Emotional Neglect in a Marriage: Signs and Causes and Ways to Cope

You are all familiar with the idea of happily ever after, but the reality is that happily ever after rarely comes without a few bumps in the road. Life is full of plenty of ups and downs, and there are days when everyone wishes to tune out and wait for the storm to pass—this is normal. However, when that sort of coping mechanism turns into weeks and months, this could be a sign that something much bigger is happening, such as emotional neglect in a marriage, says Shivani Sadhoo.

Emotional neglect is when someone’s attachment or emotional needs are disregarded, and this pushes couples apart.

Here, India’s top marriage counsellor Shivani Misri Sadhoo, explains what is emotional neglect in a marriage.

signs of emotional neglect in marriage by counselor shivani misri sadhoo

Signs of emotional neglect

While it could be difficult to identify emotional neglect, there are certain telltale signs that could help you recognize it in your marriage.

  • You feel like you are alone in your relationship.
  • You prefer to spend time alone instead of with your partner.
  • Your partner shuts down while you want to talk.
  • You are not certain what your partner wants from you.
  • You do not engage in social activities as a couple.
  • Your go-to person is your friend, not your partner.
  • You constantly ignore or suppress your feelings.
  • You do not feel comfortable around your family and friends.
  • You procrastinate on long-term decisions and are hesitant to move ahead with things such as having kids or buying a home.
  • There is a lack of physical intimacy.
  • You do not feel like you can be yourself with your partner.
  • You do not trust your partner

Causes of emotional neglect

The exact causes of emotional neglect might vary from one relationship to the next, but the overarching theme is a shift or transfer in the support one partner provides to the other. This may look like one partner throwing themselves into a new job or a new mom shifting her focus to her baby. And, definitely, in some cases, emotional neglect in a marriage may be the result of an extramarital affair. Sometimes emotional neglect happens due to an individual’s own attachment injuries. If a person never learned how to avail a supportive, healthy relationship in childhood, they may struggle to change that in adulthood.

Ways to cope with emotional neglect

Like maximum issues, complaining about the problem or staying silent is not going to fix anything; for committed couples, the essence of getting past this situation is working together. Here are tips on how to handle emotional neglect in a marriage.

Do not be a victim

Though your partner’s behavior might be hurtful, it is vital that you don’t play the victim card. It could be counterproductive if you do so. Yes, it is important to talk to your partner and let them know how you feel, however, it is also important that you do not rehash the same things repeatedly. Probably, the starting conversation must focus on your hurt feelings, but once you get it out, subsequent discussions need to be focused on ways to fix the problem and march on to a healthier dynamic in your relationship.

Search for any underlying factor for the behaviour

Just with any problem you tackle, it is quite important to spend some time thinking about what caused all this. Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Was your relationship always like that or did it deteriorate over time?
  • Does it feel like your spouse’s attitude changed from one day to the next?
  • Is there any situation or event that precipitated their change in behaviour?

If your partner’s emotionally neglectful conduct has always been a part of your relationship, this may be a far bigger issue than you realize. However, if you could trace this change in behavior back to a particular event, or you can say with some surety that your partner is simply going through a rough patch, that might make all the difference in how this all plays out. If being emotionally unavailable is simply how they operate, altering their behavior will be substantially harder, if it is possible at all. However, if this behavior is situational, your possibilities of mending the relationship are likely far bigger.

Be proactive

As with relationships, it takes two to tango, and while the source of neglect could be coming from your partner, it is perhaps not a good idea to merely sit back and wait it out. Remember that at times people don’t recognize their own mannerisms. So, if your partner does not realize that they are being neglectful or hurting you, you will likely never see a change since they don’t even know that something is wrong.

Talk constructively

As hard as it might be, it is vital that you and your partner invest the time to sit down and talk about your relationship. Be certain to pick a time when upcoming commitments do not put your eyes on the clock, and probably most importantly, try to do it when you have the bandwidth to deal with it. Looking to have a productive conversation when you are tired, hungry, or stressed will never be fruitful.

Also, it is important that you make the conversation constructive. Angry words, throwing accusations, and pointing fingers are not going to help. If saving your relationship is the true goal, you should approach the conversation from a position of love, understanding, and forgiveness.

Make preparation to spend some quality time together

While spending more time with an emotionally neglectful partner might seem counterintuitive, at times that could be precisely what the relationship requires. Getting some distance from the stress of daily life, work, and other demands could give everyone a little space to breathe. In the absence of “the noise,” you can spend much-required time focusing on each other. Who knows, it could be just the thing you need to rekindle the lost spark.

Be patient

Remember that problems that take months or years to play out can’t be resolved overnight.  Correcting a pattern of emotional neglect is most surely a labor of love if there ever was one.

Getting your relationship back on track requires hard work, patience, and time. If you seek professional help, keep in your mind to put your best foot forward and trust the procedure.