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Feeling Unloved? What Your Feelings Might Mean and How to Cope

Stephanie has lived in Bend, Oregon, since 2006. She is raising four teenagers.

Are you feeling unloved?

Are you feeling unloved?

Why Do I Feel Unloved by My Family or Partner?

How many times have you reached out to a friend in a time of crisis, just to have her turn her back on you? Have you ever had a relationship dissipate, slowly, without ever knowing why? Do you ever lie awake in bed wondering if your parents love you?

These feelings and questions can be more than heartbreaking. In fact, they can be soul-damaging. A person who feels unloved may not just be sad or unhappy—such feelings can lead to despair or worse. Remember, however, that if love isn't available from the source from which you seek, it probably cannot be given. This isn't a deficiency of your character. Rather, the person, or persons, from whom you desire love and attention may simply be unable to express such emotions.

Love Is Risky

Putting your feelings out for examination by others is extremely distressing for some people. These individuals guard their feelings with a fortress of defenses to prevent injury to their fragile egos. This can include friends, lovers, and even family members. You may be surprised to learn that your brother or sister cannot be truthful or forthcoming regarding his or her love for you. Ingrained competitions (older vs. younger siblings) may still be at work. After all, you used to compete for your parents' limited love.

Even parents, ironically, can end up competing with their children. Some mothers may see that her husband favors a daughter. Or, the reverse may be true with a wife loving a son so deeply that this threatens the husband.

What to Do When Love Is Perceived Differently

Love means different things to different people. Take note that the giving and receiving of love is a dance.

  • Define Expectations: Some need more love, while others want to give less. And yet, these people are bound together. If you are in such a relationship, you may need to redefine your expectations of each other to avoid disappointment and despair. With adults, it can come down to showing love instead of just saying so.
  • Have Open Discussions: What about when words and actions don't match? Discussions between those in the relationship may be able to resolve differences. For a child, both showing and telling are critical. You can't just tell your child that you love them when you act as if you are angry or upset with them much of the time.
  • Give and Receive Reassurance: Additionally, even if you think that your extra efforts with regard to making cookies or attending field trips is evidence of your affection for your child, assuring them each night when you tuck them in that they are special and loved is an important way to end the day.

Sting's "Love Gone Wrong"

Various Ways to Show Love

  • Hugging and kissing
  • Holding hands
  • Keeping promises
  • Coming home early
  • Cooking dinner (and cleaning up afterwards)
  • Offering to taking on an unpleasant chore
  • Giving flowers
  • Listening attentively
  • Knowing his/her passions
  • Knowing his/her fears
  • Knowing his/her life desires
  • Writing love notes
  • Preserving a special memory (photos, scrapbook, compilation of songs)
  • Unselfishly devoting time and energy to him or her

What to Do When You're Sad and Lonely in a Relationship

What about the sadness and loneliness?

Have you been the child or the damaged one in a relationship? Are you needing comfort and assurance? You will have to learn to love yourself first before you can completely expect someone else to do the same.

This definitely seems unfair and a huge burden to bear. But the result of feeling unloved invariably leads to lower self-esteem. This, in turn, can result in clinginess, lack of confidence, and other personality traits which can send any potential lover running fast. Here are some ways to address this:

  • Express Yourself: Start with a journal in which you can express your feelings on a daily basis.
  • Seek Support: Consult with a counselor or religious leader.
  • Find Resources: Many jobs also offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) at little or no cost.

Over time, you will gain confidence that you are a lovable person, regardless of your past. This should help you greatly in future relationships.

If your sadness or despair continues for more than 30 days without change, you should consult a physician. Medication and/or therapy may be necessary to get you on the path to a better mood and better love.

"Clarity" - A Poem of Childhood Sadness

Ice. Cold, hard, smooth.

What had been liquid the night before

has been transformed, overnight.

The world sparkles as the sun plays

upon the crystals, their edges razor sharp.

Looking into a sheet of ice,

I see my reflection.

Blurred and distorted, the image I

perceive seems to be an illusion, a dream.

But I am not asleep.

The winter wind blows harshly across

my face, confirming my consciousness.

A single tear falls upon the ice

and glistens.

Soon, it too will become part

of this frozen world; trapped until

warmer days release it.

Realizing the bitter cold, I

turn and leave.

Searching for something I have not found,

the snow marks my path.

Footprints wander away...

Alanis Morissette's "Perfect"

© 2008 Stephanie Marshall