All good boyfriends have one thing in common: they’re there for you when you need them. When you have a teammate in life — someone who stands beside you to help get you through the ups and downs — you can take on the world, but when you’re with a partner who’s habitually withdrawn, you can feel like you’re carrying the weight of life (and the relationship) alone. Here are some signs your relationship lacks emotional support and what to do about it.
He minimizes your feelings. When something awful happens, he pipes in with a ‘buck up’ type of response from behind his cellphone. When he does this, he might as well be saying he doesn’t care about your problems, because if he did, he wouldn’t have you questioning the validity of what you’re feeling by acting as though you’re making mountains over molehills.
He withholds physical intimacy. A partner that lacks the capacity to support you emotionally will show it with his actions, or lack thereof. If his hugs, if there are any at all, mimic more of a pat on the back than a loving embrace and your physical intimacy is downright nonexistent, you can bet he’s not going out of his way to make you feel better when you’re down.
He doesn’t challenge you. If he’s the type to avoid disagreements like the plague, he’s not going to be able to help you become the best version of yourself emotionally. Support doesn’t always come in a pretty package, and if he couldn’t care less to argue with you, he doesn’t care enough.
He shows no interest in your goals. When you tell him that you finally got around to finishing that DIY project and his response is lackluster, he really couldn’t care less. It may not be a lifetime achievement, but it’s something you worked hard on and are proud of and he should be proud of you, too.
He doesn’t care about living life to the fullest. When you feel unmotivated and lazy, he doesn’t do a thing to pick you up and get you going. It’s not his job to keep you driven, but if he’s all too happy with sitting around and wasting your lives watching Netflix, he’s not going to be a good partner when it comes to living the happiest life you can.
Every time you have a valid complaint, he just says it could be worse. There’s a difference between being a complainer and complaining about something that’s really crappy. If every time you voice an opinion on something that isn’t working for you he acts as though you’re being dramatic, he’s just not there for you like he should be.
When you cry, he’s nowhere to be found. Sometimes in life, a woman needs to have a good cry session. It happens to the best of us and can even be rehabilitative. If he bolts every time you shed a tear, he’s just not the type of guy you can rely on for emotional support.
Good things don’t phase him, either. You land a promotion at work or finally save up enough money to buy the car you’ve been looking at for months and he’s about as excited as a potato. When he doesn’t share your excitement for things, it can really show his true colors, and they’re painted “IDGAF.”
He’s always comparing. When you’re venting to him about a bad day, he appears to be listening, but when it comes time to respond, he just points out how much worse his was. This may seem like a give-and-take conversation, but if he brings up his own crap every time you try to talk about yourself, he’s not capable of offering you emotional support.
He doesn’t practice active listening. Everybody can get distracted from time to time, but when he’s constantly forgetting things you’ve told him, he isn’t really listening to anything you have to say. And when he doesn’t listen, he doesn’t give a damn.
How to get more emotional support in your relationship
If you relate to the signs above, that doesn’t necessarily spell disaster for your relationship. Instead, try these things to improve the dynamic and to make sure both you and your partner feel more nurtured and supported.
Take time to identify your needs. There’s no way you can get emotional support from your relationship if you don’t know what it is that you need. It’s important that before you do anything, you figure out what would make you feel loved and cared for by your partner. The more of an understanding you have of the specific things you need from your partner, the easy it will be to ask for them.
Clearly communicate your needs with your partner. Your boyfriend isn’t a mind reader and you can’t expect him to be one. It’s up to you to tell him exactly what it is you need so that he knows. As psychotherapist Barton Goldsmith, PhD, told VeryWell, it’s important to be direct. “Ask for what you need. Do you want change, understanding, or compatibility? Whatever your need, asking for it directly will greatly improve your chances of getting it,” Goldsmith advised.
Find ways to fulfill your own needs. While you should absolutely be able to count on your partner to offer you emotional support in your relationship, there are also some needs you should be able to fulfill yourself. After all, there’s no way one person can meet all your needs in life, so it’s important to parse out which you can expect him to take care of and which are up to you. Then, find little ways to make sure that those needs are satisfied.
Appreciate the small gestures he makes. You wouldn’t be with him if he was some terrible monster, so it’s important to recognize the things your partner does to make you feel supported and show him some appreciation for it. The more affirmation he receives that he’s on the right track, the more likely he is to try and make even more effort.
Treat him like you want to be treated. Sometimes the best course of action is to lead by example, so if you’re seeking emotional support from your partner, the best thing you can do for your relationship is to do all the things for him that you’d like him to do for you. Show him affection, truly listen to his feelings, encourage him to be vulnerable, pay attention to the signals he’s giving you for his needs. When he receives these things from you, he’ll begin to mirror them back.
Take a step back. If you find that you’ve tried everything in your power — you’ve identified and communicated your needs, tried to guide him via your own actions, shown appreciation for the small things he does, and you’re still not feeling fulfilled or getting anywhere, it may be time to take a step back from the relationship. You cannot exhaust yourself trying to get him to be something or someone he’s not, and it could be that you’re simply not compatible long-term.
If all else fails, walk away from the relationship. If you realize after effort and reflection that you’re not where you want to be in your relationship, it could be that the bravest and only right decision you can make is to end things and walk away. It’s difficult and upsetting, but there’s someone out there who will be able to offer you the emotional support you require. Go out and get it.