awkward on your end and they might be surprised at first, but it’s never a bad time to start and keep strengthening that muscle.

If you’re struggling to communicate your needs to your partner, a therapist or relationship coach could help

If you’re feeling unloved, a therapist or relationship coach could support you to build a more solid relationship with yourself, as well as work on ways to communicate your needs and feelings to your partner. Everyone deserves to feel loved in their relationships, but the most important—and long-lasting—relationship in your life is the one you have with yourself. While it might take some time to get there, the best way to feel loved by others is to love yourself first.

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About the author

Caitlin is MyWellbeing's Content Lead, a writer, speaker, communication coach, and the founder of Commcoterie, a communication consultancy. She teaches teams how to use professional coaching communication techniques in their everyday conversations, helps leaders engage their teams with effective and inclusive communication, and partners with service providers to activate their programs and offerings with their own clients through inspiring communication strategies. Find out more, including how to work with her, at www.commcoterie.com.

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