Whether it's because you're in the wrong relationship or the right relationship that's been left unattended, sometimes people take love for granted. But there's no real romantic partnership without it — plus, not feeling loved in your relationship really hurts. If this is the case with you and your significant other, the first thing you’ll want to do is chat with your partner and acknowledge something’s wrong.
That said, it can be really tough to say, “I don’t feel loved” to your S.O., according to therapist Meagan Prost, LPCC-S, BC-TMH. Saying it out loud makes it real and can also lead to hurt feelings. So if you need it, here’s a script to get the convo started in the gentlest way possible: “I’m feeling a little disconnected and I’d like to change that. Would you be OK if we talked about it more?”
If your partner agrees to chat, follow up by stating what you need, such as “I remember when we used to talk before bed. Would you mind doing that with me tonight?” or, “We used to cuddle all the time and I miss it. Would you be down to do that more often?”
According to Prost, productive conversations actively omit criticism and instead focus on honesty, accountability, and actionable ways to improve your relationship. It may sound a bit like you’re hosting a business meeting, but using this type of language really is the best way to smooth over any awkwardness and ensure change occurs.
It’s also more than OK to be straightforward and ask for what you want, instead of hoping your partner will guess or somehow be able to read your mind, couples coach Robin Buckley, Ph.D. tells Bustle. “Neither is realistic or fair,” she says, so don’t be afraid to speak up. Here are a few possible reasons why you don’t feel loved right now, as well as what will lead to a positive change.
1. Figure Out Your Love Language
First things first: You’ll want to get clear on what makes you feel loved. There are, after all, quite a few different “love languages” or ways to give and receive love, as described by relationship expert Dr. John Gottman. These include receiving gifts, words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, and physical touch.
If your love language is “receiving gifts,” Prost says you’ll feel best when your partner shows their feelings via tangible items. Think picking up flowers, choosing a thoughtful birthday gift, or sending a cute surprise in the mail.
If your love language is “quality time,” you’ll feel most loved when your partner sets time aside in order to hang out. “They may offer to take a walk, enjoy a beverage on the couch while watching your new favorite show, or plan a date somewhere quiet so you can talk,” Prost says.
Like “acts of service”? This means you tend to go weak in the knees whenever your partner swoops in to help, like when they put gas in your car when you least expect it. “Words of affirmation” means your partner says things like “I love you” or “you mean the world to me” on a regular basis. And physical touch means, well, physical touch. As Prost says, “Hugs, kisses, holding hands, cuddling, and/or sex will be important for you.”
2. ...And Your Partner's
Since love languages go both ways, consider how your partner expresses their feelings. If they’re someone who struggles to say “I love you” and your love language happens to be “words of affirmation,” it may explain why you’ve been feeling disconnected.
If your love languages don’t match up, your partner could give you all the gifts or quality time in the world and it would still leave you wanting more. So before you assume your love has faded forever, have that aforementioned chat about what you both want and expect.
Let your partner know that you like to hear “I love you” (or whatever your love language may be) and ask what they need in return. Then make a point of doing these things for each other so that you both feel loved, appreciated, and reassured.
3. Check In With Each Other More Often
It’ll also help to make a point of checking in with each other on a more regular basis, Dr. Wyatt Fisher, a licensed psychologist, tells Bustle, not only to see how the love language thing is going but to feel more connected in general.
“Agree to discuss once a week how you're both doing,” Fisher says, and make adjustments as necessary. You could even scribble a “check-in” hour on the calendar if that would help hold you both accountable.
Checking in can be organic, too. If you make a point of having dinner together more often, for instance, these types of conversations will happen naturally. Use this couple-y time to talk about the good, the bad, and everything in between.
4. Create New Relationship Traditions
Getting past the honeymoon stage — aka the most exciting stage of a relationship — is another reason why you might feel less loved than usual. Relationship energy slows down as time goes on: You may not have sex as often or go on as many dates as things develop — and it can feel like a letdown. But the cool thing is this change also offers a chance to figure out what the next stage of your relationship might look like.
Enter: new traditions. You can always go back to going on more dates and having lots of sex. But you can also schedule movie nights, go on double dates with friends, take a class together — or whatever else sounds fun. The goal of these new traditions is to invest more time and energy into the relationship.
5. Think About What You Can Do
When you don’t feel loved, consider being more loving on your end, relationship coach Sarah Nazim tells Bustle. That’s not to say this feeling is your fault or that you’ve been letting your partner down. But Nazim says it is helpful to maintain a “what can I give” mentality in order to get the most of your relationship.
To give more, look for ways to be the exact type of partner you want to be with. Ask your partner about their day, say “I love you” more often, take them out, and really listen when they tell you something. Once you start investing this type of energy into the relationship, it could inspire your S.O. to do the same.
6. Make Sure You’re Happy & Fulfilled
If you’ve been feeling unloved, it very well may be a sign you need to invest in yourself, says Monica Parikh, a relationship expert and founder of School of Love NYC. "The simple truth is that it's each person's obligation to fill their own emotional tank,” she tells Bustle, “whether it’s through friendships, hobbies, fulfilling work, physical exercise, charitable acts, or creative artistry.”
Once you start doing things for yourself — like volunteering or seeing friends — Parikh says you may realize that it wasn’t your relationship that had you feeling unloved, but the lack of well-roundedness in the rest of your life. By investing in yourself, it’ll take some pressure off your partner and make it easier to feel happy and fulfilled.
7. Consider Your Past
Your previous relationships can give you clues to how you’re currently feeling. “Another reason why a person may not feel ‘loved enough’ can be due a history of past trauma, Grace Duarte-Baker, LCSW, CCTS-I, a licensed clinical social worker, tells Bustle. So if it feels like you should be feeling loved and secure but can’t quite get there, this may be why.
You may also be blocking the love your partner is giving without even realizing it, perhaps as a way to protect yourself from getting hurt again. It’s a tricky situation and one that may be best discussed with the help of a therapist.
By digging into what happened in your past and getting a better understanding of it, it may help bring about a positive change in your relationship, says Duarte-Baker.
8. Go To Couples Counseling
If you’ve done lots of personal work made changes with your partner, and still don’t feel loved, that’s when it may be necessary to bring in a couples counselor, Prost says. While it can be intimidating to talk about private issues with a stranger, it really can make all the difference to have that unbiased outside perspective. A good therapist will also give you “homework” that you and your partner can try out between sessions to see if it helps you feel more connected.
9. Be More Intentional With Each Other
If you’ve fallen into a rut as a couple — and are officially taking each other for granted — one way to start fresh is by being more intentional with each other, Ashley Gray, LCSW, an individual and couples therapist, tells Bustle.
This might mean simply making more eye contact, possibly while sipping coffee together in the morning, or finding ways to be more touchy-feely throughout the day by hugging, kissing, or holding hands. “Regular eye contact and touch can boost oxytocin, which is the love hormone that creates connection,” Gray says. “The longer the contact, the more likely the connection.”
Do these things with intention, instead of breezing past each other as you go about your day. It’s so easy to get swept up in a busy schedule, but paying attention in these small moments really can help you feel more loved.
10. Take A Break
If you’re experiencing a low period, consider taking a break from figuring out what’s wrong and just have fun. “This could look like a date night or be as simple as joking around, trying something new, or just being in the moment with each other,” Gray says. You could even think back to the early days of dating and try to bring that feeling back.
11. Admit When It's Just Not Working
If you’ve tried everything and still don’t feel loved, you may decide that it'll be healthier to call it quits. Give it your best shot by trying the tips listed above: Improve your communication, try to have fun, go to couples therapy, and see if you feel closer and more connected. If that doesn’t happen, take that as your cue to move on.
Meagan Prost, LPCC-S, BC-TMH, therapist
Dr. Wyatt Fisher, licensed psychologist
Sarah Nazim, relationship coach
Grace Duarte-Baker, LCSW, CCTS-I, licensed clinical social worker
Ashley Gray, LCSW, individual and couples therapist
Monica Parikh, relationship expert
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