When you’ve committed yourself to a relationship with someone, it’s supposed to be a given that you care about each other. You probably even verbalize your feelings on a regular basis. Still, we rarely get the validation we need all the time, and it’s not unusual to find yourself feeling less than special – even in the eyes of your special someone. So how do you seek out that appreciation without feeling needy, resentful or neglected? Here are a few steps you should take to find – and feel – the love you need.
You guessed it. Sometimes getting the kind of love and attention we need requires giving a little more. Try to anticipate what will make your partner feel loved and needed, or make the kind of efforts you’ve been missing yourself. There are no restrictions on thoughtful gestures: notes, surprises, massages, compliments – even patience and forgiveness – can all help you express your affection. They can also help keep you from withdrawing from your partner, which rarely protects you from being hurt but will almost certainly send mixed signals. Reaching out is usually a better defense. Most of the time, your gestures will remind your partner of those feelings that have a way of getting marginalized in the course of daily pressures, and he or she will naturally be moved to respond. There is one caveat: your thoughtfulness should never leave you feeling used or overextended. Keep your gestures simple and heartfelt, and try not to anticipate a specific kind of response. Like you, your partner will express love in his or her own way. Sometimes everyone just needs a little nudge.
For one reason or another, it isn’t always possible to get what we need from the source. If your partner is preoccupied with a stressful schedule, a family crisis, depression or other consuming circumstance, he or she may not be able to support you as attentively as usual. And if your needs stem from insecurities of your own, it would be wise to strengthen your self-appreciation before you look for validation from others. Do something for yourself to remind you of how deserving, talented and important you are. It may be that all you need is a day for yourself – time with friends, a massage or an escape to the movies. Or you could take up a class or activity, like sculpting, volleyball or a second language. Hobbies have a way of keeping your mind occupied and making you feel good about yourself. They also take up a little more of your time, which will make the time you do have to spend with your partner a little more precious. Working out is another effective way to feel strong, attractive and accomplished, and don’t underestimate the value of talking to a professional. When you bounce those thoughts off a third party you can achieve a little clarity on your own and take some of the pressure off your relationship.
Know what you need
Before you go out searching for it, make sure you understand what it is you need. Have you been feeling neglected because your partner doesn’t have a lot of time for you lately, or do you sincerely doubt his or her feelings? Do you feel like you give more than 50% in your relationship? Is it a thank you you’re craving, recognition for the sacrifices you’ve made; or would you feel loved if your partner touched you more often? There are many ways to show appreciation and to feel appreciated. Some of us need to be reminded that we’re attractive, intelligent or strong. Some prefer to be loved in conversation, some in sex and others in time alone together. Sometimes, you’ll discover there’s a particular event, be it a misunderstanding, a betrayal or a suspicion, that triggered your insecurity and has somehow kept you from trusting your partner’s feelings for you. Whatever is missing, it will help you to identify and understand your feelings, because the better you understand what it is you need, the easier it will be to look for and achieve.
Ask for what you need
When you do understand what you need from your partner, sometimes the best way to find it is to come out and ask for it. Your partner doesn’t want you to feel unloved, and probably won’t even know something is amiss until you come forward. Talking about it certainly beats moping, withdrawing or lashing out, all of which can escalate the problem and lead your partner to feel unappreciated, too. It’s important that you communicate as clearly as possible, and without accusation. It’s alright if you don’t understand exactly why you feel under-appreciated – your feelings are relevant to both parties whether or not either of you understands them. Just do your best to identify what you feel and when you feel that way. Remember, it’s not enough to understand that someone loves you, you need to feel it, too.
Evaluate the situation
Most of the time we feel under-appreciated, it’s just because we’re still learning how best to love and be loved by our partner. However if you’ve taken steps to deal with your feelings – you’ve identified what you feel, taken some time to love yourself, made sure you’re showing your partner enough love, and you’ve been clear about what you need – and you’re still feeling neglected, it may be time to take a hard look at your relationship. There are thousands of opportunities in relationships for misunderstanding and dissatisfaction, but if you’ve told someone who loves you that you don’t feel loved, he or she should be doing something about it. It may not be the right thing, and you may still have a lot to learn about loving each other, but there’s no room for error when it comes to making an effort. If the problem is not that you aren’t communicating with one another – if it’s that your partner isn’t trying – then all the communication in the world won’t make that right. Not feeling appreciated and not being appreciated are two very different scenarios. The bottom line is, you deserve to find both. If you can’t get them in your current relationship, it’s time to communicate that you’re ready to start looking somewhere else.
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