15 Signs Of Emotional Neglect In A Marriage

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Emotional Neglect in Marriage

Picture this: every time you make an effort to share your thoughts and emotions with your partner, they appear to be distant or uninterested. This is the first red flag that emotional neglect has enveloped your married life. Unlike tangible relationship issues such as physical abuse, anger issues, or cheating, emotional neglect in marriage is not visible, and is, therefore, harder to quantify. People often do not even know what it amounts to. 

Even if it is hard to put a finger on, marital neglect can create an undercurrent of discontentment, and dealing with it can be a heartbreaking and isolating experience. To make sure you don’t suffer in silence, we are here to help you identify the signs of emotional neglect in marriage with the help of counseling psychologist Kavita Panyam (Master’s in Psychology and international affiliate with the American Psychological Association), who has been helping couples work through their relationship issues for over two decades. So, if you have no answer to, “What is emotional support in a relationship?”, or are clueless about how to deal with emotional distance, read on. 

What Is Emotional Neglect In A Marriage?

A healthy 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 doesn’t just depend on physical intimacy but also on a strong emotional connection. When that connection is not strong or both partners don’t make a conscious effort to nurture it, emotional distance in a marriage may begin to take hold.

From there on, any marriage can hit 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 marriage. 

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Causes Of Emotional Neglect In A Marriage

The impact of relationship dynamics where one partner ignores the other’s emotional needs can be deep-seated and can trigger 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 where does this emotional disconnect stem from? Why do two people who were once so smitten with each other that they decided to spend their lives together grow so far apart? To find the answer, let’s take a look at a few probable causes of emotional neglect in marriage:

  • Past relationship trauma: Past emotional baggage from abusive relationships or childhood emotional neglect may affect how a person fares emotionally in their adult relationships
  • Unresolved conflicts in the marriage: Some unresolved issues in the marriage, which may have swept beneath the carpet, can also make spouses emotionally distant 
  • Work stress: Your partner may be going through a stressful situation at work, and that may be affecting your relationship
  • Emotional incompatibility: The way you perceive emotional intimacy may be different from how your partner perceives it. It’s quite possible that you value emotions more than your partner and that makes your partner appear ‘emotionally unavailable’ 
  • Lack of empathy: A lot of people, especially those suffering from narcissistic personality disorder, tend to show a total lack of empathy, and in turn, lack of emotional involvement in the relationship

Related Reading: Healthy Vs Unhealthy Vs Abusive Relationships – What’s The Difference?

15 Signs Of Emotional Neglect In Marriage

Your emotional well-being in a marriage is guaranteed when your spouse is always 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.

Lack of emotional attachment on the part of your spouse can make you complain, “My husband neglects me emotionally and sexually”, or wonder, “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. You don’t spend quality time with each other

One of the prominent signs of emotional neglect in marriage is when you don’t spend quality time with each other. Now, just because a couple stays together doesn’t mean they spend quality time with each other. 

Here’s what a Reddit user thinks quality time is, “Quality time is about shared experiences. Being in the house at the same time is not a shared experience; doing an activity where you see something new, even if it’s as prosaic as a dog/flower/sunset/etc is something new you’ve done. It can also be sitting down and actually talking -— the information you share, the laughs, even the arguments are all new experiences that you both do, together. That’s what quality time is.”

So, in cases where you or your partner don’t spend quality time together, you may end up:

  • Prioritizing work 
  • Hanging out with friends and family instead
  • Pretending to be sick just to avoid going out together

This is an unhealthy coping mechanism when it comes to dealing with emotional neglect and is one of its most obvious signs too.

Related Reading: 13 Things To Do When Your Husband Ignores You

2. You’re isolated

Wondering how to know if your partner is emotionally absent or if you’re dealing with emotional distance or emotional abandonment in marriage? Well, if you find yourself on your own, through good times and bad, it’s a glaring sign of marital neglect. 

Such isolation speaks volumes. Over time, it causes distance to creep into your marriage, making you drift apart from one another. This is a real risk when a man or woman feels neglected in a relationship.

emotional neglect in a relationship
There’s nothing worse than emotional neglect in a relationship

3. You have no meaningful or constructive conversations

Lack of communication can be an obstacle in the way of a successful marriage. Partners are expected to share more or less every detail of their lives with each other. This requires strong, meaningful, and constructive conversations. A friend, Rhea, and your spouse hardly ever talked about the important things in life, and most of their conversations were limited to the essentials, such as kids, finances, family, groceries, and errands. When she broke down while relating the issue, I told her she should consider it a warning sign.

Speaking of how to improve communication and address emotional neglect 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 “You make me feel this way”. 

4. Your spouse shows no interest in sexual intimacy

A lack of emotional connection between spouses eventually paves the way for physical neglect too, thus diminishing sexual intimacy. Be wary when they show no signs of physical attraction toward you and don’t respond to your advances either. This means, they might have checked out of the marriage emotionally. Consequently, you’ll end up feeling neglected in a relationship such as this, all the more.

“Your emotionally absent spouse may 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, it’s another sign your partner is shutting you out emotionally through physical neglect. Consider it a red flag of emotional neglect in marriage,” says Kavita.

Related Reading: Boredom In Relationship – 11 Ways To Not Let It Happen

5. They lean on outsiders for support

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, outsiders, such as their colleagues and friends, would become their sources of support whenever life throws a curveball. And you won’t even be aware of the issues they are grappling with. In such cases, signs of emotional detachment or disconnection may manifest as:

  • You learn about important occurrences in your spouse’s life from other people 
  • You’re the last one to find out about any major life decisions they may have made

If you’ve faced any of the above-mentioned situations, you’re not wrong if you think “My husband neglects me emotionally and sexually” 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 a sign that you’re comfortable being yourself around your spouse. 

If that’s not happening, it’s one of the signs your husband has checked out of the marriage, or your wife is not interested in you. Take the example of my friend Andrea, for instance. She felt she couldn’t be with her husband without makeup. And this was because her husband has once asked her to deck up even at home, blaming her for the lack of spark in their relationship.

7. You fail to understand their needs and wants

If your spouse is emotionally absent from the relationship, you’ll remain unaware of their needs, wants, likes, and dislikes, and have no clue about what they want from the relationship and you. As a result, you may feel lonely in the marriage and a feeling of living with a stranger in the same house will creep in.

In such cases of emotional neglect in a relationship, even though you may go above and beyond to please them or keep them happy, a sense of discontentment and disharmony remains. Because despite your best efforts to fix the relationship, you’ll always fall short in meeting your partner’s expectations. This is a glaring sign of marital neglect from your partner’s end.

Related Reading: 9 Proven Benefits Of Counselling – Don’t Suffer In Silence

8. You depend on yourself 

So, how do you spot the signs your husband has checked out of the marriage or find out if there’s a sudden emotional distance between you and your wife? 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 have children, 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 a marriage with spousal neglect, you’ll end up doing most of the physical and emotional labor and your spouse becomes a passive partner,” says Kavita. 

9. You feel like a stranger to them

Even though you share the same house and the same room, you will still feel like a roommate or a tenant, if your relationship with them lacks an emotional connection or if there’s emotional abandonment in marriage. This is similar to what a Reddit user felt, “I love Adam, but after a decade of being together, I can’t shake the feeling that I don’t even know him. He seems completely unaffected and detached from me, but he has made it clear that he doesn’t want me to leave and if I do, it will be 100% against his will.”

“When a man or a woman 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. 

Related Reading: How To Deal With Being Ignored By Someone You Love?

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 when you’re dealing with emotional neglect in a relationship. This can, in turn, cause you to seek emotional fulfillment outside your marriage, fueling 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
  • Offers you the support and affection that is lacking in your marriage

So, 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. So, watch out for these signs:

  • They pick on you both in public and in the privacy of your home
  • They scar you emotionally with sarcastic barbs 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

“In such cases, you live in intense fear. It’s as if you’re walking on eggshells around them, always second-guessing and rethinking your actions. Keeping your partner pleased becomes your 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. You don’t share your negative experiences

One of the most telling signs of emotional neglect in a marriage is when there’s an absolute lack of communication in the relationship. But it’s more evident when you don’t share anything that stresses you or causes you trauma. In fact, negative emotions may not be communicated at all in such relationships. For instance:

  • You may end up having no arguments at all, which shows an absolute state of apathy or indifference in the relationship
  • You may also find your partner shying away from discussing everything from major issues, such as job stress 
  • You can’t share your biggest fear or insecurity with them

13. You don’t feel heard

One of the best feelings in a relationship is the feeling of being validated by one’s partner. However, when there’s emotional neglect in marriage, you will find you’re not being heard or validated. So, watch out if your partner:

  • Ignores or devalues your professional achievements, such as a promotion
  • Doesn’t like, comment on, or share your posts on social media, even if your friends think you share great content
  • Completely ignores you or your opinions on anything and everything, ranging from the food cooked in the house to the color of the curtains in your bedroom

These are obvious signs of emotional neglect in a relationship.

Related Reading: Emotional Validation In Relationships – Meaning, Importance, And Signs

14. They give you the silent treatment

Wondering how to know if your partner is losing interest or has checked out emotionally? Stonewalling is an absolute red flag you cannot overlook. This is exactly what my cousin experienced in her marriage. All her attempts to establish emotional intimacy caused her partner to recede into his shell and resort to the silent treatment. That’s when she knew she was facing emotional abandonment in marriage. 

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. Watch out for these signs:

  • You may be eating at the same table, sleeping in the same bed, or 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
  • They may even leave the room when you try to communicate

All of this can be a massive blow to your self-esteem.

marital neglect
Marital neglect can have far-reaching consequences

15. You are no longer their priority in life

You may have been the center of their universe at some point, but your importance in their life has steadily declined. Here are some warning signs to watch out for:

  • Your spouse has become reclusive now 
  • They may even dismiss your concerns about the changing nature of your equation 
  • They have time for their colleagues, their friends, and even the kids, but not you

If you’ve experienced this first-hand, you’d know how damaging its consequences can be. You are not being paranoid when you wonder, “Has my husband lost interest in me?” or “Does my wife not love me anymore?” 

5 Tips To Cope With Emotional Neglect

Now that you know the answer to, what is emotional support in a relationship, and have an idea about the signs that your relationship lacks it, let’s delve deeper. Wondering how to prevent spousal neglect in marriage? Acknowledging and lamenting, “My wife is not emotionally supportive” or “My husband neglects me emotionally and sexually” alone won’t improve your situation. 

Related Reading: 9 Ways To Deal With Your Husband Not Wanting You – 5 Things You Can Do About It

You have to take matters into your own hand and find ways to cope with this emotional neglect in marriage 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

If you wish to fix the signs of emotional detachment in marriage, you need to start by communicating. Pick an appropriate time to talk to your spouse about the issues that have cropped up in your married life due to emotional neglect. Here’s how to go about it:

  • Try to be loving and understanding in your demeanor 
  • Keep an open mind toward their side of the story
  • Cooperate to find a lasting solution to this problem 
  • Set boundaries about what you’ll tolerate 

2. Don’t play the blame game

Your spouse’s actions may have caused you immense hurt and emotional damage. But, for the sake of restoring harmony in the relationship, try not to play the blame game 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 issues in your ways that may be triggering them. Focus on resolving the issues plaguing your connection without shifting blame, hurling accusations, or damaging their self-esteem.

Related Reading: ‘My Husband Starts Fights And Then Blames Me’: Ways To Cope

3. Rekindle the love

Here are some ways to rekindle that flame in your relationship:

  • Spend time together to bring in positive feelings
  • Attend social gatherings as a couple
  • Plan date nights to recreate the good times 

Make your spouse fall in love with you again. Chances are their feelings run deeper than you know, but they have drifted away because of certain issues in their life. If that’s the case, a little initiative from your end may help counter the effects of emotional neglect in your marriage. 


4. Consult a therapist

Whenever a marriage hits a rough patch or gives you uncomfortable feelings, it may be difficult for the spouses to resolve a conflict on their own. This is because:

  • Egos come into play 
  • You may not be able to take an empathetic or objective view of your partner’s perspectives 

In case of such a deadlock in an unfulfilling marriage, 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, Bonobology’s experts and counselors are only a click away.

5. Be patient

If you still love your spouse, have had a strong connection with them in the past, and still feel their feelings for you run deeper than what’s evident, being patient as you go through the process of healing and restoring your relationship is your best bet. In fact, this is how you can come out of an unfulfilling marriage.

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 your marriage.

Key Pointers

  • When your spouse hardly cares about you, your life, and your emotional needs, they are probably losing interest
  • Some signs of emotional neglect in marriage are: lack of communication, you ending up alone, and them criticizing your every move
  • Some ways to deal with such signs of emotional detachment in marriage are: working through problems productively, being patient, and consulting a therapist

Emotional neglect is not uncommon in marriages, but whether or not you can bounce back depends on how you deal with it. If the signs of spousal neglect are prominent in your marriage, you should take the right steps to fix it. And we hope our article helps you do that! 


1. What counts as emotional neglect?

If your spouse spends most of his time on his own, never makes plans with you, and hardly shows you care and concern, making you feel lonely in the relationship, it can count as emotional neglect.

2. What is an example of emotional neglect?

When a spouse hardly communicates with you and all his happiness and issues are shared with his buddies and colleagues, it can be an example of spousal neglect.

3. Can a marriage survive without emotional intimacy?

A marriage cannot survive without emotional intimacy. People can survive a sexless marriage without cheating but can’t keep a marriage intact without any mental connection.

4. Is emotional neglect grounds for divorce?

Yes, emotional neglect can be grounds for divorce because it’s hard to survive in a relationship where there’s no emotional bond. Marriage is about companionship, and there is no point in going ahead if there’s no emotional connection.

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Readers Comments On “15 Signs Of Emotional Neglect In A Marriage”

  1. Sadly this article shows the author’s bias against men. When the advice reveals even a slight level of bias, the author is relegated from a trustworthy independent ‘expert’ to one like us expressing their opinion. I see no data or evidence to back up the claims, leaving me to guess this is simply the authors, quite possibly biased, opinion. This is frustrating as it gives women a bad reputation and does nothing to help us when we are oppressed.

  2. The details of this article are biased towards a man who neglects his wife. But what if the opposite is true? Are the examples even relevant?
    I am witnessing a husband who shows signs of emotional neediness, because the wife is neglectful. I hoped to find some insight here… Ah well.

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