During my time as a love and relationship coach here at Happily Committed, I’ve had plenty of women reach out to me with a very similar story. See if this feels familiar: You’re in a relationship, and in the beginning, it was perfect. Your boyfriend showered you with love and affection, and it felt like you were standing underneath the warm sun. But unexpectedly things have gotten cold, and for some unknown reason, your boyfriend seems preoccupied by just about everything else. If you’re feeling neglected by your boyfriend, then you’re familiar with the awful doubt that makes you wonder whether you even interest him anymore. Your sense of self-esteem can take a serious hit, and if this has been going on for a long time, you may even be considering walking away in search of someone who really values you.
This is an enormously lonely and painful experience, especially because you feel like your relationship is losing its spark, but there’s nothing obvious that you can point to as a cause. He’s simply always interested in something else. The good news is that, most of the time, feelings of loneliness in a relationship can be addressed and you can recover! However, for that to happen we have to look at some of the reasons why you may be feeling neglected in the first place, so that you can target your efforts and solve the problem. I know that it certainly feels unfair that, when you’re the one feeling alone in the relationship, it’s up to you to put in the work towards changing the dynamic. It should really be your boyfriend’s responsibility. However, the truth is that listening to your feelings and standing up for your sense of self-worth is your job, and by doing so, you’ll actually help your boyfriend learn what you need to feel happy and loved. So, let’s dive in and see what you can do about this situation.
I’m Feeling Neglected By My Boyfriend: Help!
The first thing we should talk about one of the most common causes of emotional neglect: a simple change in tempo. Inevitably, every relationship faces the same challenge after the honeymoon phase: things seem to settle down as the novelty of the relationship wears off. For some people, the transition is easy and hardly noticeable. However, for plenty of people this transition happens out of sync, and that’s when problems start. When you and your boyfriend’s needs and expectations don’t keep pace, it can really lead to you feeling alone and unwanted.
For a lot of people, this is most sharply expressed in their sex lives: one partner still has the energy and frequency of desire typical of the period when you just get together, and the other increasingly would rather do something else. It can really hurt to have your boyfriend turn you down when you’re trying to initiate sex, and ultimately that feeling of rejection can metastasize into feeling unwanted in the relationship.
The key here is to recognize that, more often than not, this is a completely normal bump on the road of your relationship, and that plenty of other people experience feeling alone in a relationship. The sudden appearance of this dynamic in your relationship can be jarring, but what ultimately matters is how you choose to handle it. There are plenty of ways to solve this problem, and the way you address it will set the tone for your relationship going forward. Let’s talk about some of the healthiest ways to sort this out.
What to do When You’re Experiencing Emotional Neglect
So, it’s possible that you’re feeling unwanted in your relationship simply do to a natural change in tempo. That doesn’t change how awful the feeling is! I’m sure it also doesn’t change the concerns you may have in the back of your mind that he actually doesn’t love you anymore, or that he’s lost interest and is getting ready to move on.
Well, the good news is that the steps you can take towards building a healthy dynamic with your boyfriend are the same steps that can verify whether your concerns are realistic or not. By the end of this process, you should have a much clearer view of the real situation, and that way you can plan your next steps. So, how do you start to solve this problem? Your first step is to put your feelings on the table.
Saying it out loud: I feel alone in my relationship
So often, women I work with dismiss their own feelings of neglect and loneliness! It breaks my heart every time I hear someone chalk up their genuine feelings as simply “being emotional” or “overly needy.” If this is you, and you’re embarrassed because you feel neglected, please fight those thoughts. Your feelings aren’t ever something to be ashamed of. Keeping it to yourself is also unfair to your partner: If you’re feeling alone, your boyfriend deserves to know. Otherwise he never even has the chance to fix it.
Simply saying how you feel out loud is one of the biggest obstacles for most people. Paradoxically, it’s also one of the simplest solutions to this problem: I’ve worked with countless women whose boyfriends simply didn’t realize that there was an unmet need in the relationship. Often, it doesn’t take more than just a little effort on his part to solve the problem, but people can sometimes get so inside their own heads that they need a gentle reminder. Your honesty about what you’re feeling, as well as what he could do that would make you feel loved, is precisely that kind of reminder! Very often, that’s all it takes.
Knowing How to Recognize Emotional Abandonment
Once you’ve been honest about your feelings, most of the time you’ll find that your boyfriend will take meaningful steps towards addressing them. However, if you’ve opened up and you still don’t see any changes in the relationship, you may be dealing with emotional abandonment. This is more than a simple feeling of loneliness: it’s when your feelings and needs are on the table, and your boyfriend consistently chooses to prioritize something else over them. The key word here is “chooses”. For example, if you’ve told him you feel neglected, and yet you still aren’t spending that much quality time together because he’s under a lot of pressure from work or school, that’s one thing. It’s not a great feeling, but it’s not as serious of a problem as the alternative: you’re not still spending time together because he regularly chooses to play video games instead of hanging out with you, even after you’ve opened up about how you feel.
Remember, you can only recognize this after you’ve been honest about how you’re feeling. It’s all about whether you’re being taken seriously or not when you open up. Unfortunately, this means you’re going to have to be vulnerable first, with the risk that you’ll get stung by the answer. However, even if it hurts, finding signs of emotional abandonment now can save you from the pain of years spent feeling neglected and unappreciated. And if your words are heard and taken seriously, as is the case for most women after they’ve been open about their feelings, then both you and your boyfriend will have done a lot to build up trust in your relationship.
Ask Yourself: Am I Feeling Unloved, or am I Feeling Lonely?
As a final tip, it’s always worth double checking the actual root of the feeling: is it the way your boyfriend is acting that’s making you feel neglected, or are you feeling that way because of some other inner unmet need? It can be really hard to spot the difference, but it’s worth it to try! One way to check is by asking yourself the following: am I feeling unloved, or am I feeling lonely?
If your boyfriend regularly tries to make time to be with you, does things that empower you, and treats you with respect and care, it’s hard to feel unloved. However, it’s still very possible to feel lonely! That’s because loneliness is a feeling that can only be prevented by a combination of several things in your life. Your boyfriend’s love, while hugely important, isn’t the only piece of the puzzle. The reality is, there’s simply no amount of love he can give you that can solve a feeling of loneliness stemming from a hollow sense of self! This phenomena happens to a lot of people who experience codependency in their relationship. It’s such a common problem that we have our own course about it! Click here to see our tips on how to overcome codependency. Basically, the trick here is to actually work on building up your own individuality: making new friends, having new experiences, and trying new things. By putting effort into some of the neglected areas of your own life, you might find that you’ll stop feeling neglected yourself.
However, if you are genuinely feeling unloved, then we’re right back to our conversation about emotional abandonment. In this case, if your relationship isn’t responding to your attempts to talk things through, you may want to consider moving on.
Fighting the Feeling of Loneliness
Ultimately, remember that this feeling of being unwanted isn’t going to last forever, and that there are many things you can do about it! Learning how to overcome it, at best, is going to solidify the foundations of your relationship for years to come. At worst, the process of addressing it will uncover red flags that can save you from years of heartbreak and loneliness.
So, with that being said, let’s recap some of what you can do when you’re feeling alone in a relationship:
1. Say it out loud: I feel alone in my relationship! Ultimately, this is a problem you’re going to have to solve together no matter what. Putting your feelings out there is the first step towards any kind of solution, and remember: there’s nothing to be ashamed of when you feel neglected.
2. Know how to recognize emotional abandonment. If your partner has simply moved on emotionally, and your feelings are no longer valued, it’s time to go. You owe it to yourself to know the signs, and the very first one is seeing how he reacts to you being honest about how you feel.
3. Ask yourself if you’re truly feeling unloved, or simply lonely. It’s possible that there is an inner unmet need that your boyfriend simply can’t address, and the easiest way to find out if that’s the case is by asking yourself if you feel unloved. If you don’t, it’s possible that you don’t have to work on the relationship, but on building up your own identity and self-worth!
Having done these three things, you’ll be in a solid position to sort things out with your boyfriend by focusing on exactly what the problems really are. You’ve got this. Of course, every situation is unique, and you may have specific challenges that this article doesn’t cover. Feel free to reach out to me or any of the other coaches here at Happily Committed if you’re interested in working on a personalized plan towards getting your relationship back on track.
Your coach when you’re feeling neglected by your boyfriend,