7 Subtle Signs You May Not Be Fulfilling Your Partner's Emotional Needs

by Eva Taylor Grant
Ashley Batz/Bustle

When you're in a relationship, it can become natural to fall into certain habits. Making assumptions, however, that these patterns are naturally the healthiest, can be dangerous. It's important to check in and make sure that you're fulfilling your partner's needs emotionally, so that your relationship can stay as strong as possible for the long-term.

"It's extremely important to be cognizant of your partner's emotional needs in a relationship, as that is the essence of a loving relationship," licensed clinical professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship Therapist, Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, tells Bustle. "If you are not providing for your [partner's] emotional needs, your [partner] is likely to be unhappy and unfulfilled." While you do not need to feel solely responsible for your partner's wellbeing, you should be able to discuss and provide a fair amount of emotional comfort.

Accommodating your partner's needs is an investment in the future happiness of your relationship. "If we do not work on this every day in a relationship, we are setting ourselves up for quite a bit of potential conflict," licensed psychologist Dr. Danielle Forshee, tells Bustle. So for all the effort it takes to care for your partner's needs, you may be rewarded with care in return, and less conflict. On the flip side, unmet emotional needs tend to crop up even in the subtlest ways.

Here are seven subtle signs you may not be fulfilling your partner's emotional needs, according to experts.


Your Partner Withdraws When You Give Them Advice

Ashley Batz/Bustle

Sometimes, when you complain about something, all you want is someone to listen. A typical way people's emotional needs may be neglected is if the person they go to with their problems is always trying to offer a solution, not just a listening ear.

"For example, if your partner comes home from work and tells you about how their interaction with their boss that day made them feel, and you immediately start trying to solve the relationship problem, your partner may shut down and withdraw because all they needed was to be heard and validated," licensed professional counselor Julie Williamson, tells Bustle. If you've noticed this stonewalling happen, it may be that you're too quick to offer a solution when all your partner wants is some support.


You Fight All The Time

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

While a partner whose emotional needs are unmet might ice you out, they may also elevate your typical arguments into full-blown fights, not knowing what else to do with their pent-up feelings.

"If you and your partner seem to have the same arguments repeatedly, it could be a sign that you're not fully understanding the underlying emotional need each of you is trying to meet," Williamson says. A partner who feels misunderstood may become frustrated enough to fight more than they would if they were feeling secure in their relationship.


Your Partner Has To Beg For Validation

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

You may not notice what your partner is alerting you of just beneath the surface if you've made the assumption that your relationship is fine. But a partner who is in the habit of asking you to compliment or validate them may be seeking comfort you aren't providing already.

"If your partner is constantly seeking emotional validation — by asking you to appreciate them, [or] acknowledge something they have done — then you may not be providing them the emotional support and validation that they need," David Bennett, certified counselor and relationship expert, tells Bustle. This kind of validation-seeking may be especially apparent if your partner's love language is words of affirmation.


They Don't Talk About Their Daily Life With You Anymore

Ashley Batz/Bustle

If your evenings used to involve time sharing stories about your day on the couch, and now they don't, your partner may be feeling shut off because they don't feel you're there for them emotionally.

"[Unmet emotional needs in a relationship] could look like your partner pulling away from you by no longer sharing details of their life and day with you," Dr. Forshee says. "Those who start to feel emotionally disconnected do not find purpose in sharing intimate details of their day and life because they do not feel the other is interested, [or] on the same page." Even something as small as complaining about work is emotionally important, and your partner no longer letting off steam that way could be a sign of a bigger issue.


They're More Physically Distant

Ashley Batz/Bustle

Physical intimacy isn't about just sex. And a partner who feels a lack of emotional intimacy might start drawing away from physical intimacy, too.

"[Physical distance] can include small things such as, non-sexual touch (handholding, cuddling, hugging)," Dr. Forshee says. "When emotional needs go unmet there is typically a physical withdraw whether it be overtly or small." Checking in whether this distance has been a small change or growing over an extended period of time can help you figure out if this is a serious issue to be aware of.


They're Making New Friendships That Might Cross Boundaries

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

If your partner feels like their emotional needs are no longer being met inside the relationship, they might begin to search for this comfort elsewhere. In this case, their previously healthy friendships might verge into the territory of micro-cheating, or they may start spending significantly more time with others than with you.

So if you have an inkling that your partner's emotional needs aren't being met, observe their friendships. "Your partner may [...] begin looking for other ways to fulfill [their] emotional needs in other people, making friendships with others that may cross boundaries in your relationship, causing you to question the motives and basis of the friendship," licensed professional counselor Opal Grayson tells Bustle. If you have any worries, bringing up these concerns with your partner is a good first step.


They Shut You Out From Conversation

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

If once-common deep conversations have happened less and less recently, you might be dealing with a partner who feels their emotional needs are going unfulfilled.

They may not want to get into tough conversations with you if they feel you can't provide for them. "If emotional needs aren't being met, your partner may become distant, not being open in [their] communication," Grayson says. "This may look like your partner 'shutting you out.'" If you can't get past the roadblock of not being able to have a conversation, trying couples therapy might be a healthy move.

Being there for each other emotionally is an absolutely crucial components of a healthy relationship. "In relationships being aware of your partner's emotional needs and acting accordance with them will decrease the amount of conflict and increase the amount of security in a relationship," Dr. Forshee says. In the long-run, it'll just take a little work.