It’s an achy feeling, wanting more from the relationship when your partner seems absent or disinterested. You want cuddling on the couch, tender text messages, movement to the next step. Somehow, your partner doesn’t seem to notice or feel like there’s anything lacking. But you want more.
When intimacy, commitment, and security feel unreachable, it leaves you dissatisfied. You might feel anxious, wondering if you imagined the connection you had with him, or wondering when you missed his signals somewhere along the way.
Later, anxiety and dissatisfaction turn into frustration, and anger.
You’re furious that you seem to do everything in the relationship, and he’s just coasting. He’s taking your homecooked meals, your date night plans, your hugs and sweet texts—and he’s giving nothing in return. You feel stuck.
His apparent disinterest is often a form of emotional absence, which can be devastating to relationships.
In these situations, when you want more, it’s going to be up to you to take action—and it will probably look different from what you’ve tried to this point.
What is emotional absence?
There are three general forms of emotional absence: evading serious conversations, trouble committing (to anything), and non-action in the relationship.
Hates serious conversations
When your partner hates to talk about anything more serious than whether to have burgers or pizza, he is avoiding deep emotional conversations and he’s emotionally unavailable. He won’t listen to your fears or struggles, and he doesn’t want to tell you about his.
Honestly, he might not want to think about them himself.
We’re not just talking about whether or not he’ll buy you a ring (although, that factors in here too). This could be trouble committing to a weekend event with friends. He hems and haws about whether he’ll meet you for a drink after work.
It’s frustrating, and it has probably left you high and dry more than once.
Then, when you want to know if he’s ready to take the next step in the relationship, he does everything he can to redirect the conversation. You tell him you want more, and he makes a joke about ordering another round.
Non-action in the relationship
Finally, when you feel like you’re putting in all the effort, it might be because, well, you are. His non-action means you have taken on more and more. Not only do you do a lot of the physical work of cleaning or cooking or organizing for you two as a couple, you’re also the only one trying to have conversations about the future. And you’re the only one doing the emotional work.
Is this the end?
At this point, you’re not sure you have a future together anymore. You’ve been trying, reaching out, asking him to show up for you. But giving up is too scary.
What’s “out there” beyond this relationship is full of unknowns, and you don’t want to lose what’s left of the connection between you.
Looking out at those unknowns can make you feel anxious. After a short time, you’ll likely feel frustrated as well, wondering why you’re in this position when you know there’s still something there in your relationship, knowing you still want more.
In the end, you might feel angry. With your partner and with yourself.
The relationship is missing intimacy, that key ingredient that fortifies relationships through challenging times.
Even if you don’t lose your relationship at this point, the lack of intimacy will certainly lead to conflict and may lead to infidelity.
Common yet not productive way of coping when you want more
A very common way to cope with disconnection in a relationship is to criticize your partner and demand they step up. It begins a cycle of blaming and chasing after him, trying to get a response, some inkling of connection. You want to see him make an effort.
Unfortunately, this strategy usually leads to your partner shutting down or getting defensive. Neither of which are conducive to growing closer and feeling more connected.
So what do you do when you want more in your relationship?
When you want more in your relationship than your partner seems to want, you have to take action.
Yes, you’ve been working hard at your one-sided relationship for a while now, but this relationship-defining time requires a different type of action. One that will result in a stronger connection and deeper intimacy, or one that will reveal if the relationship truly cannot continue.
Of course, it’s difficult to think about potentially losing your relationship with your partner. Even if it’s been hard and things haven’t been perfect. But if you don’t allow yourself to see the truth in a relationship that needs to end, you may end up regretting spending so many more years with him. You may lose a chance to meet someone new, or a chance to have children.
If you don’t act now, you will spend years wallowing in an unsatisfying relationship when it could have been vastly improved, or you could have been freed from it.
Act now, while you want more from the relationship.
Scary but effective ways of coping when you want more
Tell him how you feel about the two of you, your partnership, your future.
But what if he avoids the conversation, you might ask.
Be vulnerable. Take the risk. Do it at a time when he has to listen to you.
Vulnerability like this is like a catalyst for intimacy. It helps couples build emotional connection, and weathering difficult times and conversations strengthens relationships.
If you need support
This type of vulnerability is scary, especially if what you want most in the world is this relationship.
If you need support in taking action like this, ask your partner to go to couples counseling with you. There you can have the safe space and dedicated time to say what you need to say and hear what your partner needs you to hear.
If he refuses to go with you, individual counseling can still be helpful to the situation. It gives you the opportunity to figure out what you really want, and process anger, sadness, or frustration you may be feeling before you try to address the topic with your partner.
Counseling can be a place to grieve the relationship that was before, and a place to recognize the beauty of what it is or what it can become.
You want more, you get more: Benefits of couples therapy
When you and your partner do get to couples therapy, you will see many benefits in your relationship. It will help you find clarity about what phase your relationship is in and what each of you desires as next steps.
Counseling helps improve intimacy between you if you stay together. You will be able to have difficult and honest conversations, and come away from them stronger and more connected.
About Dr. Irena
Dr. Irena is a licensed psychologist in New York, Houston, and The Woodlands, and a certified Emotionally Focused Couples Therapist. She has over 20 years of experience and has helped couples just like you find emotional connection and learn to support each other in new ways. Call 281-267-1742 or email Dr. Irena at [email protected] for a FREE 10-min consultation.