Settling for Emotional Crumbs

If life growing up in your family meant that you had one or both parents unable to emotionally connect with you, frequently absent and unavailable then you might relate to what I want to discuss.

Emotional neglect has many symptoms and one of those is settling for emotional crumbs in our relationships. Crumbs are small portions or scraps and if you have been starved of emotional connection most of your life you will gratefully take what you can get.

What this can mean in adult relationships is that we settle for far less emotional connection in particular with our partners than we deserve because it’s probably better than what some of us had to begin with. Instead we may put our focus entirely on trying to meet physical needs, bread on the table, roof over the head and invest little or nothing into our emotional needs.

Our partner may only give us a little attention or a few kind words and we can dine out on that for weeks, unfortunately for some I have met longer than that!

Despite getting emotional crumbs in our relationships we stay because it is weirdly familiar and well it beats being alone. There are few things more seductive than a partner who vows to change. This triggers us into fantasy and false hope.

Look at the consistent behaviours of your partner, not the words they know you want to hear. Unless your partner is actively engaged in some form of change activity such as session work, courses, reading, journaling or something along those lines be wary! Change is challenging especially ingrained, unconscious patterns and we all need help sometimes.

How low have you set the bar of emotional connection in your relationship without realising it? Perhaps your settling for emotional crumbs thinking that is all you deserve or all that is possible.

We can start to reset by looking at what it is emotionally that we are seeking and how to give that to self first. I often ask my clients when we are working with this pervasive element in family systems – What wasn’t there that should have been? What consistent messages did you get about feelings?


Some examples

  • Individuals who have learnt to suppress or cut off from their emotions because their parents were uncomfortable dealing with emotions.
  • People who feel guilty letting their hair down and having fun.
  • People who are starving for emotional connection but keep attracting in partners who cannot provide that connection.


Most parents I meet are simply either unaware of the importance of teaching effective emotional connection or unable to teach it as they never had it themselves. We can’t give what we don’t have.

Emotional awareness and validation are so important. Learning how to effectively manage emotions is one of the corner stones to healthy self discipline and positive self-esteem.

These are only a few components for consideration in the area of emotional neglect but through looking at this we can have more emotionally rich and fulfilling lives with self and others.

Thanks for reading.