Emotional neglect in marriage is one thing no one prays for or wishes upon themselves. This is because neglect in marriage is often a terrible experience and a lack of emotional connection in marriage is one way to make any relationship crash within record time.
Imagine for one second that you are a wife feeling neglected by her husband. His lack of emotional support is as clear as day and you have done all you can to get his attention back to yourself. Can you feel the hurt and pain that accompanies just these thoughts?
If the mere thought of being neglected by your husband elicits these reactions in you, can you imagine what the people who actually have to live through this experience truly feel? It would be beyond imaginable!
In any case, if you have been feeling neglected in marriage, this article is especially for you. In this article, we will show you how to handle those feelings, the signs of emotional neglect in marriage, and some proven strategies for overcoming emotional neglect in marriage.
What is emotional neglect in marriage?
Before getting into the detailed definition of emotional neglect in marriage, it is important to first understand what ‘neglect in marriage’ means. Neglect, as a form of abuse, is simply the act of failing to care for someone properly.
While this comes with its fair share of mental and emotional trauma on the part of the recipient, neglect can be passive (when it comes from a place of ignorance or unintentional dissociation from a person) or active (when it is calculated, premeditated, and intentional).
Neglect in marriage occurs when one (or both) parties fail to be there for themselves and their family in marriage. It usually leads to an emotional separation or estrangement and can lead to broken homes within record time.
Can a marriage survive without an emotional connection?
The simple answer to this is ‘no.’ Although, with some effort and physical exertion, it is possible to stay put in a relationship where there is no emotional connection, over time you may find yourself wanting out of that marriage.
Hence, one of the major challenges with emotional neglect in marriages is that if it goes unresolved, the marriage may end in a divorce.
What is an example of emotional neglect?
To help you get a better mental picture of what emotional neglect truly is, here is a graphical example of the scenario.
Imagine you return home from work after a long and terrible day. You are bristling and can’t wait to get back home and into the arms of your husband.
Then, you walk into the door and you meet a husband who is so focused on something else he doesn’t even notice that all you have said to him since you walked into the door have been one-word answers.
At this point, it is easy to brush it off and call his response ‘the result of a busy workday.’
However, imagine this continues over the next few months and you even try to reach out to him, only to be met with chastisement and a sense of defensiveness from him.
However, before making a final decision, take out some time to consider every factor in play like the wellbeing of your children, the extent of trauma/abuse you have endured, and any other factor you feel is important.
25 signs of emotional neglect in marriage
Now that we have examined all these, here are some of the classical signs of neglect in marriages.
1. Your feelings and thoughts are neither heard nor respected
If you feel like you have started becoming a relic in your marriage (your feelings and opinions do not matter to your spouse any longer), it could be a sign that you are dealing with emotional neglect in your marriage.
2. You feel lonely
One of the emotional neglect symptoms in marriage is the feeling of being lonely. Do you feel alone even when your partner is physically there? That may be a sign staring you in the face.
One of the perks of being married is that you have someone who loves and supports you completely.
However, if a time comes when you find yourself seeking the support of strangers more than the support of your spouse, it could be because of emotional neglect in marriage.
4. Your spouse would rather support others than you
How does your spouse relate to you when it comes to choosing between you and others? Do they tend to lean in the direction of supporting other people more than they support you?
If they do, they may be neglecting you emotionally.
5. Your spouse is more concerned with friends and family
When the time comes to make things happen for their friends and family, they are always available and would do anything to see those goals achieved. However, not showing that same level of commitment to you could be a sign of emotional negligence.
What does this imply? This simply suggests that a lack of physical intimacy (in the absence of other factors like a decline in health or increasing external pressure) could be a sign of emotional and physical neglect in a marriage.
7. No empathy
When one partner is going through hard times, they should be able to share their challenges with their spouse and receive empathy and significant acts of help from them. When this is absent in your marriage, it could be a sign that something is wrong.
8. You are always being interrupted, even when what you want to say is important
This may seem like it is little, but it says a lot about the state of your relationship every time.
When a person interrupts you, it could mean that they aren’t listening to you, consider what they have to say more important than what you are saying, or simply think you are being a nuisance to them.
Communication is the foundation of every successful relationship. When it feels like you are beginning to struggle with communicating with your spouse, it could be because they are no longer as emotionally available as they once were.
10. You are one of the last people to find out the details about your spouse’s life
They can be undergoing or even making major changes you would know nothing about., this can involve big changes like switching jobs or even taking a loan.
11. At extreme levels, you may not even know about these changes at all
At some other times, you may not even know about the changes that your spouse has made at all, until it has become too late or until you hear them from another person.
For example, they may take a loan and you wouldn’t hear a word of it from them until the debt collectors come for your assets.
12. You simply feel unappreciated
Another classical sign of emotional neglect in marriage is simply feeling unappreciated. One of the things that would begin to happen when you feel neglected by your husband or wife is that you would begin to feel unappreciated.
Does it feel like you are putting in so much effort and your spouse just turns blind eyes to them all? That could be a sign right there.
This is the flip side of the conversation that was raised from the last point.
When you find out that you are suddenly fighting over everything (including the things you would have once settled by having a decent conversation like adults), it may be a sign of emotional neglect in your marriage.
15. Your spouse does all they can to stay away from you
This could manifest itself as working longer hours, taking frequent breaks that involve traveling alone, or the simple act of sleeping in another bedroom (especially if this wasn’t always the norm for you).
16. You are becoming more independent than usual
And this isn’t in the right way. It is simply because trying to reach out to them always leaves you more emotionally distraught and downcast. So, you would rather spend your time and efforts trying to figure things out than confide in your spouse.
Once, you used to be completely honest with your spouse even when you messed up about something.
However, a sign of emotional neglect in marriages is the abundance of secrets. As a husband feeling neglected by his wife (or vice versa), you would rather keep things to yourself than open up to your spouse about them.
18. Your spouse becomes too critical
Another sign of emotional neglect in marriage is that your spouse may become too critical of you.
At this point, nothing you do ever satisfies or makes them happy again and it just seems like they are on a never-ending quest to show you just how wrong you are, every time.
Remember we already indicated that emotional negligence can be passive or active, right?
Another clear sign of emotional neglect in marriages is the silent treatment you would begin to get from your spouse. Under these conditions, nothing you do would ever elicit a response from them again.
20. Your partner begins to slack in taking care of themself
Emotional neglect doesn’t only affect the other person. It also takes its toll on the person dishing it out in the marriage. Sooner or later, the underlying tension in the marriage will begin to reflect as your a failure of your spouse to take good care of themself.
21. You begin to withdraw
When it becomes evident to you that there’s no more emotional intimacy in the relationship, your knee-jerk reaction would be to withdraw; from your spouse, the relationship, and everything that reminds you of what is going on in your marriage.
22. Zero affection
Once emotional intimacy begins to die down, affection would decline with it. At some point, you may even find yourself struggling to feel any form of affection for your spouse. This is usually after emotional neglect has gone on for a long time in the marriage.
23. Super awkward conversations
When you finally get over yourselves and make some half-hearted attempts at communication, your conversations may be full of awkward pauses, so many “uhms” and uncomfortable moments of silence. This is usually the result of drifting apart over time.
24. You are suddenly walking on eggshells around each other
The little things you used to be carefree about (like walking around the house in your underwear or stealing a cookie piece from your spouse’s plate during dinner) become unappealing for you.
Then again, your spouse always seems to be cranky these days so you aren’t exactly sure what would set them off. You would rather hold your breath around them than be at the receiving end of their anger.
25. You are beginning to consider quitting the marriage or seeking professional help
This is usually the final stage of emotional neglect in marriage. Beyond this is what is usually considered the breaking point; the point at which one person would make the decision to call it quits or seek professional help.
If you have gotten to this point, you may want to take the next section of this article more seriously.
How to deal with emotional neglect in marriage
Here are a few pointers to help you sort through your mind and define the most profitable direction you should move in, once you have confirmed that you are dealing with emotional neglect in marriage.
1. Take a while to process your feelings
It is okay to feel hurt and angry with your partner. If you don’t process these feelings, you may end up making the wrong decisions.
2. Try to communicate
This may be a bit difficult considering the communication lapses you may have noticed in your marriage. However, it is important that you open up to your partner about how their actions have been affecting you negatively.
Under these conditions, therapy works wonders. Alongside your spouse, you may want to map out time to consult with a professional who would help you sort through your feelings and make sense of what’s going on in your marriage.
Emotional neglect in marriage, if left unattended, can lead to breakdown and divorce. Consider the 25 signs we have discussed in this article if you feel like you are currently going through this in your marriage.
Then again, counseling and professional guidance from qualified therapists is one way to let go of the pain and move on with your life. To get started with therapy, click here to find expert therapists near you.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Sylvia Smith loves to share insights on how couples can revitalize their love lives in and out of the bedroom. As a writer at Marriage.com, she is a big believer in living consciously and encourages couples to adopt this principle in their lives too. Sylvia believes that every couple can transform their relationship into a happier, healthier one by taking purposeful and wholehearted action.