Signs That You May Be Practicing Emotional Deprivation In Your Relationship

Relationships are often said to require a 50/50 ratio of giving and taking from each partner. While there will inevitably be periods within a long-term relationship where one partner needs more support than the other, an average of 50/50 is a reasonable goal. Give and take, however, don't just refer to matters like gifts, sexual reciprocity, and household chores. They're also key factors when it comes to emotional support.


It is not uncommon for one partner to feel emotionally deprived in their relationship. In many cases, this is due to a pattern of emotional deprivation from caregivers who didn't meet their needs during childhood. As a result, this partner develops a deep-seated belief that their emotional needs will never be met in a relationship. While there is a plethora of information available for those who feel emotionally deprived by their partners, there is little to none for partners who may be the ones practicing emotional deprivation. The following signs suggest that you could be doing just that. 

Fear of rejection

When a person experiences rejection during their most emotionally vulnerable moments as a child or in an early romantic relationship, a deep-seated fear of rejection can develop. If you find yourself wanting to be emotionally vulnerable with your partner but you just can't seem to act on the desire, look to your past. Were you mocked or cruelly dismissed when you shared your emotions with a parent? Did your first romantic partner use emotional manipulation to attempt to exert control over you? 


Once you understand the pain of your past and how it may be bleeding into your current relationship, you may find it easier to differentiate between conditioned fear responses and actual red flags from your partner. You may also want to consider sharing your past and your realizations about how it could be affecting your ability to interact on an emotionally vulnerable level with your partner. Once you've let them in on your struggles, they're likely to feel less frustrated and the two of you can agree on a gentle reminder they can give you in the moment when they suspect that you're emotionally detaching. 


Struggling to provide adequate emotional support for your partner — especially when they freely offer it to you — can produce a plethora of negative emotions including frustration, self-loathing, and guilt. It can feel tempting to just throw in the towel, stop trying to show up emotionally, and isolate yourself. This might look like disengaging and walking away at the first sign of your partner getting emotional or completely avoiding interactions that aren't either surface-level or sexual in nature.


While going into self-isolation mode might take the immediate pressure off of you, it actually compounds the issue of emotional deprivation in the long run. Your partner is being deprived of your emotional support and connection whether or not you've decided to stop trying. If you've exhausted self-help techniques, consider seeking out the help of a counselor or therapist.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Constant conflict

Being unable to be vulnerable and properly express your emotions with your partner is frustrating for both of you. Two partners who are hurt and frustrated are bound to react to everyday occurrences in a more confrontational manner than they would have if they weren't experiencing chronic pain and disappointment. As a result, it may start to feel like your relationship is based on constant conflict.


When an argument erupts between you and your partner, it's important for both of you to take a step back and examine the primary emotion behind the anger you're expressing. For example, if your partner blows up at you because you forgot to pick up wine on your way home for a dinner party the two of you are hosting, the real problem isn't the wine. It may be the constant feeling that their needs aren't making it onto your priority list. Arguing about the logistics of picking up the wine won't solve the underlying issue. 

Lack of connection

Deep emotional connection can only be built over time through trust and vulnerability. When you can't find a way to meet your partner's emotional needs, the development of the relationship is stunted. You might start to notice that your connection plateaued early on in the relationship or that you rely on sexual connection for intimacy while your emotional connection lags behind.


When you spend time with other couples who started their relationships around the same time you and your partner began yours, you may notice a difference. While the other couples seem to instinctively know what one another needs or is trying to express, you and your partner struggle to read each other. This immature connection is a direct result of the absence of a healthy emotional exchange. Rather than feeling envious or frustrated, let this discovery be your motivation to follow through with doing the work to learn how to become emotionally vulnerable with your partner. Growing together with someone you trust is a truly life-changing experience.