A common complaint for couples who meet with me for counseling is “My husband ignores me” or that they’re drifting apart because one partner has become withdrawn or emotionally distant and the other person feels ignored.
Studies show that if this dynamic often leads to a pursuer-distancer pattern which can be highly detrimental to a relationship.
During a recent couples counseling session, Claire, 38, complained that Rick, 44, had been ignoring her for a long time and she felt totally disconnected from him. They still slept in the same bed but rarely had sex, and Claire stated that she was tired of trying to capture his attention.
Claire put it like this: “My husband ignores me. I love Rick, but I’m not in love with him. My mind and emotions are stretched thin because I’m under a lot of stress, and he’s not paying attention to me. When I have something important to say, he’s usually absorbed with his phone, or he’s listening to music and tuning me out.”
8 signs your husband is ignoring you
Do you often feel “My husband ignores me. Am I doing anything wrong? How can I fix this?”
If you are dealing with this my-husband-ignores-me situation but aren’t sure if it’s in your head or really happening, check out these ignorance signs to be sure:
Is it normal for a husband to ignore his wife? Why is this relationship pattern so common?
Dr. John Gottman explains that the tendency for one person to pursue and the other one to be distant is wired into our physiology and that men tend to withdraw and women tend to pursue when they’re in intimate relationships.
In his classic “Love Lab” observations, Gottman noted that this pattern of distancing and pursuing, which causes women to feel ignored by their husbands, is a major contributor to marital break-down.
He also warns that if it’s not changed, it’s a leading cause of divorce because women get tired of waiting for their partners to connect emotionally, and men often retreat without awareness of the toll it’s taking on their marriage.
Further, one of the common barriers to positive communication that can cause a husband to ignore his wife is that what he hears may be very different from what his partner is trying to communicate.
InFighting for Your Marriage, psychologist Howard J. Markman explains that we all have filters (or non-physical devices in our brains) that change the meaning of information we hear. These include distractions, emotional states, beliefs and expectations, differences in style, and self-protection (or not wanting to make ourselves vulnerable).
For example, if Claire walks in the door and says, “I have something important to tell you,” Rick may expect her to complain (and so he might ignore her), whereas she might simply be saying that something great happened at her office.
Likewise, if Rick is distracted by watching a TV show, he might not respond to Claire. The following are five other signs that your husband may be ignoring you.
The video below details reasons why a husband might ignore his wife:
Blaming your partner can damage your marriage
Truth be told, you might find yourself blaming your partner when your needs are not being met. You might also notice that you’re having the same fights repeatedly.
After a while, you’re probably not addressing the issue at hand, and a vicious cycle of resentment, frustration, and anger develops and never gets resolved.
Claire reflects, “My husband ignores me, and then, our arguments can get nasty, and we tend to make regrettable comments and blame each other for past transgressions that never get dealt with. I just want this to stop, but it hurts me badly when Rick ignores my bids for attention.
I know I contribute to our problems, but we’re both stuck.”
According to relationship counselorKyle Benson, the tendency of partners to have difficulty paying attention to each other is having a bad effect on relationships.
He says that most people are bombarded with stimuli such as messages, posts, and videos, that interfere with their ability to pay attention. As a result, this impedes their ability to give attention to their partners.
Whether couples find themselves distracted, tired, or simply preoccupied or when a guy ignores you after an argument, it’s important to understand that communication is a two-way street.
It’s a good idea when you are feeling ignored by your husband to examine your own behavior and try to modify your approach to gaining his attention.
If you feel, “My husband ignores me,” here are some ways to ensure you have your partner’s attention and are avoiding the pursuer-distancer dynamic.
The situation is not out of hand. If you feel “My husband ignores me sexually or emotionally” but don’t know how to fix it, there are some ways that can come to your rescue. Check them out:
1. Make sure you have your partner’s full attention
This means not assuming he is listening just because you’re talking. Instead, check-in: “Is this a good time to have a chat?” This may seem like common sense, but many men complain to me that their wives launch into a conversation when they’re distracted or unable to give them their full attention.
2. Slow down and ask an open-ended question
What to do when your husband ignores you?
Ask about how your partner is feeling and coping with stressors. Simply sitting down with your partner with a cup of coffee can go a long way toward improving a sense of understanding, empathy and ultimately improving communication in your relationship.
Instead of asking, “Did you have a good day,” which would elicit a yes or no answer, try asking something like “I’d love to hear how your day went.”
3. Stop the blame game
What to do when your husband says hurtful things?
Assume the best of your partner.
If you can actually embrace this concept, you and your partner will feel an almost immediate sense of relief. If you stop pointing fingers at each other and really focus on understanding each other’s perspective and showing love through your actions, your marriage will improve.
4.If your partner seems flooded, walk away but not in anger or blame
When your husband ignores you, disengage as a way to restore your composure, not to punish your partner. Take a break from dialogue for at least 10-15 minutes.
For instance, reading a magazine is a great distraction because you can flip through pages rather mindlessly. Attempt to resume a dialogue when you feel refreshed and able to talk calmly and rationally.
5. Schedule a daily “Stress-reducing conversation”
“My husband avoids me. My husband hurts my feelings and doesn’t care.”
If you are being ignored by your husband, find a regularly scheduled opportunity to unplug, confide in one another, and listen to each other while you talk about the daily stressors of your life.
This conversation is not meant to be a time to delve into relationship issues but rather to catch up or check-in with each other.
Indeed, the mindfulness and intention that goes into these daily check-ins can also be brought to bear in more spontaneous activities.
While our ability to embrace adventure is certainly restricted by the realities of a busy life, spouses can still seize the day and plan experiences together that are new, fun, and exciting.
Disrupting the routine of daily life with activities like a daily walk or even signing up for a wine tasting class can bring you and your husband closer.
On a final note
Consider new ways of expressing love, such as leaving your husband a loving note (expressing positive emotions) or cooking him a delicious meal.
These things can help restore the bond between you and your partner and help you feel closer. If you spend time daily in conversation and express love, affection, and admiration to your husband, it will foster a deeper connection and strengthen your relationship.
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.
Terry Gaspard MSW, LICSW has been a therapist and relationship expert for over 30 years. Her work focuses on helping individuals, couples, and families become more resilient, build stronger relationships and marriages, and recover after break-up and divorce. She is a contributor to nine websites including The Gottman Institute Relationship Blog and the author of the award-winning book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents Breakup and Enjoy a Happy Long-lasting Relationship.
Terry?s book, The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around, was published by Sounds True in February of 2020. Follow Terry at her website.