When You Love Someone More Than They Love You

When your partner wants a relationship, but not the kind you're looking for.

Posted Nov 28, 2018

Bobex-73/Shutterstock
Source: Bobex-73/Shutterstock

When you fall in love, you hope that the way you love will be returned to you in kind. You want your love to be reciprocated, to be unconditional, to be fulfilling. You want someone to care for you, nourish you, and cherish you in the same way you do for them. In the most idealistic terms, committed love in a relationship is about two people who wish to join as partners in life, who support and encourage each other, who hold each other up and have each other’s backs, who see the future as only possible with their partner as an integral part of it, and who believe that their own life is made more complete because their “other half” is with them forever.

Many people do find what they’re looking for. They find the right person do whatever it takes to have that person in their life and by their side through whatever and wherever life takes them.

But what happens when this kind of love eludes you?

Sometimes, for whatever reasons, you just don’t meet the right partner. Sometimes, it's about not being in the right place at the right time. Sometimes, you may not be ready to meet someone and allow them into your life and you pass each other by. Sometimes, after you’ve been burned or hurt in relationships, the thought of meeting anew person is the furthest thing from your mind. The bottom line is that there are many variables at play in meeting a person you want to be with for the rest of your life, or never meeting such a person.

Finding love is easy when it’s mutual. You both are looking for love at the same time, and you recognize that long-term, committed love is very different from any other kind of relationship. In such a long-term relationship, you look for someone who shares your ideals, goals, and plans for the future. Finding the right person can be easy, but only if you’re on the same page.

But often, we don’t meet people who share our perspectives, and so we get stuck and/or frustrated by our inability to find a fulfilling relationship. Sometimes our own vulnerabilities, anxieties, and behaviors block us from moving forward to find healthier, more satisfying relationships. Sometimes, we really don’t know what we’re looking for. Sometimes, we’re stuck in a pattern of repetitive relationships that never seem to get us where we want to go.

So what happens when we find ourselves in yet another relationship in which we love our partner more than they love us? You may wonder, “How did this happen again?” Perhaps being in any relationship (rather than none at all) was really your goal. Maybe you don’t recognize the signs of someone who's not looking for the king of relationship you are. You may be wondering why, if you care so much for this person, they aren’t they getting it: Why don’t they care for you in the same way you care for them?

Here are some essential points to help you see your relationships more clearly — what’s really there and not just what you want to see — and hopefully, beyond the cloud of emotion that often obfuscates the reality of the situation.

There’s love, and then there’s love. What it all boils down to is the degree of intensity of love. You and your partner may just love differently. Certain components of love (such as the romantic component) may not be shared equally. That’s not to say that your partner doesn’t care for you, but maybe not in the same way you care for them.

For some, just being with someone they love and care for a great deal is enough and all they’ll ever need. Some people know they love more than their partner loves them but hope and believe they can change their partner’s feelings over time. In other words, they may deny that there is an imbalance in the way love is expressed. Can you accept this imbalance in a long-term relationship? Hoping to change your partner’s behavior may be an unrealistic expectation, and may ultimately result in frustration, disappointment, hurt, and anger. This is an essential piece to be aware of from the very beginning.

Your partner makes plans and decisions without you. Sometimes it’s fine for each partner to make unilateral plans and decisions. But if you’re talking about sharing goals and plans for a future together, making decisions unilaterally won’t work. If this happens a lot, it should be speaking volumes to you. It may mean that your partner is not willing to share the most important parts of their life or to include you in their future. The way they see it, maybe you’ll be around—and maybe you won’t. In other words, you fit into their life and their needs in the here and now, but who knows if that will hold for the future.

Your partner is interested in your personal life but not as much as you’d like them to be. Sure, they want to know about you, but they may not need or want to know the nitty gritty. Who you are in depth is not that important to them; it’s just more information. This may sound a bit harsh: After all, there are some perfectly nice people who just may not need to know another person in depth. They like you; they care about you. There’s enough there to have a solid relationship for the future. That’s not what I’m talking about. You would think that someone who falls deeply in love with you would want to know everything about you—the good, the bad, and the ugly. They can’t seem to get enough; everything about you is precious. So when someone doesn’t want to know too much, and lacks interest in you, your plans and goals, what is passionate to you and what makes you tick, or is just indifferent, pay close attention: Yes, they’re with you now, but knowing less about you may make it easier to walk away from you, and the relationship, at any time.

How come much of the effort of the relationship rests on your shoulders? You take the initiative more often and make most of the effort to get things done. Your partner is frequently passive and/or doesn’t care enough. You are often the one to keep the relationship interesting; to creatively find ways to engage your partner. A partner may easily settle into a routine of being with you without looking to expand and develop the relationship. They may even resist any effort on your part to “grow” the relationship. You may find yourself working overtime to please your partner, to gain attention and praise from them. If you’re always making sacrifices to please them, and to make life more comfortable for them, you may end up feeling as if you’re giving up too much or even giving yourself away in order to get attention, recognition, and love. If you are exhausted from trying so hard and not getting much interaction or interest back, it’s time to stop and really think about what you’re doing.

Do you feel like you’re competing with your partner’s friends for their time? Your partner may choose to actively pursue relationships outside of the one you share together. While there’s nothing wrong with keeping old friends and spending time with them, the notion that you have to constantly compete with friends (and/or family) for your partner’s time and attention should raise red flags.

While a romantic, committed relationship often finds a couple spending more and more intimate time together, a less interested partner may continue to spend a lot of time with friends and balk at the idea that these relationships are coming between you. While it’s important for each partner to have their own lives and to maintain a substantial amount of time for themselves, it’s essential that they remember to designate large chunks of time for each other in order to cultivate the caring and intimacy necessary to “grow” the relationship.

The takeaway is never to ignore how you really feel. If you know what you want and need in a relationship, you should never dismiss your feelings, or, worse, settle just because you want a relationship to work, or because you just want to be in a relationship, period. The truth is that, try as you might, you probably won’t be able to make your partner into someone they don’t want to be. If you feel disappointed, frustrated, and unfulfilled because you love someone more than they love you, don’t ignore it. You deserve to have a relationship that feeds you in every way.