If You Aren't Feeling Loved — These 3 Needs Are Probably Not Being Met

Photo: Alena Ozerova / 
blonde woman in sunglasses, standing against a light wall

We all have expectations. And depending upon where we are on the confidence scale, having expectations can be a slippery slope, Sisyphus notwithstanding.

Expectations are rooted in needs.

When I look back to when I started my journey of self-discovery fourteen years ago, the No. 1 book that kick-started my healing was written by author Susan Piver. Her book, How Not To Be Afraid Of Your Own Life, changed my life.

I love her profound statement: “From the moment we arrive, we are instinctively drawn toward warmth, closeness and acceptance.”

Warmth, closeness and acceptance. 

My father is 101 years old, and he wants the same things.

What happens when our basic emotional needs are not met?

  • We end up in therapy.
  • We keep looking for warmth.
  • We keep searching for closeness.
  • We keep needing acceptance.
  • We keep having expectations.

RELATED: 4 Ways Childhood Trauma Haunts You As An Adult (& How To Move On)

All of our drives keep our expectations on alert, and sometimes high alert.

Growing up in my house was a constant battle for attention. I was the youngest and the most mischievous one. I was a prankster.

The goal at dinner time was to get my father’s attention.

One time I dressed our German Shepherd in my sister’s two-piece red bathing suit, complete with a diving mask on his head. My father almost fell out of his chair laughing. My sister was furious, my brother kept looking for the exit, and my mother was trying to track down the peas my dad had spilled.

But I won.

Won what?

My father’s attention for 10 minutes then vaporized, leaving me with the hope and expectation that someday I would get more than 10 minutes — someday I would get him to hug me and tell me he loved me.

RELATED: 11 Limiting Beliefs That Seriously Hold You Back In Life

That, my friend, is what expectations are built on; hoping our need — our fantasy — will materialize.

Imagine my shock when I realized that those two forces don’t necessarily connect: attention and love.

As it is true the most profound form of love is attention, children crave time with their parents and older siblings. Toys are for time alone.

But the reverse is not always true. Ask an abused adult what attention meant in their home, growing up.

That adult/child has a different meaning to the word expectations. Fear is their association.

RELATED: How To Stop Expectations Vs. Reality From Killing Your Relationships

As there are many shades of grey, there are 50 forms of abuse.

The form of abuse that was most personal to me was being ignored. Of course, there are objectively worse forms of abuse. My roommate in college, for instance, had been physically abused, which to me was much worse than being ignored.

Ironically, I felt guilty most of my life because I was not yelled at, never hit, and never anything inappropriate. But it still hurt. 

It took years to understand that pain is pain regardless of its source.

RELATED: When Disappointment In Life Breaks Your Heart, Do These 3 Things

How to manage expectations built upon our need to connect or get attention

What can we do to keep ourselves intact and yet feel a yearning to connect?

Follow these six steps to center yourself when experiencing a need that isn't being met:

  • Take a step back
  • Take a deep, slow inhale and hold for 5 seconds
  • Put your hand on your heart and feel the beat [if you are on the subway or in someone’s car and have no privacy, imagine it]
  • Label the feeling … really. As soon as you can identify what you feel you are starting to take back control of the expectation.
  • Why do you feel it is the monkey’s wrench?
  • Twist it as many times as necessary to free the truth.

Now you will understand, painful as it is, your inner child and how best to protect her, and not slip into an expectation that can so easily shift into an argument or worse, which by now, you can forecast.

RELATED: Why Expectation Is The Root Of All Heartache

Pegi Burdick is a certified financial coach specializing in helping women and men turn around their stress and shame about money and get back control of their lives.