Identifying and working on signs of emotional neglect in a relationship because unmet needs can render your connection with your significant other hollow, severely impacting the quality of life. However, unlike tangible relationship issues such as physical abuse, anger issues, or cheating, emotional neglect in a marriage is not visible, and therefore, harder to quantify. Most of the time, people do not even know what it amounts to.
However, it can cause as much harm to your relationship and the psyche of the partner at the receiving as any of these other grave issues. If every time you make an effort to share your thoughts and emotions with your partner, they appear to be distant or uninterested, it’s the first red flag that emotional neglect has enveloped your married life.
Being in an emotionally neglectful marriage can be a heartbreaking isolating experience. To make sure you don’t have to suffer in silence, we are here to help you identify the signs of emotional neglect in a marriage and help you deal with them, with the help of counseling psychologist Kavita Panyam (Masters in Psychology and international affiliate with the American Psychological Association), who has been helping couples work through their relationship issues for over two decades.
What Is Emotional Neglect In A Marriage?
Marriage is based on the promise of being there for each other and sharing one another’s life experiences. The success of the relationship between life partners is not only based on physical intimacy but also on a strong emotional connection. The latter often manifests itself as a gray area where most problems in a marriage usually begin.
When a woman starts feeling that her voice is not heard, she’s feeling emotionally neglected. Likewise, if a man withdraws from a connection and begins to withhold communication and intimacy, it could be an outcome of subtle but persistent emotional neglect. From there on, any marriage can unravel and hit the rock bottom quickly. So when a partner gives little or no attention to the emotional needs of their significant other or fails to respond to efforts to foster emotional intimacy, it is a characteristic case of emotional neglect in a marriage.
The impact of such relationship dynamics can be deep-seated and prove to be a trigger for other problems in a marriage. If you don’t feel emotionally connected to your spouse, the feelings of not being appreciated or being taken for granted are only natural. But before you let these get the better of your judgment, try to get to the bottom of the reasons why such emotional disconnect has seeped into your married life. Here are a few probable causes for it:
- Prioritizing career: Your spouse’s career may have become a priority, and that may have taken their focus off the relationship
- Stress: They might be dealing with a stressful situation either at work or home but haven’t been able to share it with you
- Past trauma: Some past trauma that you’re unaware of may be interfering with their ability to connect with you emotionally
- Childhood experiences: A lack of nurturing during their growing up years may have impacted their emotional growth
- Nagging: You may have developed a tendency to nag and complain all the time, and that’s pushing your spouse away
What to do when you feel like your partner is losing interest?
Remember when you started dating, this same person used to make such a fuss about you every time you met? And now they barely even look at you, let alone talk to their heart’s content. When one partner does not lose feelings in a relationship and the other moves a few steps ahead leaving them behind, it becomes a terrible place to dwell in.
The lack of attention can get too much to deal with, especially when you don’t see an end in sight. But at the same time, you feel you have invested too much energy and time in this relationship to just wipe it off in a blink and storm out. To give you some light of hope in this darkness, we bring these 5 suggestions to deal with your partner emotionally checking out of the relationship:
- Self-reflection: Before passing the whole blame to your partner, introspect and assess your role in this deteriorating state of your marriage. Could you have pushed your spouse away? It could be something you have said or the way you became distant in the past (perhaps unintentionally). Are you still hung up on your ex? Do you nag them way too much? Now is the good time to reflect and work on your own issues
- Find the causes: Your spouse could be acting aloof for a myriad of reasons and not only because they no longer feel an emotional connection with you. Don’t think of the worst-case scenario and figure out the real reason. Maybe it’s work pressure and they need some space at home. It can be a financial or family matter that they are skeptical to share with you
- Improve communication: That brings us to our next step – the talk. And it’s not a one-time thing. You need to keep putting effort to get through to them bit by bit, every day. Don’t hold back about how you are feeling. But don’t take an aggressive tone either. Active listening and expressing your concerns from a neutral point of view are important
- Quality time is the key: They may not be interested in the beginning. If you have decided not to give up on your marriage, you have to make it a point to engage them in couples activities even if it’s only doing household chores together. The more you spend quality time with each other, the less this emotional neglect will wear you down
- Get help: We all have our limitations. Given that you have done everything in your power and nothing seems to work, you need to consider seeking relationship counseling to prevent your marriage from falling apart
15 Signs Of Emotional Neglect In Marriage
Emotional support in a marriage means that your spouse is there for you – physically (through physical displays of affection), cognitively (showing empathy, patience, and understanding), and behaviorally (showing love and care through actions). A complete vacuum of this support system can be scary and isolating for anyone.
Lack of emotional attachment on the part of your spouse entitles you to worry, “Has my husband lost interest in me?” or, “Is my wife seeing someone else?” It is, therefore, important to know what constitutes emotional neglect to be able to do something about it. Here are 15 signs to look out for:
1. They seldom fight with you
I know what you’re thinking: What would be more ideal than a marriage with no fight? No conflicts, no need for conflict resolution – it’s a win-win for everyone! However, fights indicate that both partners are invested in the relationship. If one does something that the other doesn’t approve of, they react – sometimes angrily. If you notice that your spouse is okay with everything you do and does not challenge you in any way, it is a sign that they are emotionally absent from the relationship.
If a spouse refuses to engage in conversations around issues that may be important, that’s when a man/woman feels neglected in a relationship. “If you want to talk about something or bring up an issue that has been bothering you, and your husband/wife snaps and uses retorts like ‘‘Everything is okay”, “You are overthinking”, or “You are imagining things”, then it’s one of the signs of emotional neglect in a marriage,” says Kavita.
2. They prefer their own company
How to know if your partner is losing interest in you? They don’t seem to be thrilled at the prospect of spending time with you and always find excuses to be on their own. If they spend their time the way they like and that leaves you feeling abandoned and lonely, you’re experiencing emotional abuse in a marriage.
If your spouse is always making plans with their golf buddies, going out for a drink with friends, and has too many office events to attend, then they, in all probability, enjoy their own company more than yours. Over time, this will cause distance to creep into your marriage, and you will drift apart from one another. This is one of the common effects of emotional neglect in marriage.
3. You have no meaningful conversations
Lack of communication can be an obstacle in the way of a successful marriage. A couple is expected to share more or less every detail of their life with each other if not be an open book. This requires strong, meaningful communication. If you and your spouse hardly ever talk about the important things in life and most of your conversations are limited to the essentials such as kids, finances, family, groceries, and errands, you should take it as a warning sign.
Speaking of how to improve communication in a relationship, internationally certified relationship and intimacy coach Shivanya Yogmayaa previously told Bonobology, “You should always take ownership of your emotions. For instance, you could say, “I feel this way” rather than saying “You make me feel this way”. You could also check your own communication style.
“There are three types of communication styles. You might speak from a submissive child’s ego or from a parent’s ego that says “I know it all”. And there is the third style, where you speak from an adult perspective and clearly communicate the things that you feel good about and discuss all that is bothering you while asking for your partner’s help and support in finding a solution.”
4. Your spouse shows no interest in sexual intimacy
A lack of emotional connection between spouses eventually paves the way for diminishing sexual intimacy. When they not only show no signs of physical attraction toward you but also don’t respond to your advances, they might have checked out of the marriage emotionally. Physical intimacy in a relationship wanes over time but if they are not initiating any kind of intimacy, then it is a sign they have lost interest in the marriage. Consequently, you end up feeling all the more emotionally empty in a relationship.
“You will notice that your spouse is not interested in initiating sex and when you do, your advances are shot down. They may also shame you with statements like “You’re overly sexed”, “Don’t you have anything else to do?”, or “Is it all you can think about?” At the same time, if there is no communication about what you want or don’t want during sex, then your partner is shutting you out. See it as a red flag of emotional neglect in marriage,” says Kavita.
Related Reading: Why Has My Husband Lost Interest In Me Sexually?
5. They are closer to their colleagues and friends
While it is absolutely normal – necessary even – to have your own social circle and life after marriage, a spouse must take precedence over friends and colleagues. Chances are when your partner is no longer interested in the marriage, their colleagues and friends would become their sources of support whenever life throws a curveball and you won’t be even aware of the issues they are grappling with.
If you learn about important occurrences in your spouse’s life from other people or are the last one to find out about any major life decisions they may have taken, then you’re not wrong in thinking, “My husband neglects me emotionally” or “My wife is no longer emotionally invested in me”.
6. You are not yourself around your spouse
Walking around the house in your underwear…Heck, walking around the house naked…Brushing your teeth in front of each other…Taking a leak in front of your spouse. More or less every couple does such weird things with each other once settled in their marriage. It’s just a sign that you’re comfortable being yourself around your spouse. If that’s not true in your case even though you’ve been married a long time, it speaks of a serious case of emotional neglect.
It may be time for you to seriously explore ways to prevent emotional neglect in marriage from escalating any more than it already has. However, making any headway on the front requires your spouse to be willing to work on the marriage and be invested in making it work. So, the first step toward steering your marriage away from this emotional void is to try to reach out to your spouse and make them see why you need to take corrective measures before it’s too late.
7. You fail to understand their needs and wants
Since your spouse is emotionally absent from the relationship, you remain unaware of their needs, wants, likes, and dislikes. You haven’t got a clue about what they want from the relationship and you. You feel lonely in the marriage and it’s as if another person does not exist in it. You feel like you are living with a stranger in the same house.
Even though you may go above and beyond to please them or keep them happy, it almost never works. “My husband neglects me emotionally” or “My wife doesn’t understand my emotional needs” – this realization can become harder and harder to shake off. Because despite your best efforts to fix a relationship when one is losing feelings, you always fall short in meeting your partner’s expectations.
Related Reading: 9 Proven Benefits Of Counselling – Don’t Suffer In Silence
8. You depend on yourself for solving your issues
As partners sharing a life, you should both work toward solving issues together. But with an emotionally uninvolved spouse, you will soon realize that you’ve got to handle all issues big and small on your own. If you deal with stressful situations single-handedly all the time, the emotional neglect in your marriage is undeniable. It’s no surprise that you feel emotionally empty in the marriage
“If you have children, then you have hands-on parenting experience. From looking after their education and extracurricular activities to grooming them and imparting them with values, it falls upon you to meet the myriad parenting responsibilities. The same thing happens when it comes to household chores, paying the bills, or social obligations. In an emotionally neglectful marriage, you end up doing most of the physical and emotional labor and your spouse becomes a passive partner,” says Kavita.
9. You feel lonely and alone all the time
Even though you share the same house and the same room with your spouse, you still feel perpetually lonely and alone. This is because your relationship with them lacks an emotional connection, which causes an emptiness to build, and that can lead to not being happy in a marriage. You are unable to accept the spousal neglect in the marriage and you are perpetually grappling with your emotions.
“When someone feels neglected in a relationship, they may slip into the state of being married but single. You can’t count on your partner to talk to, do things with, pamper you, shower love on you, or make you feel wanted. Though you’re married, you don’t have the companionship that comes with it. There is no one supporting you, encouraging you, or having your back,” says Kavita.
10. You get attracted to other men/women
The loneliness and the feeling of being caught in a run-of-the-mill existence can get the better of you and cause you to seek emotional fulfillment outside your marriage, which fuels an emotional and physical attraction toward other men/women. You may develop an emotional connection with a person who seems to understand you, makes an effort to talk to you, and offers you the support and affection that is lacking in your marriage. Being emotionally neglected in a relationship can push you toward infidelity
11. Your spouse becomes overly critical
An emotionally absent spouse may thrive on criticizing you. They pick on you in public and in the privacy of your home, they scar you emotionally without even realizing the magnitude of the damage they are wreaking on you and their marriage. No matter what you do, you cannot seem to make your spouse happy and they keep bringing you down with harsh criticism to the point that it becomes intolerable.
“No matter what you do, they whiplash you and find faults with you. You feel the need to walk on eggshells around them, constantly second-guessing and rethinking your actions. Keeping your partner pleased and out of your hair becomes the single biggest focus. However, no matter how hard you try, you always fall short. They find reasons to criticize you for anything and everything, from your looks to your personality, your career choices, cooking skills, and so on,” explains Kavita.
Related Reading: 10 Signs You Married The Wrong Person
12. They hardly take care of themselves
Your marriage and your relationship may not be the only things taking a hit due to this emotional neglect. In some extreme cases, the emotional withdrawal may start manifesting in your spouse’s personality too as they stop putting in any effort to care for themselves or their appearance.
In such cases, there is a more serious underlying problem such as anxiety, fear, depression, or trauma at play. You must do your best to get to the root of it and help your partner through this challenging phase. You not only have to prevent emotional neglect in marriage from taking a toll on your bond but also on your spouse’s health and mental well-being.
13. They get annoyed easily
It is only natural you’d try to gain your spouse’s attention when they seem emotionally distant and unavailable, especially if this is the norm in your life. But if this only annoys and pushes them further away from you, it is apparent that they are neglecting you. They may get angry easily. In such moments, you may find yourself wondering whether being married guarantees love and romance in one’s life.
“Even if you do whatever they want or expect you to do and go out of your way to please them, they still don’t appreciate you. All your actions, no matter how big or small, thoughtful or instinctive, irritate your partner, resulting in them being annoyed and angry with you. As a result, they may get aggressive and throw a temper tantrum or they may become totally withdrawn and silent,” says Kavita.
14. They give you the silent treatment
How to know if your partner is losing interest? Your attempts to establish any kind of emotional intimacy cause your partner to recede into their shell and resort to the silent treatment. This is an absolute sign someone is neglecting their spouse. This behavior is not just emotional neglect but a clear sign of mental and emotional abuse that can be heartbreakingly painful for you.
“You may be eating your meals at the same table, sleeping in the same bed, traveling in a car together, but they refuse to interact with you. Any attempts to communicate will either be met by silence or monosyllabic responses. You live in the same house without any interaction or communication. If this is a predictable pattern, then silent treatment amounts to one of the signs of emotional neglect in a marriage,” says Kavita.
15. You are no longer their priority in life
During the heyday of your married life, you may have been the center of their universe but your importance in their life has steadily declined. This is one of the classic behavioral traits of an abuser in a relationship, and if you’ve experienced it firsthand, you’d know how damaging its consequences can be. You are not being paranoid in thinking, “Has my husband lost interest in me?” or, “Does my wife not love me anymore?”
Your spouse has become as reclusive now as they were obsessed with you in the early years of the marriage and this is really hard to accept. They may even dismiss your concerns about the changing nature of your equation as an outcome of the neglected wife/husband syndrome, however, you know as well as they do that this is not a figment of your imagination.
5 Tips To Cope With Emotional Neglect
Acknowledging and lamenting, “My wife is not emotionally supportive” or “My husband neglects me emotionally”, is not going to resolve your situation. You have to take matters into your own hand and find ways to cope with this emotional neglect if you want to stay in the marriage despite a dwindling connection with your spouse. Here are 5 tips to deal with the emotional neglect that may help you save your broken marriage from falling apart completely:
1. Work through the problems productively
To fix a relationship when one is losing feelings, the other partner has to make an attempt to communicate effectively. Pick an appropriate time to talk to your spouse about the issues that have cropped up in your married life due to their emotional neglect.
Try to be loving and understanding in your demeanor and keep an open mind toward their side of the story. You both need to come together and cooperate to find a lasting solution to this problem and prevent emotional neglect in marriage from deteriorating.
2. Don’t play the victim card
Your spouse’s actions have caused you immense hurt and emotional damage. Even so, for the sake of restoring harmony in the relationship, try not to play the victim card during your conversations. This will only make your spouse more guarded and defensive in their approach, which is the exact opposite of what you intend to achieve.
Besides, facilitating honest, open conversations may help you discover some errors in your ways that may be triggering their emotionally absent state of mind. Focus on resolving the issues plaguing your connection without shifting blame or hurling accusations.
3. Rekindle the love
Spend time together, attend social gatherings as a couple, plan date nights to recreate the good times you two have spent with each other, and make your spouse fall in love with you again. Chances are they really love you but because of certain issues in their life, they just drifted away. If that’s the case, a little initiative from your end may help counter the effects of emotional neglect in your marriage.
4. Approach a therapist
Whenever a marriage hits a rough patch, it may be difficult for the spouses to resolve a conflict on their own because egos come into play and you may not be able to take an empathetic view of your partner’s perspectives. In case of such a deadlock, seeking help from a therapist or a marriage counselor is always advisable.
There’s no shame or stigma in it. In fact, it’s a sign that you’re both willing to work on your marriage through relationship counseling. If you need guidance to save your marriage, our panel of experts is only a click away.
5. Be patient
If you still love your spouse and can’t bear the thought of losing them, being patient as you go through a process of healing and restoring your relationship is your best bet. Eventually, your spouse will find their way to your heart and soul again. As long as the core of your marriage is strong and they too are fundamentally invested in the relationship, you can find a way to bounce back and heal from emotional neglect in marriage.
- When your spouse hardly cares about you, your life, and your emotional needs, they are probably losing interest
- They hardly get into any argument and prefer their own company rather than spending time with you
- Communication in your marriage falls apart and so does physical intimacy
- You walk on eggshells around them and solve all your problems on your own. There is no sharing and caring
- They might become extremely critical of your every move
- You may feel lonely in a marriage due to a lack of emotional intimacy which can lead to extramarital affairs
You don’t give up on your marriage just like that when your partner is no longer interested. Emotional neglect can happen in a marriage but it all depends on how you deal with it. If the signs of spousal neglect are there in your marriage then you should take the right steps to fix it.
If your spouse spends most of his time on his own, never makes plans with you, hardly shows you care and concern and you feel lonely in the relationship it can be emotional neglect.
When a spouse hardly communicates with you and all his joy, sorrow and issues are shared with his buddies and colleagues, then this can be an example of spousal neglect.
A marriage cannot survive without emotional intimacy. People can survive a sexless marriage without cheating but not without a mental connection and communication, it’s hard for a marriage to survive.
Yes, emotional neglect can be grounds for divorce because it’s hard to survive in a relationship where no mental connection is there. Marriage is about companionship, if that does not exist there is no point in going on.