How To Deal With Emotional Neglect In Marriage

Being in a relationship means taking on many commitments. Whether you’re happily engaged, married, or just started dating, you have the feeling that you’re doing things for each other effortlessly. You’ll probably go through this phase without having to give it too much thought.

However, what if you start feeling a sense of loneliness in your marriage? Although you feel that you respect, love, and cherish your significant other, it can come to a situation where you feel like something is missing. This can be a sense of longing or the mere realization that you’re no longer spending enough time together. This may mean that your partner has become emotionally detached.  

These may all be valid doubts, and many people turn to couple workshops for deepening relationships in order to find the answers to pressing issues. Read on to learn more about emotional neglect in long-term relationships and how to overcome it. 

Why Do I Feel Lonely In My Marriage?

Why Do I Feel Lonely In My Marriage?

While you might be familiar with the feeling of anxiety and loneliness among people in general, such feelings seem to be a bit out-of-place in a committed, romantic relationship. There can be several reasons why you or your spouse may feel neglected or forgotten by the other person: 

  • Childhood emotional neglect: This can be a traumatic experience that may follow you well into adulthood and can have severe effects on how you relate with other people and how you build relationships. Some adults who were emotionally neglected or deprived in childhood tend to seek partners who are to some degree emotionally detached or neglectful as well. 
  • Insecure attachment pattern: It usually involves having poor boundaries, unrealistic expectations, love addiction, and persistent fear of separation and abandonment. This can also be a result of earlier trauma and experiences in previous relationships. 
  • A recent traumatic experience: Trauma can create distance between you and your spouse, and open a number of unresolved questions. Psychological wounds need time and processing to fully heal, and this sometimes causes deeper bonding after the traumatic event, and sometimes shows us as withdrawal from your partner. 
  • You or your partner are trying to cope with emotional burnout: You can’t devote enough energy and time like before, despite the best intentions. This can be a way to recharge, so it’s probably best to talk it out and remain patient. 
  • Your partner is consciously or unconsciously ignoring your needs: They may be disregarding them as silly, immature, or “just too much”. If that is the case, you’re most likely dealing with emotional neglect. 

What Does Emotional Neglect Do To A Person?

Emotional neglect can be roughly defined as a situation in which the emotional needs of an individual are invalidated, overlooked, or disregarded by their significant other or parent. While verbal and physical abuse can be more or less obivous, emotional neglect is often not easy to identify and recognize. It doesn’t leave any visible bruises, at least not at first glance. 

It revolves around the absence of doing what is necessary and beneficial for the significant other, and it can reflect through: 

  • The feeling of low self-worth or poor self-esteem
  • Persistent feelings of emptiness
  • Disconnection from others
  • Guilt for not being able to trust other people

How Does Emotional Neglect Affect Attachment Relationships?

How Does Emotional Neglect Affect Attachment Relationships?

Relationships rely greatly on validation and support from each of the partners. If there’s emotional neglect in your marriage or long-term relationship, you are likely to have the following experiences:

  • You might feel abandoned by your partner
  • Your partner can seem absent-minded or shut down when you talk
  • You’re not socializing together anymore
  • You seek emotional support from your friends
  • You tend to consistently suppress your emotions
  • You don’t trust your significant other anymore
  • You have a tendency to procrastinate with big decisions in life
  • You have stopped being physically intimate as you used to

Can A Marriage Survive Emotional Detachment?

Sudden and unexpected emotional detachment can have harmful effects on your marriage. However, it all depends on other factors as well. Keep in mind that temporary emotional detachment is, in some cases, a way to overcome traumatic and stressful events in life. This withdrawal equips the person with more time and ability to process and give meaning to these events, allowing them to continue working on their relationship.

However, if the detachment carries on for too long and is combined with active avoidance, persistent invalidation of your emotional needs, or deliberate belittling of your attempts to discuss and approach your partner, you may have lesser chances to recuperate your marriage. Of course, you may try with the awareness that it might lead to a break-up, separation, or divorce

How To Cope With Emotional Neglect? 

When you’re completely sure that you’re having issues with emotional neglect in your long-term relationship or marriage, you may try to go step by step. Remember to take care of yourself, see what can be done about your relationship, and try some of the following tips: 

Be Patient

This is something that may be helpful as a reminder: getting your marriage back on track requires hard work, time, and patience. Before entering the whole process, remember that emotional neglect is a pattern that took years to develop, and can’t be resolved promptly. 

Examine Your Feelings And The Causes Of Their Behavior

Identifying the cause of the issue can help you receive some level of clarity and understanding. This will also help you to make constructive changes and plan out your next step. It might be useful to determine:

  • Whether your partner was neglectful from the beginning.
  • Whether they became neglectful after a while.
  • Whether their emotional investment in you was changing constantly, or abruptly.

Avoid Playing The Victim Card

Putting all the blame on the neglectful partner can seem appealing since the hurt is coming from their end. However, it’s a very unlikely way to resolve the issue. On the contrary, it will probably worsen the situation and push your partner even further away from you. Of course, it might be useful to talk openly about your feelings. However, don’t repeat that in each conversation. If you want to focus on fixing the problem and recuperating your relationship, it may be best to have constructive discussions. 

Stay Proactive 

Mirroring the detachment of your partner is probably not going to help. Also, keep in mind that some people don’t have good insight into their own patterns of behavior. This low self-awareness can furthermore lead them to further withdrawal, without realizing that they are hurting you in the process. If you know how to approach them without playing the guilt game, you’ll probably be able to make progress.

Discuss The Issue Constructively

Allocate time and energy for discussion and avoid situations when you feel irritable, tired, hungry, or generally unprepared. Despite the level of emotional hurt, it’s important to remain respectful towards each other and to avoid playing the blame game. Try to make it as constructive and solution-focused as possible. 

Be Gentle To Yourself

It may be useful to try to find ways and time to comfort yourself. This might be through relaxing activities, meditation, taking up new hobbies, and most importantly – fostering a positive self-image. While it may not bring you closer to your partner, it could provide you with more resources to recover from an emotionally stressful period or prepare you for single life, if it doesn’t work out in the end. 

Arrange For Quality Time Together

While your emotionally detached spouse might seem disinterested in spending any time with you, sometimes you need to check whether it’s actually everyday stress that’s giving them a hard time. Although it’s seemingly unfair, their detachment can serve as a well-established coping mechanism that helps them go through stress. If you pick an adequate context, you might find a way to rekindle the flame of your relationship and salvage it. 

Seek Professional Assistance

In the end, if you feel like you’ve depleted all your energy and tried all strategies, maybe it’s time to seek professional help. Of course, given that every relationship is different, you can expect different outcomes. It may help you get a better insight into your attachment pattern, identify underlying causes, and develop new ways to relate to your spouse. 

Where Can We Find A Beneficial Couple Workshop For Deepening Relationships?

When you aim to help your relationship survive a period of emotional neglect, go through various stages of separation, or PIVOT from your own insecurities and low self-worth, you can find a helping hand in our relationship advocates.  Whether you’re seeking to find common ground with your spouse and revive emotions in your marriage through our couple retreat or overcome the toll of ongoing relationship challenges in an individual setting, you can put your trust in our experienced coaching team. We have ample experience working with addictive relationships, so give us a call today!

© 2022 Lori Jean Glass, LLC | PIVOT