Marriage, a union of two hearts, is supposed to be a beautiful experience filled with love, companionship, and closeness.
From work and hobbies to social media and other distractions, sometimes spouses are too caught up with life that they forget to give their partners the emotional attention they need.
This often results in one partner feeling emotionally deprived and uncared for, like they are being taken for granted and not respected.
In marriage, neglect can be as subtle as a whisper or as loud as the bluster of thunder.
In both instances, the resulting damage can be pretty catastrophic.
Neglected spouses often feel unloved, alone, and disconnected.
Knowing the signs of emotional neglect in marriage can help you understand the causes and address them to get your marriage back on track.
Are you ready to dive in and start repairing your marriage?
- What Is Emotional Neglect?
- 17 Signs of Emotional Neglect in a Marriage
- 1. Being Verbally Abusive
- 2. Never Responding to Your Calls or Texts
- 3. Always Unreliable in Difficult Times
- 4. Failing to Take Responsibility for Their Actions
- 5. Intentionally Withholding Affection
- 6. Rarely Listening to You
- 7. Shutting Down or Withdrawing When You Raise Issues
- 8. Spending More Time With Friends Than With You
- 9. Making You Feel Defensive and Nervous
- 10. Making You Powerless and Helpless in Your Relationship
- 11. Acting Annoyed with You
- 12. Pushing You Towards Infidelity
- 13. Losing Interest in Sexual Intimacy
- 14. Making You Feel Physically and Emotionally Empty
- 15. Giving You the Silent Treatment
- 16. Not Caring Enough to Argue
- 17. Triggering Your Loneliness and Grief
- What Causes Emotional Neglect in a Marriage?
- Is Emotional Neglect a Type of Emotional Abuse?
- Does Emotional Neglect Give You Grounds for Divorce?
- How to Deal with Spousal Neglect
What Is Emotional Neglect?
Emotional neglect is a form of abuse where one partner fails to meet their spouse's emotional needs.
In a marriage setting, your spouse can emotionally neglect you if they consistently fail to attend to, notice, and respond to your feelings.
This behavior could include anything from ignoring you when you are talking, not apologizing for their mistakes, to even refusing to express love and affection.
It can also include making decisions without consulting your spouse.
Neglecting your partner's emotional needs can result in adverse long-term effects on your marriage and mental health.
Some of these consequences include the following:
- Feelings of isolation: A partner may feel isolated or not understood if their emotional needs are neglected. In severe cases, it can cause depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
- Strained communication: A lack of attention and communication can lead to a breakdown in emotional intimacy and foster argumentative or unproductive interactions.
- Emotional damage: Neglecting your partner's feelings can make them feel hurt, rejected, and worthless.
- Resentment: If one partner feels neglected, they eventually become resentful and contemptuous toward the other. It will definitely create a rift between you and your spouse, making it challenging to repair your relationship.
- Loss of respect: When one partner fails to recognize and show appreciation for the other’s needs, it often results in a loss of respect and trust and could lead to the marriage's demise.
17 Signs of Emotional Neglect in a Marriage
Marriage is a partnership that requires effort, communication, and understanding.
However, when emotional neglect enters the picture, it can damage the relationship and create a disconnect between the partners.
This type of neglect often manifests in numerous ways, some of which aren't always easy to recognize. Here are some common symptoms that may indicate emotional neglect in your marriage:
1. Being Verbally Abusive
Verbal abuse is a major sign of emotional abuse that humiliates and degrades the victim. Verbal abusers often rely on insults, criticism, put-downs, and threats to maintain control over their partners.
Abusers use this behavior to create guilt, fear, and shame in the victim while leaving them feeling unworthy of respect.
When this happens repeatedly, the victim will start losing faith in their judgment. And if left unchecked, it can result in severe psychological and emotional damage, leaving the victim depressed with low self-esteem.
2. Never Responding to Your Calls or Texts
It's discouraging and even downright heartbreaking when your spouse doesn't answer your calls or respond to your texts. However, when this becomes a regular pattern, it can border on emotional abuse and neglect.
When they do this, they're trying to convey, “I don't care enough about you to pick up your calls.”
Your partner isn't giving you the level of communication and reassurance you need to feel safe in your marriage. They're also openly showing you that you're not worth their time and energy.
3. Always Unreliable in Difficult Times
Do you often avoid your spouse when something traumatic happens to you? Do you find yourself calling your friends or family members when you need help instead of going directly to your partner?
It's perfectly normal to turn to people close to us when we're in trouble. However, your partner should be the first person you go to for emotional support and comfort during tough times.
They should be the first person you call during an emergency.
If you're always avoiding them during times of distress, then your relationship is in deep trouble. You're likely not getting the love and support you need from them, and it will eventually lead to resentment and hurt.
4. Failing to Take Responsibility for Their Actions
“It's not my fault; you pushed me to do that,”
“I didn't do that. Where is the evidence?”
No matter how it's delivered or dressed, these phrases only point to a lack of accountability and ownership from your partner.
It shows that they don't value you enough to be accountable for the part they played or the damage they caused. It also indicates their lack of willingness to work and grow with you as a couple.
Remember, shifting the blame only serves as a barrier to communication and understanding each better.
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5. Intentionally Withholding Affection
Intentionally withholding affection from your partner in a marriage is a sign of disregard and even cruelty. It’s not just about the lack of physical touch; it's also about feeling ignored or excluded.
When your spouse withholds their affection, they're essentially cutting you off from a key part of the relationship, leaving you feeling isolated and alone.
It can be particularly damaging if your partner habitually withholds affection, as it sends the message that they don't care about or value your feelings and needs.
6. Rarely Listening to You
Emotional distance can cause your partner to tune out when you're talking to them.
Whether you're sharing something important or telling them a mundane detail about your day, they will likely not listen.
You feel unheard and misunderstood, leading to frustration and resentment.
This lack of communication can become detrimental if it continues, leaving you feeling isolated and neglected within the relationship.
All healthy marriages are built on mutual trust, a strong connection, and good communication. This includes expressing yourself without fear of judgment, criticism, and neglect.
7. Shutting Down or Withdrawing When You Raise Issues
Does your partner shut down when you try to bring up a problem or discuss something that is bothering you? Do they immediately become defensive and start avoiding conversations about it?
If your answer yes to both questions, your spouse might be emotionally not looking after you.
Whether they're aware of their actions, the damage is already done; ultimately, you feel dismissed and ignored.
Emotional withdrawal is a sign that your spouse is avoiding the issues at hand. This damages your relationship as it slowly chips away at the trust needed to sustain it.
8. Spending More Time With Friends Than With You
Does it feel like your partner is putting your relationship last on their list of priorities?
Do they spend more time with their friends, leaving you feeling taken for granted?
Understandably, your spouse may need some time away from you. However, prioritizing their friends, acquaintances, or hobbies over spending quality time with you is thoughtless and uncaring.
It implies they'd rather be around other people than with you, impacting how secure and supported you feel in a relationship.
9. Making You Feel Defensive and Nervous
We've all been around a friend who changes their voice, mannerisms, or behavior around their partner. They may even become someone else entirely – someone who doesn't represent the real them.
It's not uncommon to feel like you can't be yourself around your spouse. The pressures of marriage, expectations from each other, and a need to stay connected can cause us to act differently in their presence.
But if this lasts longer than a few weeks, it could signal a bigger issue. Why can't you be yourself around them? Is it because you feel like they don't accept or appreciate who you are? Are you scared that they will judge you or criticize you?
Always being on the defensive around your spouse can be incredibly harmful and draining to your relationship.
10. Making You Powerless and Helpless in Your Relationship
No one enjoys feeling powerless and helpless. However, it's common for couples to ignore this feeling, hoping it will go away.
You may feel directionless and have a crippling lack of clarity or control when you think about the future of your relationship.
If these feelings have lingered for some time, you're likely in an unhealthy relationship. Take the initiative and try to get things back on track by having honest conversations with your partner.
11. Acting Annoyed with You
When your spouse pulls away from you, it's natural to do everything possible to pull them towards you. But if every time you do this, it only seems to exacerbate the situation further, then it's apparent that they are annoyed and don’t want to be close.
They may get angry at the slightest of things. And in some cases, the smallest gestures or comments can be met with an unkind reaction and a temper tantrum.
This emotionally exhausting behavior indicates that your relationship is already on shaky ground.
12. Pushing You Towards Infidelity
Emotional neglect in a relationship can definitely push you towards infidelity. The loneliness resulting from the lack of attention will make your life feel monotonous and uneventful.
You may look elsewhere for validation and attention if this isn't addressed. The neglect fuels a physical or emotional attraction to other people around you.
Chances are, you'll be attracted to someone who understands and supports you in an attempt to find fulfillment outside your marriage.
13. Losing Interest in Sexual Intimacy
The absence of an emotional connection in your marriage will eventually pave the way for declining sexual intimacy.
You'll notice that your partner never responds to your advances and shows no signs of physical attraction toward you. They may often say, “I'm really not in the mood right now.”
Their lack of interest indicates that they've already emotionally checked out of the marriage. Consequently, you'll start feeling emotionally empty, undesirable, and resentful.
14. Making You Feel Physically and Emotionally Empty
Your marriage and relationship will likely not be the only thing making a hit. If the neglect is extreme, your spouse’s emotional withdrawal will impact your personality and health.
You may stop putting any effort into self-care and no longer take pride in yourself. You feel ashamed of your appearance and even avoid looking in the mirror. You may develop frequent headaches, stomachaches, or sleep disturbances in some intense cases.
15. Giving You the Silent Treatment
This list wouldn't be complete without mentioning the silent treatment. It's the most obvious sign of emotional abuse and avoidance in any relationship.
The silent treatment means your partner has completely shut down, refusing to talk to you about what's bothering them and how it’s impacting you.
They may also avoid engaging in any form of communication with you apart from a few grunts and monosyllabic responses.
It may be accompanied by a cold, distant attitude that makes it hard for you even to approach the topic. This treatment can be incredibly damaging to any relationship, as you feel helpless and afraid.
Remember, the silent treatment is an act of control used by emotionally abusive partners to avoid addressing issues in a mature and healthy way.
16. Not Caring Enough to Argue
If Hollywood romance and love stories are anything to go by, marriage should be a bed of roses, full of bliss, and a happily ever after. However, this isn't the case.
Couples fight a lot – about money, parenting, in-laws, and even the most minor things, like who should water the plants.
While many people think that fighting is a symptom of a dying marriage, most experts will tell you that it is quite healthy. Fights often lead to compromise, understanding, and a stronger bond.
If your marriage lacks this kind of conflict, it's probably because one or both of you has checked out. The lack of arguing is a sign that you are both emotionally neglecting each other, or one of you is bottling up their grievances.
17. Triggering Your Loneliness and Grief
We've all heard the phrase “married but single.” It's the perfect phrase to describe a situation where you feel lonely even when in a relationship.
You might sleep on the same bed, live under the same roof, and share every meal, but you still feel like you're worlds apart.
Feeling abandoned and isolated in your relationship is an incredibly painful experience. And even after numerous attempts to bridge the gap, if your partner refuses to engage in meaningful conversation, these feelings will not disappear overnight.
What Causes Emotional Neglect in a Marriage?
Marriage is a journey that can be full of surprises. Sometimes, these surprises are not always pleasant.
And one such unpleasant surprise is emotional distance, which has caused havoc in many marriages. Sadly, there are numerous reasons why a spouse might neglect their partner emotionally.
- Busy lifestyle
- Lack of trust
- Different expectations
- The birth of a child
- Poor communication
Is Emotional Neglect a Type of Emotional Abuse?
Yes, emotional neglect can be considered a form of emotional abuse if it’s ongoing. When someone is emotionally neglected in a relationship, it can result in feelings of worthlessness and insecurity. It can also lead to profound sadness and feelings of abandonment, and isolation.
Emotional abuse is any behavior intended to control, belittle, or isolate another person through fear, humiliation, and verbal insults.
This neglect can cause immense psychological damage and leave long-term scars if not addressed early. As such, you should never take it lightly.
Does Emotional Neglect Give You Grounds for Divorce?
Yes. Feeling emotionally neglected by your husband or wife can be grounds for a divorce. That's because it's impossible to exist and thrive in a marriage without an emotional or mental connection.
But don't be too quick to contact a divorce attorney. Try working things out first. Speak to your partner and resolve the issues that led to the neglect. If things don't improve, then consider looking into a divorce as a last resort.
Remember, marriages are held together by compassion, love, and mutual understanding of each other. If these key ingredients are missing, there is no point in going on.
How to Deal with Spousal Neglect
Lamenting, complaining, and being vocal by saying, “My husband doesn't acknowledge my emotions” or “My wife hasn't been the most emotionally supportive person on the planet,” won’t solve the issue.
The best option is to take matters into your own hands and learn how to address the issue head-on before everything gets worse.
If you still want to save your marriage despite the dwindling connection, here are six tips to guide you:
Find a Productive Way to Solve the Issues
Is one of you losing feelings? Was there a major shift in your relationship, such as the birth of a child, that might explain the rift?
Sit down together and discuss the root cause of your issue. Pick the right time, try to be loving and compassionate in your demeanor, and avoid being judgmental.
We all deal with issues differently, and keeping an open mind will get you much further in crafting solutions.
Be Honest and Open About Your Feelings
Beating around the bush when expressing your feelings will create a deeper rift in your marriage. Not only is it hypocritical, but it's also deceptive and unlikely to lead to a genuine understanding between you.
Be sure to express your feelings without hurting the other person. Also, avoid making assumptions and taking things out of context. Instead, talk about the issues clearly and respectfully.
Rekindle the Spark with Quality Time
Take a break from your kids and the daily grind to enjoy quality time with your spouse. Plan a romantic dinner or weekend getaway, and catch up with each other without any distractions.
Do something you both enjoy, even if it's just going out for coffee or walking hand in hand. This will help you reconnect and rebuild your relationship.
Practice Self-Love and Self-Care
Practicing self-care is a key ingredient in any healthy relationship. And it's especially essential when you're in an emotionally neglectful relationship.
Take some time each day to do something for yourself. Try a new hobby, read a book, go for a run, or even enjoy a scoop of your favorite ice cream.
Whatever makes you happy, do it!
Seek Professional Help
Many couples get back together with the help of professionals or marriage counselors. These experts will be impartial regarding your marital issues and provide valuable ideas for restoring your connection.
Consider individual and couples therapy to work on yourself and the marriage. Seeing your own contribution to the issues (even if your spouse has been the neglectful partner) can help you resolve the challenges more effectively.
Let Go of the Negativity
Are you feeling emotionally neglected by your partner? If so, it's understandable that you may fall into a cycle of negative thinking and hopelessness.
You may unknowingly hold onto a victim mindset, rehash the same arguments, and harbor endless resentment.
But this can worsen matters as negativity only leads to further hopelessness and despair. You will be stuck in the same cycle, making it harder to move forward.
Emotional neglect can be difficult and painful to experience, especially in a marriage. When your partner starts exhibiting signs of emotional unavailability, taking action before things get worse is essential.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to pinpoint signs of emotional neglect. But once you recognize them in your marriage, try working together to restore and rebuild your connection.
It is possible to overcome these issues with patience and effort before they kill your marriage. By nurturing connection and trust between partners, a married couple can create a strong foundation for lasting love and understanding.