“Good communication is the bridge between confusion and clarity.”
~ Nat Turner
If you’re in a relationship and feel disappointed about how your significant other displays his love, here are three important questions to ask yourself:
1. Does he know how you want to be loved?
There are two prevalent misconceptions that routinely lead to disillusionment about the way our partners express their love.
The first fallacy is “he ought to know what I want.”
Unless you come with a manual or have told your partner directly (on multiple occasions, ideally), he probably doesn’t know what makes you feel loved. We mistakenly assume that through osmosis and observation, our partners acquire knowledge of our needs.
Instead, they typically assume we like to be loved in the same ways they do, and unfortunately, their attempts to show love don’t always register.
The second erroneous belief is “it’s pretty obvious what I need.”
Just because you rave about what an amazing listener your mother is and make a point to show great interest in all that your husband has to say, does not mean he will infer that good listening is what matters most to you.
Likewise, your cooking to make others happy is not a clear way of communicating that you feel loved when your boyfriend cooks for you.
The third problematic belief is “if I have to tell him how to love me, the gesture doesn’t count.”
If someone gives you what you want, it’s because they care about making you happy.
Your preferred way of feeling loved is unique to you and must be conveyed directly. Until you have been clear and specific about what you want, you haven’t given your partner a fair chance of being who you need him to be.
2. Is he choosing not to meet your needs, or is he incapable of it?
This is an important distinction. Someone who is aware of what makes you feel loved, but doesn’t give it to you, is deliberately withholding.
Reasons for this include ambivalence about the relationship or not caring enough. Whatever the explanation, it’s probably not a good one.
On the other hand, your partner might be incapable of displaying love in certain ways.
For example, if open expressions of love were mocked or rebuffed in his family, it might cause him tremendous discomfort to candidly share his feelings for you. If this is the case, determine whether you can accept his limitation and take in his love in other ways.
3. If this is the relationship, is it enough?
So, you’re feeling disenchanted, but there must be reasons you’re still here. Clarify what is working in your partnership and consider whether it outweighs the disappointment.
- Is the love you derive from the positives sufficient?
- On a typical day, does your relationship elevate your self-worth and happiness or cause self-doubt and melancholy?
Every relationship has its weaknesses.
If your partner doesn’t display love in the ways you want, consider whether the love you do receive is enough.
On the whole, your relationship should give you a self-esteem boost, inspire you to grow, and provide a sense of safety and belonging.
If it falls short, perhaps it’s time to explore your alternatives.
Maggie Vaughan, MFT, PhD – www.everyoneneedstherapy.com
If you’re feeling like he doesn’t love you the way you want to be loved, see the 3 tips below to help facilitate the conversation in your relationship.
1. Getting real about love!
Almost every time we turn on our TV, scroll through social media and see #lovegoals, or listen to our favorite songs, we are constantly being shown what love is supposed to look like.
The fantasy of love can be very different from the reality of love.
What our culture demonstrates as love may not be the love which really makes us feel cared for. Therefore, it is important for us to take the time to realize for ourselves what exactly love is, what it feels like, and what it looks like. Once we know what our true love language is, then we can communicate it to our partner.
2. Communicating about love!
Your partner may not have watched the same movies, seen the #lovegoals post you saw, or listened to the same songs, so their idea of expressing love may be very different than yours. Sometimes we think that true love exists when our partner knows exactly what flowers to bring or exactly what to say to let us know they love us.
Fantasy leads us to believe that when our partner doesn’t automatically know every way to show us love, then that is a sign that they aren’t the person for us, which may not be the case.
Our partners can also demonstrate love by taking action and making adjustments after we effectively communicate our needs. Even though talking about our needs and expectations when it comes to showing love is not spontaneous, it helps to remove the guessing game from the relationship.
3. Following up on love!
This should not be a one and done conversation as our needs of affection and love may change overtime. For example, your love may look like flowers, gifts, and hot dates when you were first dating.
Once you are living together or have kids, love may be demonstrated by cooking dinner, washing dishes, or a foot rub after a long day.
Our needs can change over the course of our relationship, making it important to have follow-up conversations to let our partner know our new needs so they can demonstrate love in the language we understand.
Tenille Richardson-Quamina, Ph.D., LCSW – www.newcreationscounseling.net
In my work with couples, probably the most common issue I see is when a woman feels that her boyfriend or husband doesn’t know how to love her.
For the sake of cutting to the chase, I’ll tell you that it almost always turns out that he really doesn’t know how to love her.
Now, I don’t mean he doesn’t want to love her the way she needs to be loved nor do I mean he hasn’t tried to express his love, I simply mean that men and women are fundamentally different when it comes to expressing their affection for one another.
Women for example often want to share not only their feelings but also their lives with their partner and they want their partner to do the same back with them.
When a woman asks her guy how his day was, she usually really wants to know.
Women are generally interested in what was good and what was bad in her guys day.
Unfortunately, guys tend to respond, “it was good” or “it sucked.”
They often don’t want to share a lot more, this has nothing to do with their partner, they just want to move on.
When a guy asks his girl how her day was he is very often hoping to hear, “it was good” (end of story).
If he hears “it was awful” he will ask why and listen but usually there is a bit of anxiety on his part because he probably believes that after she tells him about her day he is going to have to come up with an answer to make her feel better and that’s where the trouble starts.
You see, guys think in linear terms while women think multi-dimensional.
If his partner has a bad day the first thing he thinks is “how can I make it better for her.”
This is a noble gesture and his heart is in the right place but you are not a child who dropped her ice cream and needs someone to buy her a new one.
You are a grown woman who will figure out how to improve your situation but it definitely helps to get a little validation from your partner that it was in fact a “crappy day.”
When his attempts to fix things end up just frustrating you more it reinforces to you that he doesn’t understand your needs.
As for him, he ends up feeling under appreciated for trying his best to make things better. Well, don’t lose hope.
He may be a caveman in someways but he really does love you and he wants you to be happy so here’s something to try.
Ask your guy if he’s willing to try a fun way to get to know each other better (that ought to peak his interest).
Ask him to sit down on the sofa (or bed if you don’t have a sofa) and both of you remove your shoes. Then start to massage each other’s feet at the same time.
The reason for this is that we are much more open and less likely to react in a hostile manner if we are touching our loved one in an affectionate manner.
Once you are massaging each other’s feet, ask your guy what he wants from a lover (don’t be surprised if he goes right to his sexual desires).
Listen to him and validate what he says.
You are not committing to his wishes, just acknowledging them. When he is done (while still rubbing each other’s feet), tell him what you are looking for in a lover.
Remind him you don’t need him to agree with what you are saying, you just want him to listen to you.
Share your desires, both sexually and emotionally. All guys know that women are looking for an emotional connection but that doesn’t mean they know how to give it to them.
Let the conversation unfold while your rubbing each other’s feet and see where things go from there.
You may find out you want to make foot rubbing a regular part of your relationship.
Larry Blackwell, LCSW, AADC – www.westhartfordholisticcounseling.com
It can be really hard to be in a relationship where you do not feel loved or valued in the way that you would like or even need to feel secure.
I imagine that most women have definitely been there and while it is a tough spot to be in, I think there are things you can do to help yourself and your partner out.
First, check in with yourself to see if you have really communicated with your partner as to what your needs are.
Often, we are given messages by mainstream media about how we are supposed to love and that our partners are essentially supposed to magically read our minds and just be exactly who and what we need or want them to be at all times.
This is entirely inaccurate and unhelpful as the only way our partners will be able to love us the way we want, is if we first communicate what we need to them.
If you have communicated with your partner, the next thing to think about is… Is what I am asking for realistic?
If you want a partner who can be always emotionally available and eager to connect, you might want to ask yourself if this is who you picked as your partner. Often, I find that in dating we idealize our mates to believe that they are far more suited to us than they might actually be.
If you have already shared what you want from your partner and they are not providing it, you should definitely be asking yourself if you are asking for something that is realistic in general but also for them.
So, if you find that your needs are not realistic for your partner to be able to meet… the next thing to consider is what you want to do next.
Would you be able to accept the love that your partner is able to provide in the way they provide it as enough for you? Or you could consider moving on from the relationship.
While this is not an easy situation to be in, asking yourself some of these tough questions can help you figure out a path forward. I am of the belief that we can not truly change anyone unless they are committed to changing, especially our partners!
Erica Wollerman, PsyD – www.thrivetherapystudio.com
If your man doesn’t love you in the way that you want or need, it’s important to take the following steps to determine how best to proceed.
First off, it’s important to identify what is your love language.
Oftentimes, it is important to identify how we like to receive love. There is this amazing book and quiz called the 5 Love Languages.
The different categories include words of affirmation, gift giving, quality time, physical touch, and acts of service. Identifying what our top love languages are will help us inform our partners what we need more of.
It’s not realistic to expect our partners to always know how we want to receive love.
It’s important that we communicate this to our partners in a loving manner. This activity could also be fun for both partners. Both partners can take this quiz and learn about both of their love languages and share it with one another.
When sharing how you would like to receive love, notice your partner’s response.
If your partner appears open and willing to try to meet that need, that is a wonderful sign. You can also offer your partner examples as to how they can show you love.
For example, if your love language is acts of service, an example can be sharing with your partner that you would enjoy if they made you breakfast on the weekends. For physical touch, you might share that you would appreciate hand holding. Notice their level of receptivity.
If you find that you share your desire, and your partner does not appear open to it, and meets you with difficulty and resistance.
This is not a good sign and will need to be addressed further either personally or professionally with a therapist.
Janet Bayramyan, LCSW – www.road2wellness.co
“Why doesn’t he love me the way I want to be loved?”
When I hear this from a therapy client, my first line of questioning is always centered around the individual’s specific love language.
Nicole, a thirty-year-old professional, voiced this complaint about her long-term boyfriend.
I asked her, “When you feel loved by him, what’s going on?”
“Huh?” she asked.
“What does he do that tells you he loves you?”
“Hmmm,” she paused, thinking. “I guess when he puts his arm around me or holds my hand when we’re walking down the street. But he doesn’t do it very often—that’s the problem.”
“And do you show him you love him by being affectionate?” I asked.
“Oh yes,” she said. “I’m very affectionate toward him.”
I explained to Nicole that each of us has a favorite love language we ‘speak’ when we want to show love to our partners.
Affection, or physical touch, is only one of the love languages.
Some of the others are words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time (spent together) and receiving gifts. “And,” I added, “not everyone’s love language is the same.”
I continued, “Your primary love language is, most likely, physical touch but maybe his is something else. What do you think it might be?”
She thought for a moment and said, “He loves to do things with me—go on hikes, cook dinner together, simple things like that. And he tells me he’s always the happiest when we spend time together.”
She added, “He seems to get sad when my life gets busy and I can’t spend much time with him.”
“So, his primary love language might be quality time,” I said. “And he’s expressing his love by wanting to spend a lot of time with you.”
I waited for a moment to let it sink in. “It’s not that he doesn’t love you, Nicole, it’s just he’s not speaking your primary love language.”
Armed with this insight, Nicole left our session with a new perspective.
She resolved to pay more attention to the way her partner does show his love and focus less on her disappointment.
If you feel your partner doesn’t love you in the way you want to be loved, it’s possible you are speaking two different love languages and something is getting lost in the translation.
A helpful resource is Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages – The Secret to Love That Lasts.
Susan Tschudi, MA, LMFT – www.therapybysusan.com
If you are feeling as though your partner is not loving you the way you want to be loved, there are three steps I suggest you should take.
- First, you need to get a clear picture of what you feel is lacking in the relationship.
- Second, you need to get clear on what you are hoping you can get more of.
- Lastly, express both of those notions to your partner with kindness.
You may need to think a little bit about what it exactly is you are wanting more or less of in the relationship because your partner cannot read your mind.
We cannot assume that your partner knows how you want to be loved because this looks different for everyone.
Also, the way you want to receive and express love can be very different from the way your significant other wants to receive and express love.
It should also be a continual and evolving conversation with each other because we may want to be loved in different ways at different times in our lives.
The key element in trying to resolve this conflict is in the way you communicate about it.
If you come off as critical or judgmental, your partner is going to become automatically defensive and not be able to listen to what you are saying.
You will both become so distracted by anger and escalating emotions that the whole point of the conversation will be dismissed.
You always want to approach a possibly conflictual conversation by using “I feel” statements instead of “you are doing this wrong” statements.
For example, you may get some success if you approached your partner and said “I feel sad when you don’t greet me when I come home. I would love for you to put down your phone and tell me about your day so we can connect a little bit.”
Approach the topic with gentle kindness, hear them out and be specific about what you are hoping will change.
If time passes and you don’t see the changes you were hoping for, don’t hesitate to bring it up again, but bring it up without criticism, judgement or contempt.
It may also be possible that your partner may not be able or willing to give you what you are asking for.
That is when you decide how important the topic is to you and you consider the “deal breakers” in the relationship.
Ask yourself if you are able to continue being happy and content in the relationship overall even if your partner cannot give you exactly what you are hoping for.
Justine Carino, LMHC – www.carinocounseling.com
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