Emotional neglect can naturally be one of the worst things partners in a marriage suffer. Not only is it emotionally draining, it is also physically disturbing. The fact that many women are at a loss for what to do in times like this prompted me to write this article. This article is targeted at helping women through emotional neglect in their marriages. So, if you are in these shoes, you are not alone, hang in there!
- 0.1 Emotional Neglect: What It Is
- 0.2 Different Forms Emotional Neglect Can Take
- 0.3 What To Do When Your Partner Neglects You
- 1 Conclusion
Emotional Neglect: What It Is
Emotional neglect involves failing to provide support for one’s spouse, emotionally and psychologically. It comes in different forms e.g. level of attention showed to a spouse versus what should be, given the relationship, and level of response to needs for their physical wellbeing. A neglected partner may become emotionally unsatisfied because they feel that their needs are not being met in the relationship. Emotional neglect is quite the opposite of couples having an emotional connection, the lack of which has very negative consequences for the relationship.
Emotional neglect however, is different from emotional abuse as it most often doesn’t involve identifiable actions that are emotionally traumatizing to your better half. Actions like name-calling, nagging, and constant comparison are often products of emotional abuse but emotional neglect is more of a-lack-of-the-actions that promote emotional well-being. In this case, your husband doesn’t call you beautiful, doesn’t talk to you about what bothers him or prefers his time alone than being with you, his wife.
The following are some reasons your husband neglects you:
- He may not realize it- Your husband may be so consumed with work, or something else he's focused on, that he neglects you, even unintentionally and feels he is doing what’s right for your welfare. He goes on business trips regularly and you are left pining for his company, sexually and otherwise.
- Conditional love- Most partners tend to give love only when they feel loved. This is unlike the unconditional love where love is shown without expectations and regardless of situations on ground, like the love between a mother and child. Therefore, sometimes, when your husband feels less loved by you, his wife on a continual basis, it causes resentment to build up and he starts to withdraw efforts that would have originally improved your wellbeing.
- Lack of sexual attraction is also a factor that causes emotional neglect. It is most likely that your husband no longer feels the chemistry with you but doesn’t feel he should talk about it and therefore just distances him away, probably because he is getting love from some other woman.
- He may feel he is incapable of showing emotional care. Probably a problem from his childhood. According to psychologist expert, Dr. Jonice Webb, children who are emotionally neglected grow up to have a particular set of struggles. When children are regularly neglected overtime they have difficulties trusting their emotions as adults, they see their feelings as irrelevant and tend to develop coping mechanisms to disconnect them from being emotionally connected or dependent on people. Most times, these kids grow into emotionally disconnected adults who have issues/insecurities that condition them to feel incapable of love.
Different Forms Emotional Neglect Can Take
There are different forms of emotional neglect. One of them is failing to acknowledge emotional need. Sometimes, couples miss emotional cues pointed out by their partners. They fail to notice, understand or even respond to their emotions and rather focus on facts.
Here’s an example, Marie, a housewife with three little kids,- one baby included, complained to her husband that she was being stressed out and asked for little help with the work at home. She had asked her husband if she could employ a maid but he refused. He just couldn’t see the work she claimed she did that was too much.
“All you do is stay at home, cook, and take care of the children. How hard could that be? I go to work every day and you don’t expect me to come home to do your chores too”. Was his reply
Meanwhile, Marie was going through hell and feeling unsupported by her husband. He goes out at will and she can’t, because she has to look after her kids and prepare food for the family. The baby was not helping matters. She looked unkempt because she had no time to take care of herself. She was going out of her mind, but her husband didn’t see it.
What her husband did might not be intentional, but it sure was neglectful. He wasn’t paying attention to her emotions and he failed to respond to her emotional needs.
One other form of emotional neglect common with couples is the silent treatment. When a partner withdraws into silence, it could be to punish the other partner for a wrongdoing but it is never the best way to resolve issues.
What you should NOT be doing when you experience emotional neglect include:
Don’t accuse your partner
Trading accusations does nothing to resolve issues especially when you don’t have evidence that they are breaking your vows. When you decide to accuse your partner, you are passing the wrong message. It might not be intentional but it means you aren’t open to communication and that you already have a conclusion that they are the root of the problem. Chances are, they will also not be open to communication, instead they will become defensive.
Its not all the time emotional neglect happens because of infidelity or a break in connection among couples, your husband might be fighting battles of his own, listen to him and don’t just listen, understand the reasons behind his actions. He may be going through more than he is letting you see and that may be why he is withdrawing. It is advisable that as his wife, you lovingly reassure him that you are there to share his burden.
Don’t play the victim
When in this situation, try as much as possible not to make it all about you. Instead of playing the victim. Try to understand the situation and communicate to see how you both can work things through.
It never turns out good when you just assume things. Your partner might have a reason for being away. Try to find out. Don’t conclude that they are cheating on you. You might be wrong. The best thing to do is have an open communication with them instead.
Don’t get defensive
Conversations are more likely to be productive when both partners are not trying to come up with responses to justify themselves. It is quite easy to switch things up and nag to get attention, but that would barely do the trick or bring your partner closer to you
Don’t demand things
While its important to set boundaries in a relationship, you do not have to demand that they be put in place. You can clearly state your needs without being bossy about it. Declare your thoughts out to him and if he truly loves you, he will make you happy willingly.
What To Do When Your Partner Neglects You
When we face emotional neglect in our marriages, we tend to do a lot of negative thinking and self questioning which if not contained, will most definitely lead to depression. However, if you’re battling with emotional neglect, the best thing you should do is go for counseling. Individually first and then, with your spouse. Reason being that, individual counseling would present you with avenue to discover your true emotions and self, through psychotherapy. On the other hand, marriage counseling help couples learn the intricacies of marital life and the sacrifices to be made for a happy home to surface. It can also help reveal why your partner neglects you.
Aimee Harstein, a relationship coach and psychologist opines that it is quite normal for a couple to experience a disconnect in their marriage at any point in time and that it can be dealt with it. Also, there are things you should ensure you do to salvage the situation. They include:
Make sure you are not overly dependent on your partner
While you may be worried your husband is neglecting you, be honest with yourself about your expectations in your marriage. Are you depending on your husband for everything? If your answer to that is No, Kudos. But if Yes, you should change that and try meeting some of your needs, yourself. Follow your dreams and discover yourself. It is your sole responsibility to make yourself feel loved. Love thrives more when individuals have self love and are able to express it to one another.
Do not avoid confrontation
An effect of avoiding confrontation is the silent treatment. You are aware that something is wrong. But you feel talking about it might lead to more troubles, so you keep quiet while your partner keeps doing the things that make you unhappy. Don’t assume your partner should know. He doesn’t read minds. It is alright to talk about what bothers you. A book by Dr. Henry Cloud and John Townsend- How to have that difficult conversation you've been avoiding will help you have healthy confrontations and provide you with steps to having that conversation you have been avoiding, with your husband.
Effectively communicate your feelings
Learn how to communicate more clearly, the things that you feel. When communicating, do not assume. Instead, ask questions and listen carefully to what your spouse has to say. Talk to your partner about things he does that feel neglectful to you. Read powerful and simple methods for effective couples communication by Jonathan Robinson to get insights on how to communicate with your partner effectively.
Apologize if and when you are wrong
When communication takes place, there is the tendency for truths to come out. If and when you discover that you are wrong, apologize. Don’t try to make excuses for your wrong doing.
Reassure your partner
Take time to assess your relationship, be willing to make the effort to reach out to him. Figure out a way to compromise for your partner to feel reassured that you are willing to make amends for the relationship to work.
Rekindle your first love
Spend quality time with your husband to do the things you did when you were still so in love. You can go on dates to places that hold great memories for both of you, go to the movies, and play love games. It is great for reconnecting and rekindling your love.
All relationships have their uptimes and downtimes. However, for a relationship or marriage to work, you have to give it the attention it needs. Neglect is a sign that you (both) haven’t been paying the needed attention to your relationship. As I’ve said earlier, you can start with communication, help yourselves through therapy and begin to reconnect but you have to be sure that both of you are in sync with saving your marriage. Prioritize moments spent with your partner above all else and with time, your relationship will be back to way it was, or even better than when you first started.