Do You Feel You Don’t Get Enough Affection, Warmth or Attention from Your Partner or Spouse? The most common mental filter people experience is also the most difficult for most people to identify. The symptoms of this schema include common feelings of loneliness, sadness, or bitterness without knowing why you’re experiencing them. Other symptoms include often feeling misunderstood, invisible, not cared for, or empty. If any of these are common feelings you experience, you may have the schema of emotional deprivation.
What are the main areas of Emotional Deprivation? Deprivation in relationships comes in three flavors. Ask yourself if you often experience one or more of the three in your marriage or relationship:
Deprivation of nurturance: you are deprived of physical affection, touch, being held, or being paid attention to.
Deprivation of empathy: your partner or the closest people in your life don’t really listen to you, or try to understand how you are and how you feel.
Deprivation of protection: you don’t feel protected or guided by your partner or the people closest to you in your life.
How do you keep the deprivation going? Perhaps it’s hard for you to ask for what you need emotionally, or you don’t really know what you need, so your partner or the people closest to you don’t realize what you are lacking. Do you express a desire for comfort or love, or do you focus most of your attention on other people? Perhaps you act strong on the outside, without letting your partner know when you are actually feeling vulnerable (human). Since you may not expect emotional support, you don’t ask for it.
Different Expressions of Emotional Deprivation: another side of emotional deprivation lies in people who are overly demanding and get angry when needs aren’t met. The most extreme cases of this coping strategy lies with narcissists, who were most likely overindulged as children. Overindulging a child is often a form of deprivation, since setting limits by a parent is an act of caring when it’s in tune with what the child needs. A narcissistic tendency is to feel entitled to special needs beyond what other people experience, and the person becomes adamant about getting exactly what he or she wants regardless of the effects on other people. Some people with emotional deprivation were adored for a particular talent or skill as a child without experiencing genuine love from his or her caregiver.
If you’re in a relationship with someone who is overly demanding in this way, you may often feel that your needs don’t count, or at the minimum are a distant second.
Do People Say You’re Too Needy? For many people with the emotional deprivation schema, they may also appear overly “needy” to their partners or the people closest to them. The “neediness” can often come across as clingy, and focus on a sense of helplessness, often expressed through physical complaints in hopes of getting attention. This is understandable because we all need to feel loved and cared for, and some attention is better than feeling alone and isolated. However, the “neediness” can often backfire and push your partner or spouse further away.
What Can You Do? At the Loving at Your Best plan, using our 5-Step approach for marriage and couples counseling and therapy in NYC can help you to become aware of your emotional needs and express them in a clear and direct language that can actually invite your partner or the people closest to you to be nurturing, to show empathy, and to provide protection and guidance. You can learn to accept that your emotional needs are a part of being human, and healthy to express appropriately. Our therapists provide marriage and couples counseling and therapy in NYC to clients to help them initially explore how the emotional deprivation developed, and to learn to give the part of you that perhaps has felt deprived since childhood an antidote for the loneliness and lack of caring in your past.
Relationships Can Be Reciprocal: you can learn to experience warmth, empathy, and protection, and learn to give it to your partner and the people closest to you in a reciprocal relationship. You’re not counting tit for tat who did what for whom, but instead show compassion and kindness to others. You expect that the people closest to you in your life will meet your emotional needs, and you address deprivation clearly and directly when that is lacking. A key part of the schema therapy process is to help you realize who is emotionally depriving you in your life, and to address this deprivation. You can also train yourself to surround your life with people who want to be there for you, and to gravitate toward people who you can count on to be there for you, both physically and emotionally.
Jeffrey E. Young and Janet Klosko of the Cognitive Therapy Center of New York have an excellent book we use at the Loving at Your Best plan titled Reinventing Your Life. You may want to read the chapter titled “Emotional Deprivation” to learn more about schema therapy.
Share Your Experience below in the comment section: do you connect with Emotional Deprivation? If so, how do you know when it is happening? Are there things that have helped you get what you need? Share your experiences in the comment section below.
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