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17 Main Signs of Emotional Neglect in Marriage and How to Deal with the Problem

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My spouse and my love, this stranger who ignores me: how to overcome emotional neglect.

My spouse and my love, this stranger who ignores me how to overcome emotional neglect.

Emotional neglect in marriage and how to live with an emotionally distant spouse?

The signs of emotional neglect in marriage are numerous, and it’s essential to identify them in time. Actually, the neglect in a relationship is an issue more serious than it seems. There is nothing more unfortunate than to see your spouse thoroughly ignore your presence. Living with someone in the same house with whom you were complicit and realizing that he or she now gives you the same place as a piece of furniture can be psychologically destructive. Alas, this is the daily life of many couples.

It is worth mentioning that there is a big difference between emotional fatigue and emotional neglect. The first one is usually temporary, a small dispute causing a separation. Each partner simply wants to take a breath and get their minds off the other, to avoid adding fuel to the fire. Emotional neglect is another matter. One partner deliberately ignores their partner and makes no effort to show affection or at least support. What are the warning signs, and how can you reverse the trend?

This process is rarely sudden. Usually, we don’t notice it until many of the bridges are already broken. That’s probably the reason many people deny its existence. All excuses are good to avoid facing the truth.

  • “No, these days my husband has a lot of work, it’s stress, he’ll get over it.”
  • “His boss is bullying him, he’s just a little stressed out. I have to give him time to get over it.”
  • “He’s a bit angry because I’ve been busy recently. As soon as I get free, everything will be fine.”

These are great excuses to avoid seeing what’s going on, but over time you’ll realize that the situation is far more complex than it looked. What are the signs that should alert you to the danger? What are the neglectful husband or neglected wife symptoms?

1. When two strangers share a house…

You often have the impression that your spouse would not even notice your absence. Your partner lives with you, but it would be more accurate to call your daily life a co-existence and not a life together. No matter how hard you try to get his attention, he prefers to stay alone in his corner. All your attempts to get his attention fail because he always has a strong counter-argument.

  • He can’t watch TV with you because he’s tired, he had a hard day.
  • You can’t go out because he hasn’t slept soundly for several nights, he needs to recover.
  • You can’t eat together because he has something to do before (documents to write, to read, etc.)

At first, all these excuses will seem rational, but as time goes by, you will realize that they all have one purpose: to deprive you of his presence. So, don’t ask yourself why my husband neglects me, start acting to improve your relationship.

2. Not really curious about what’s going on in your daily life

If you work together, you’ll have a rough idea of what’s going on in his everyday life. If not, don’t expect to know. He won’t want to share, and he won’t let you share with him. So don’t try to tell him how your day went. He’s not interested in that at all.

If you try too hard to tell him, you’ll be faced with two reactions.

He listens to you, but you could have been just as successful talking to a wall because he’s not there at all. He won’t even pretend to be concerned about what you’re telling him,

He will immediately find a reason to avoid listening to you.

  • “Wait, I’ll take my bath first, you can tell me later.”
  • “Just a minute, I’m going to the bathroom, I’ll be right there.”
  • “Give me à few minutes, I have a task from the office to complete.”

In some cases, he will simply pretend to be asleep to get some peace. Don’t try to understand his state of mind or wait for him to give you explanations. You are a victim of spousal neglect now you have to find a way to deal with it.

3. Destroy the house if you want, I don’t care…

Every couple has clashes. Each individual has his or her personality. Having different opinions and little hiccups is perfectly normal. It may seem normal and even very positive to never argue with your partner. This is a mistake. If you never have a hiccup, it means that one partner is psychologically dominating the other. And this is far from a positive sign.

If you find that your spouse is totally unresponsive to your actions, whatever they may be, it’s dangerous.

  • You come home late, he or she is totally impassive.
  • You come home drunk, he or she is completely unaffected.
  • You go out with clothes or accessories that he has never seen before, he doesn’t even try to know when you bought them.
  • You change your hairstyle, no reaction.
  • You start renovating the house, everything suggests that he doesn’t live with you because he doesn’t even try to get involved in the process. It’s borderline if he even pretends to notice that something is going on.

If your partner is engaging in this behavior, this is an obvious sign of marital neglect or neglect in relationships.

4. You are definitely useless…

Usually, it’s precisely this point that raises the alarm. Any spouse who faces this problem is feeling neglected in marriage. Nothing you do, absolutely nothing, seems positive to him. He systematically criticizes everything, even the clothes he bought for you. No matter how hard you try, nothing will help. You will become overnight very fat, too thin, not enough well-made up, sexually useless, greedy, incredibly ill-bred or on the contrary too snobbish. There’s no need to change to please him, you won’t succeed. If he criticizes your weight gain, he will also criticize your efforts to lose it.

  • “Do you think you’re still 20 or what?”
  • “You already weren’t able to work out intensely when you were young, you think you’ll be able to do it now.”
  • “Why do you bother, you’re not even one of those people that thinness makes beautiful.”
  • “Are you doing it on purpose or what, do you really think we can afford to pay your bills when you get sick from this unnecessary sports activity?”
  • “Well, the guy’s into sports. You want to attract girls to your bed now. You’re not getting any younger.”
  • “You really think that if you spend your time like that, men in their twenties will pay attention. Face your age, come on.”

Needless to mention, it will also be useless to explain to him that you are trying hard for him. You won’t find favor in his eyes. He will call you a liar, a clown, accuse you of looking for pretexts or wanting to fool him.

Prevalence of abusive relationships – Source : Mentalhelp.net

Prevalence of abusive relationships

Prevalence of abusive relationships – Source : Mentalhelp.net

Prevalence of abusive relationships

It is a form of psychological torture which is often very difficult to bear.

5. To live happily, I live with my friends… 

That you will sometimes have the feeling of being in a couple not with him (or her), but with all his/her friends. Either they will be permanently at home, or he (or she) will be permanently at their homes. Don’t expect to convince him or her to stay home alone with you from time to time. He or she will find a good reason not to. His friend is in trouble. He is sick. He needs him. Last week, he promised to help him with X and Y. In fact, they’ve been planning this outing for a few weeks now, so he can’t just bail out at the last minute.

There will be plenty of reasons to do so, and that’s if he’s willing to answer you. He can also adopt another attitude and simply act silently. He won’t hide his purpose, but he won’t pay any attention to your complaints. The excuse is usually: I’m tired of your jealousy, I’m not cheating on you, I’m with my friends. You can come any time to check. He knows you won’t come for fear of looking ridiculous. In this case, the partner isn’t just feeling ignored in a relationship, he is also feeling ashamed. He is fully aware that he’s now playing second fiddle to his spouse, but he can’t even object to it without looking like an idiot or an ultra-jealous freak.

6. For heaven’s sake, shut up…

This is pretty much along the same lines as the first two signs. But in this case, the partner won’t hesitate to be verbally abusive to force you to shut up. You start to relate him some event, and before you have even finished the first sentence, you are interrupted.

  • Look, you’re the only one interested in this kind of nonsense.
  • Let’s talk about it tomorrow, I’m tired.
  • Well, this kind of story happens to you every day.

He will sometimes use very violent words to hurt his spouse.

7. You’re making love anymore, you have just sex…

The reason many people prefer sex with people with whom they have an emotional connection is that these interactions are deeper. The act isn’t physiological; it is more spiritual. One has not only sexual relations with his partner, one shares with him his emotions and sensations. That’s why we usually engage in a long prelude to increase these feelings.

The most glaring factor of negligence in marriage is the total absence of prelude when one of the partners wants a strictly physical relationship without any emotional connotation. The husband or wife feeling neglected, but the other spouse doesn’t care.

8. Excuse me, I don’t want to, not now…

This is the aggravated version of the previous sign, when one partner simply doesn’t want to have any sexual contact with the other. None of the partner’s efforts will be successful. Even if the one who wants to make love stands naked in front of his spouse, it wouldn’t make any difference.

If the partner is in a good mood, he will ask him to get dressed. Otherwise, he will face not only a rejection, but his partner will try to humiliate him by letting him know it is because of him/her he/she is no longer in the mood. The spouse will try to understand : “Why my husband shows no emotion?” She can even question him, but he won’t answer.

9. Goodbye intimacy and friendship…

No, here, it is not about sexual intimacy, but about intimacy in behavior and communication. Touching each other, looking into each other’s eyes, caressing each other from time to time, all these moments are important in the life of a couple. When they disappear and the partners can’t even look into each other’s eyes while talking, the situation is serious.

10. Oh, I forgot an important date today…

If your partner forgets the date of your wedding, the date of your birthday and other important dates, you can already draw conclusions. It is not a forgetfulness from the partner, at least not an unintentional action. The spouse simply stops paying any attention to the couple and consequently to everything associated with it. This anniversary or wedding date is simply not relevant to him/her anymore, so even if he/she remembers it, he/she will not make any effort to please the other person.

11. Help me, but don’t ask me to help you…

It’s normal to ask for help from your spouse. It’s also quite natural to help him/her sometimes, even if he/she doesn’t ask for it. However, if you notice your partner asking for your help or accepting it all the time, but never feels the need to return the favor, something is wrong.

The most shocking part here is, the partner may not even mind denigrating their spouse right after the latter has helped them or even the importance of that help.

  • Are you busting my chops about that little help the other day? Well, don’t bother next time, I’ll do it myself.
  • What help, you only gave me a few seconds and I have to be grateful to you for the rest of my life?

12. Oops, sorry, I didn’t realize I was late…

You ask your partner to go with you to an event, or you have to meet at X place for an important appointment. It may be something as simple as picking up the kids from school. However, for some reason you can’ t figure out, your partner never arrives on time. He or she arrives at your event, sometimes long after it has begun. On a date, he or she shows up almost at the end. As for the children, they may even have to call to remind him they are waiting.

This is a sign of extreme neglect, when the partner’s interest in you and everything that binds you is so low that he no longer considers it worthwhile to make any effort to please you.

13. His promises count for nothing…

He promised you to help you finish the renovation of your house? He won’t do it! He swore he would come to the hospital to give you emotional support because you are afraid of the results of the tests you have given. Don’t wait for him, he won’t come. You are ill, and he has asked you not to worry. He will inform your superior himself. Therefore, consider that you are fired because he won’t do it.

No promise made will actually be kept, and every time he will have a strong reason he didn’t keep it.

“I forgot.”

“I was overloaded.”

“First, I called, no one was there, then I forgot to call back.”

Also be prepared to be humiliated after he offered to help you himself: “Yes, I promised, but do you think I’ve only got this to do? I forgot, it happens.”

14. Long-term plans? Definitely not…

Children? I don’t think it’s the right time, we’re still young. It’s better to put it off until later.

Buying a house? We don’t have enough money now, and taking out a mortgage isn’t a good idea. Let’s put it off for another day.

Doing some renovations in the house? Yes, it’s a good idea, but we’ll spend so much. Besides, I don’t think it’s necessary, it’s better to postpone it.

A new car? Actually, I don’t think it’s worth it now. Better to put it off for a while.

Your whole existence will be permanently postponed, and you will have no idea when that “later” will come. You can bring the question up again after one or two years, and your partner will again make you understand that “later” is not yet “now”.

15. Why is he irritated…

You will constantly have the feeling of walking in a minefield. Your spouse will be constantly nervous, tense. It will always seem as if you have just had a fight, even if you haven’t had any conflict for weeks. He will constantly be ready to criticize you, to denigrate you. The slightest remark, no matter how insignificant, will set him off.

Finally, you’ll even avoid talking to him so as not to trigger his wrath once again. This situation is all the more painful because the irritated partner will never explain the causes of his anger.

16. He is permanently on the defensive…

You sometimes have the feeling he’s always ready to answer your questions. It is abnormal to have retorts to everything and all the time. Your spouse will always be on the defensive. You hope to criticize him/her; you have no chance. No matter what accusation you make, he or she will always have a good reason.

He came home late… because he was with friends. — Check if you don’t believe me!

He didn’t go with you to your appointment at the hospital… because he was busy at work. — Check if you don’t trust me!

In the end, you’ll feel like an idiot because you’ll feel you’re constantly criticizing him wrongly.

17. Radical change of look

There are two options here. In the first case, the partner loses all interest in his outfit. It will cost him nothing to put on a t-shirt and jeans to escort his spouse to a fancy party. The complaints of the latter will not affect him at all.

In the second case, the partner starts suddenly to take care of himself, but not to go out with his partner. When he goes out alone or with friends, he is a real model. But, if he has to go out with his partner, he willingly adopts the role of a homeless person.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is emotional neglect a harbinger of divorce?

Not only can it be considered, it is the ultimate sign. When partners live together but as strangers, it’s dangerous for the marriage’s survival. We must admit that sometimes the couple lives in this emotional vacuum for years and even decades. Usually, one or both partners find an “appropriate” excuse for staying together.

  • Religion forbids it.
  • We have children, we stay together to keep them happy.
  • We have a business. If we split up, it can fall apart.

There is also the possibility that each partner is simply afraid to stay alone and start a new life. This situation is extremely fragile. If the couple has to face a serious crisis during this phase, they won’t be able to resist.

2. Is it possible to overcome emotional neglect?

It is only possible if the neglected spouse deals with it in time. When the emotional gap between the partners is deep, it is almost impossible to overcome. In most cases, one partner will have already learned to live without the other. Sometimes they have even found someone else who is emotionally closer to them than their spouse.

3. Is it possible to live as a couple, but without emotional intimacy?

We are tempted to answer it’s totally impossible, but it’s not quite right. Many couples do this, but most of the time they are couples in name only. Each of them lives independently of the other, even if they stay in the same house. Very often, each of them has even a new partner with whom they are fully happy. That is why it is necessary to answer this question, taking into consideration all aspects.

Yes, it is possible to co-exist without emotional intimacy. No, it’s totally impossible to have a full life as a couple without emotional intimacy.

4. Is it possible to overcome emotional neglect by arousing your partner’s jealousy?

There is nothing to lose by trying, but chances are it won’t work. There is a fundamental difference between an emotional “pause” and an emotional neglect. 

During the emotional pause, one partner is stressed and wants to take a break. He is still in love with his spouse and has no desire to lose him. In fact, the break is supposed to soothe him to bring back to mind the happy moments they have experienced together. It’s also supposed to get him or her to stop focusing on the problems they are going through.

Speaking of emotional neglect, one spouse is totally disinterested in both the life of his or her spouse and in the couple’s existence. He or she no longer feels comfortable with the relationship and perceives it either as a punishment from which he or she cannot escape, or as a burden that is poisoning his or her life. It will therefore be complicated for the abandoned party to convince him to save their relationship.

In the first case, since the partners still love each other deeply, this tactic will certainly work. In the second case, it can put a definitive end to the relationship.

5. Can emotional neglect lead to infidelity?

This is one of the main reasons for infidelity. When a husband neglects his wife or the husband feels neglected by his wife, he or she will be tempted to find some comfort elsewhere. This is the reason emotional neglect in marriage is a problem to be taken seriously.

6. Why do we usually talk about the husband’s emotional negligence and rarely about the wife’s?

This question deserves to be asked, but as an answer, we can say that the problem is more cultural.

  • Husband not emotionally supportive: what should I do?
  • I’m feeling neglected by my husband, how can I reawaken his feelings?

Most of the time, women are the ones who are willing to express their fears, their anxiety, their pain. That’s why it’s easier to find answers like what happens when a woman feels neglected in a relationship. This doesn’t mean that men are rarely victims of emotional neglect. Both genders suffer deeply from it.

How to save your relationship when everything is going wrong?

If your partner is still dear to you, don’t be rushing to give up. The situation is complex, but it’s far from hopeless. Make a clear plan of action and be positive in your approach. Stress won’t help you, if it does, only to make bad decisions.

How did we get to this point?

The first thing you need is an honest analysis. There is no point in burying your head in the sand by blaming your partner for everything and proclaiming yourself a saint. Even if your partner is mostly responsible, there must be something you did that triggered or aggravated this condition, and you must understand what it is.

  • Is this behavior new to your relationship?
  • If not, what behavior was there before, and when did things start to change?
  • What event or situation triggered this behavior?
  • Was this change sudden or slow?
  • If this behavior is not new to your relationship, why are you only paying attention to it now?
  • Has the situation worsened?
  • When did it start to get worse?

The sooner you answer these questions, the better. During your analysis, be honest with yourself, but also with your spouse. Don’t make excuses for yourself or for your spouse.

No, you are not a victim…

Being neglected, feeling neglected and ignored always hurts, but it’s not the end of the road. Playing the victim card is the easiest option. After all, you are the one being psychologically hurt. However, it’s also the quickest way to end your relationship. If your spouse neglects and belittles you, but stays with you, it means that he or she hasn’t yet found a reason to leave you. He may stay out of habit, or he may be still looking for reasons to save your relationship, or he may lack strong motives to slam the door.

By playing the victim, you immediately label him as a monster, and this can be counterproductive. Hopefully, he’ll shut down a little more and ignore any attempt to get closer. However, in most cases, the victim card will mark the end of your relationship at the same time. As long as you’ve made him the one and only bad guy, he won’t need to hang on any longer. You will have unwittingly given him the perfect reason to leave.

Don’t wait, act…

It’s normal for relationships in a couple to be like a tango, sometimes passionate, sometimes cold. However, if yours are cold, then icy, don’t wait until they are totally frozen to act. Do it gently, peacefully, without scandal. You must make your partner want to talk to you and find a solution to the problem.

Always be constructive…

A couple is two people. If you want to solve a problem, you have to do it together and especially find a solution that suits you both. Therefore, it won’t help to put all the responsibility on the partner. Act together. If you have chosen to hire a specialist, choose someone who is convenient for both of you. Make an appointment at a time that is convenient for both of you.

Briefly, make your partner feel as comfortable as you do and want to be actively involved in the process of rebuilding your relationship.

Learn to spend time together again…

It is essential to rediscover your spouse and to rebuild your relationship. This means that the couple must learn to spend time together again. Don’t rush, the beginning won’t be easy. A few minutes for a start will be enough. Start eating together, talk during the meal, discuss your daily life.

Go out together, take a walk. At the beginning, you can simply walk in your neighborhood, just to get some fresh air. If you have children, leave them with someone or leave them at home. Taking the kids on your outing won’t help the communication. If the situation is really complex, you may be tempted to talk to the kids, so you don’t have to talk together. Find low-risk topics that will keep you from bickering.

Don’t be afraid to get professional help or someone you trust…

Many couples think they can handle their problems alone. This is a fallacy because neither spouse will analyze the situation and put him/herself in his/her spouse’s shoes. For this reason, the help of a third party will be useful.  Ideally, a professional should be involved. He or she will help each spouse not only to pay attention to the other’s needs, but also to analyze his or her behavior and understand the impact that his or her actions may have on the other.

Sometimes, however, for various reasons, a couple may not be able or willing to discuss their problems with a stranger. This is quite normal. In such a case, the couple will need to find someone they can trust. A relative or friend who will help them rebuild their relationship.

Be patient…

Destruction is always faster than building. So don’t expect things to move forward quickly. Often, a partner who has taken a step back from the relationship sees only negativity in the relationship. It will take time and a lot of patience to get them to see things differently. It is also important to remember that the goal is not just to end the crisis. The aim is also to ensure that it won’t happen again.

Sometimes it’s late, or the spouse just doesn’t want to save the relationship anymore. There is no need to be stubborn or to force a relationship that has lost its purpose. Once you recognize the issues, you should either try to solve the problem or end the relationship. Avoid living in a relationship where you are psychologically tortured by the fear of being alone. Whatever your age, as long as there is life, there is hope.

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