Everyone wants to feel cherished and valued by the people they spend time with. It’s human nature to crave connection and reciprocal love. But if you don’t feel nurtured enough in your relationship, it can make you question whether something is fundamentally wrong between you and your partner. Why aren’t they paying attention to you? Are they upset? Can you really trust your bond if you don’t feel like they’re giving you their best?
Emotional security is a key feature of a healthy and thriving relationship. And though everyone has different ideas about what love looks like, one thing is for certain — your relationship should make you feel comfortable and confident to let your guard down. If it doesn’t, and you feel like your partner isn’t supporting you like they should, it might be time to have a conversation with them about it. I spoke to gender and sexuality sociologist Dr. Elizabeth Anne Wood to learn what to do if you don’t feel nurtured by your partner.
First of all, it’s helpful to examine your own relationship expectations and determine what it is you really want from someone. “It’s important for partners to feel connected and to love and care for each other, but it’s not realistic to expect one other person to meet all of our needs,” Wood explains. “We also need to be able to lean on friends, family, and even professionals sometimes.” If you’re expecting your partner to be your go-to person every second of every day, you might be putting too much pressure on them.
For example, say you feel like your partner isn’t texting you back as quickly or as frequently as you’d like. Have you checked in with them (and with yourself) to determine whether it’s possible for them to keep up this constant communication? Wood explains that it’s not automatically a problem that they don’t text you back immediately. “If you are texting your partner at times it would be unrealistic to expect a response, then this is not a red flag,” she says. “Is your partner in meetings at work? Driving? Spending time with a friend or family member? Would you generally expect a person in those situations to be paying attention to the person or task in front of them? If so, then your expectation of a text back immediately might be the red flag.” Once you two talk about your realistic ability to keep in contact throughout the day, you can feel more secure without worrying that they’re forgetting about you.
This isn’t to say that it’s OK for your partner to ignore you completely. “On the other hand, if you’re not getting responses back to important questions, or you’re not getting any reciprocated text affection, then that might be a red flag that you need to discuss,” Wood tells Elite Daily. “A person who is ignoring you or placing a low priority on your love and attention is not someone who deserves that love and attention.” You can’t always talk every second of the day, but when you do interact, it should feel meaningful.
No one is a mind reader, so if you want something specific to change between you and your partner, your best bet is to address it. “Any time you feel like your needs aren’t being met, then you need to talk about it,” Wood says. “These aren’t easy conversations, and it’s important to frame them in terms of your own needs and desires, and not in terms of the other person’s failures.” Rather than saying to your partner, “You aren’t supporting me,” or, “You never respond to my texts,” say something like, “I feel like we’re disconnected, and I wish we talked more.” This opens the door for conversation without immediately putting the other person on the defensive.
Once you’ve talked through your needs, hopefully you can both alter your habits to make each other feel better cared for. But if things don’t change, it might be time for a more serious reflection on whether the relationship can last. “If your partner has listened and expressed an interest in doing better, but doesn’t seem to be able to, then you might first want to explore couples therapy or relationship coaching before deciding that you’re incompatible,” Wood suggests. “Ultimately, though, if your partner is unwilling or unable to connect in the way that you need ... this is a sign that the two of you aren’t compatible.”
Intentions matter, but at the end of the day, behavioral change might be the only way to save a struggling relationship. If you feel neglected by your partner, the best thing you can do is talk openly about both of your needs. When your partner understands the concrete steps they can take to make you feel valued, they’ll hopefully be able to put those changes into practice. And if not, rest assured that you deserve a love where your needs are being met.