Why You're Not Feeling Loved & What To Do About It
We all want to feel loved. So when you don't feel loved by your partner or simply find yourself needing more love in your life or in your relationship than you're getting, it can feel very lonely, empty, and maybe even hurtful. But the reason you're needing love right now is not what you think.
Why you don't feel loved.
The secret to feeling loved by your partner or by others in the world is surprisingly simple: Love yourself, first.
Don't roll your eyes. The truth is, when you don't feel enough love on the inside—when you don't feel good enough, lovable enough, smart enough, anything enough—your default is to move into trying to get someone else to make you feel this way. You figure, "If they love me, then I'll feel loved."
Unfortunately, it doesn't work this way. Trying to secure love on the outside causes us to chase after people and demand their love. But this just leaves us, well, chasing. It will never get you the love you want. (Take a moment to think about it: How many times has chasing after love worked for you? My point, exactly.)
That's because the secret to feeling loved by someone else is loving yourself. When you love yourself first, then everything else will fall into place.
The problem with needing love.
First of all, it's important to know that unconditional love means giving love freely, without expectations. If you feel like you're constantly needing love, attention, approval, and validation from your partner, that's emotional dependency—not love.
This isn't to say we have to put up with a partner who's cold and has no empathy, and we all deserve to be treated lovingly. The point is that how we feel about ourselves should not be based on the treatment of our partners.
What we experience from others is a reflection of what we experience inside ourselves. If you feel desperate for another person's love, it's a sign that you're desperately in need of loving yourself. There's a hole you're trying to fill, but the reality is it can only be filled by you. As you fill this need within—as you love yourself more and more—then you'll feel more love from others, too.
Self-love is everything from how you talk to yourself when you make a mistake, to giving yourself enough time to sleep, to eating foods that make you feel nourished rather than deprived. Self-love is the simple but profound act of treating yourself the way you'd treat someone else you care about deeply.
I've experienced this concept profoundly in my own life. In the past, at times when I did not feel good enough, I desperately wanted to feel loved by someone else, in particular by a romantic partner. As much as I tried not to, I would grasp and cling for a man's love, in hope that I could feel a sense of being loved. I thought his love was the answer, and if I could just get it, everything would fall into place. This couldn't have been further from the truth.
Finally, after a ton of soul-searching and internal work, I realized the real truth, and I started to focus on loving myself. What happened next?
As the love within me grew, so did the love I felt from others.
In fact, it was directly correlated.
All this time I had been trying to get love on the outside, and it never worked. But once I started to cherish myself, the experience of being cherished by others came so naturally. I no longer had to chase after others for love; I just had to do the necessary work to feel love within myself, and the rest took care of itself.
As I began to feel full, beautiful, and magnificent internally, I experienced others feeling these things for me in a greater way than ever before. As I accepted my feelings and was kind to myself when I struggled, I encountered others who did the same for me.
How to feel loved.
Our internal experience is mirrored back to us in our relationships; therefore, the best thing you can always do is find love within. When in doubt, love yourself.
Now, loving yourself is a process. It's not like you do it once, check it off the list, and you're good to go. It's a lifestyle.
If you want to change your body, you have to change your diet and exercise routine. Same thing if you want to change your heart: You commit to a plan, and you go for it. That can include many things:
- Being in contact with people who lift you up
- Changing your inner dialogue to nicer, kinder words
- Working with a therapist or coach who can help you understand your insecurities
- Reading books about self-love and empowerment
(Here are a few more tangible ways to practice self-love.)
I know you want to feel completely cherished and loved in relationships. But the truth is, you cannot control how other people will feel about you. When you depend on others for feeling loved, you're going to spend a lot of time chasing—and all the while feeling even worse about yourself. But when you're your own source of feeling loved, you no longer need love from others. And the wonderful bonus? People are much more drawn to people who are happy, confident, and sitting in their worth.
When it comes to feeling more loved, the change starts within you. Treat yourself the way you want to be treated by others, and the rest will fall right into place.
Shelly Bullard, MFT, is a marriage and family therapist with a holistic and spiritual approach to relationships. She has worked with thousands of clients on improving their relationships with others and themselves, and she's also the instructor of the popular mindbodygreen courses How To Become The Most Attractive Version Of Yourself and How To Attract A Partner.