Mandy Kloppers

Unmet Emotional Needs


I love you
I love you (Photo credit: @Doug88888)



Do you feel emotionally deprived in your life? Do you feel that people are not really there for you or that they don’t understand you? This perception often originates early on in childhood, a sense of not being loved or supported. It can leave you with a sense that you will be lonely, never be heard or understood by others. It can feel as if something is missing, a feeling of emptiness. Often a neglected child feels emotional deprivation and this experience can carry on into adulthood.

There can be an insatiable quality to this experience“ no matter how much someone gives you it never feels enough. Do people tell you that you appear needy at times?

Giving nurturance to others may be your way of compensating for your own feelings of unmet emotional needs. Another sign is that you may feel chronically disappointed in other people. People let you down. Not a single case of disappointment but rather a pattern of experiences over a period of time. If your conclusion as a result of all your relationships is that you cannot count on people to be there for you emotionally â“ that is a sign of constant unmet emotional needs and emotional deprivation.

The origins of emotional deprivation lie in the person who serves as the primary care giver for the child. That first relationship becomes the prototype for those that follow. For the rest of the individuals life, most close relationships will bear the stamp of that first experience with primary caregiver (usually mother or father).

Examples: Mother is cold and unaffectionate.The child does not have a sense of being loved and valued “ of being someone who is precious and special. The caregiver does not give enough time and attention and is not tuned into childs needs. They do not really connect with the child. The caregiver does not soothe the child adequately and do not adequately guide the child or provide a sense of direction. No one solid exists for child to rely on.

Emotional deprivation is the part that is missing that which the child never knew.  Unless you experienced severe neglect it might take some exploration to determine whether you were deprived as a child and still experience the feeling of unmet emotional needs.

Ask yourself: Did I feel close to my Mother/Father? Did I feel she/he understood me? Did I feel loved? Did I love her/him? Was she/he warm and affectionate? Could I tell her/him what I felt? Could she /he give me what I needed?

Often there is a feeling is disconnection. People with this way of looking at the world unconsciously look for partners who will emotionally deprive them  thus replicating their childhood experience.

Here are danger signals to look out for in romantic relationships that may signify you are about to engage/become involved with someone who is emotionally depriving:

  1. He/she doesnt listen to you
  2. He/she does all the talking
  3. He/she is not comfortable kissing/touching
  4. He/she is only sporadically available
  5. He/she is cold and aloof
  6. You are more interested in getting closer than he/she is
  7. He/she is not there for you when you feel vulnerable
  8. The less available he/she is the more obsessed you become
  9. He/she does not understand your feelings
  10. You are giving much more than you are getting

The presence of the above indicates that your unmet emotional needs are being triggered.

Unmet emotional needs â“ types of behaviour common in relationships. Do you do any of the following?

  • Dont tell your partner what you need, then feel disappointed when your needs are not met or you are not understood
  • You dont allow yourself to be vulnerable so that your partner can protect/guide you
  • You feel deprived but say nothing. Instead you harbour resentment
  • You become angry and demanding
  • You constantly accuse your partner of not caring enough about you
  • You become distant and unreachable

You may also reinforce your deprivation by sabotaging the relationship. You might become hypersensitive to signs of neglect. Some people with unmet emotional needs counterattack â“ they compensate for their feelings of deprivation by becoming hostile/demanding. They act as if they are entitled to get all their needs met. They demand a lot.


How to break free from this experience:

Understanding that you have unmet emotional needs as part of your thinking is the first step to dealing with it. There are three kinds of emotional deprivation: nurturance, empathy and protection.

Create visual imagery of your childhood, look at past experiences and acknowledge times when you were emotionally deprived and did not get your emotional needs met. Allow yourself to feel the emotions associated with these memories.

Review your past relationships as an adult. List the pitfalls. What went wrong? Avoid cold partners that appear aloof. When you do find someone who is emotionally generous  learn to express your needs, be open, share and connect. Push through your fears of vulnerability. Stop blaming others. Resentment is wasted energy. Much of your healing is down to honest, open communication.

Often, when someone with unmet emotional needs is able to find a loving genuine partner, they can unwittingly try to sabotage the relationship, injecting instability into the relationship as this is what they are used to. Believe that harmony and getting your emotional needs met is possible. Embrace it and nurture it and you will begin to dissolve the years of emotional barriers put in place due to experiencing unmet emotional needs.

Mandy X

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