If you have the experience that your husband/BF/partner doesn’t value you, you probably feel hurt, angry, sad, or all of them in combination.
Feeling unvalued impacts your own self esteem and spills over into the quality of your entire relationship, and you might be questioning yourself, the future of your relationship, and whether there’s something wrong with your partner, your relationship, or yourself.
Feeling unvalued by your partner can show up in a myriad of ways. Perhaps he …
– Doesn’t listen to you
– Doesn’t tell the truth
– Doesn’t prioritize you
– Gives you the silent treatment
– Offers little or no connection and communication
– Gives romantic or sexual attention to other people
– Belittles you, uses demeaning comments
– Doesn’t spend time with you and/or your family
– Speaks poorly of you in public
– Ignores or doesn’t honor your boundaries
– Doesn’t include your opinions and concerns
– Offers little or no appreciation, affection, or loving gestures.
And that’s not an exhaustive list.
If this describes you and how you feel about your partner, what can you do?
Our first tendency when we’re not getting what we want in relationship, is to get the other person to change their behavior. In this case, you might find yourself criticizing and nagging at him way more than you like, in an attempt to get the message across that you want something to change.
When we’re unhappy with our partners, we often come at them with lists of rules for how they should behave. Whereas it’s perfectly understandable that you want his behavior to change, this approach will not give you what you want. Even if you’re 100% right about your complaints and all your friends agree with you. If that approach worked, all we needed to do to have perfect partners was to tell them exactly what they’re doing wrong and how they should behave, and we’d be done.
His part and your part
In any less-than-ideal relationship situation, there’s an element of co-creation. When you don’t feel valued by him, there’s his part in that and there’s your part in that.
We like to start with your part. Not because you’re the one who “needs” to change, or that you’re doing something wrong, simply because that’s the only place where you know you have some control and influence. As we all know, that’s not always the case with our partners.
You don’t have to share this with your partner (although you can if you so choose), but for starters, ask yourself:
- What am I doing that’s contributing to this experience?
- How can I call you, inspire you, to move better with me?
Granted, if you do your own part and he still doesn’t engage in a process of change and growth, you might very well find someone else to be in relationship with.
Take a stand for yourself
One of the first way to inspire him to value you more, is for you to value you more.
Take a stand for yourself. Cultivate a sense of yourself as a valuable, deserving person. One of Sonika’s most valuable personal lessons from being in relationship with an abusive partner, was for her to get out of her victim mindset and craft a mindset of power.
To do that practically, you can be clear about what you’re up for and what you’re not up for. “I’m available to talk about anything but I’m NOT available for being called names or yelled at”. “I’m available for so-and-so, but I’m not available for so-and-so” or “I’m willing to do so-and-so, and I’m not willing to do so-and-so” are good ways to communicate that.
Often, your part in a situation where you don’t feel your husband values you, is that you let it happen and don’t communicate clearly what you want, what you’re willing to do, and what you’re not willing to do, in good ways he can hear.
Takes up all your “mental real estate”
When relationships are strained, perhaps even for long periods of time, the negativity ends up taking up more and more of your “mental real estate”. It’s as if your entire field of vision is filled with all the places where he doesn’t value you, doesn’t respect you, and don’t care about you.
More often than not, there are places where he values and respects you. You just have to focus a bit on finding them.
So begin to look for where he does value you, even if it’s in small ways. Perhaps he brings you a coffee from Starbucks, makes a meal for you, picks up the kids on your day, or asks if you want to make love later on. All those are examples of him expressing that he values and cares about you. Maybe he does ask what you think sometimes. That’s an example of him respecting you.
When you find these instances, thank him for it. We call this approach “Providing what’s desired”, and it’s useful for both partners in relationship. Whenever you’re missing or desiring something, you start by providing it. You want more appreciation? make sure you don’t just rail on him to appreciate you more, but also offers him appreciation.
This is not to stroke the guy’s ego, but simply to use an approach that might work. Plus, it really helps your mental and emotional wellbeing when all your focus is not on what’s not working, and you deliberately notice where you have some of what you want.
He wants to be successful
When you feel unvalued by your partner, it’s easy to make the assumption that he doesn’t want to value you and simply doesn’t care. In our experience working with thousands of men and women, that’s pretty much never the case. Quite the contrary, men are desperate to be successful with you, they want nothing more than to win with you and to make you happy. And … they often have no clue how to accomplish that result. And when men can’t accomplish their result with you, they feel defeated and inadequate, which in turn makes them stop talking and stop trying. Which in turn has you feel unvalued. Bad cycle!
Sometimes you just have to coach and guide him for how you feel valued. If you assume, as we’re suggesting, that he wants to make you happy, you can offer feedback and guidance to him in the form of “appreciation sandwiches” (so named by a man in our workshops).
In fact, this is a great way to deliver feedback to anyone. If you want him to clean up after himself in the kitchen, instead of saying, “Why can’t you clean up after yourself; you’re like a child!” (nagging, criticism, and contempt), you might say, “I appreciate how focused you are getting back to work after dinner. Would you be willing to help clean the kitchen before you start working again? I really like working with you:-)“
In the same spirit of kind guidance, it’s useful to ask for what you want in a clear and specific way that supports him to give it to you. For example, if you say, “I just want you to connect with me!”, he might have no idea what “connect with me” actually entails. We know, to you it might so obvious as to require no explanation of any kind, but that’s not true for everyone. Men and women are different, and people are different. So you might say, “I love it when you take my hand and tell me you love me … would you be willing to do that?”
We also know you might think, “Well, that’s not very romantic when I have to ask for it!” To which we say, yes, it’s nice when we just get what we want, but would you rather ask clearly for something or get nothing?
Our final idea to beware of the tendency to think “he should know this already”, and instead to get curious. Inquire about his experience, and share your own. That kind of communication is, in and of itself, a good way for you to feel valued. Instead of judging and criticizing how he goes back to work after dinner, instead ask him, “I notice you like to go back to work after dinner. I’m curious why that is? Would you tell me about that? I know I’m toast after work and dinner, and I just want to curl up on the couch … how is that for you?”
In summary, take a stand for yourself, look at your part in the dynamic, provide what’s desired, ask clearly and specifically for what you want, appreciate where he does value you, and get curious about why he does what he does.
That’s a really good start to a relationship where you both feel more valued!