How To Prevent Emotional Neglect In Marriage
How do you prevent Emotional Neglect in your marriage? Fortunately, it’s quite easy.
But unfortunately, it’s also easy for Emotional Neglect to take over your marriage, leaving one or both partners feeling empty and alone. All it takes is for one or both of you to grow up with it in your family.
When Emotional Neglect happens in a marriage, it doesn’t look the same as other relationship problems, like conflict or fighting. Instead, it’s more likely to look like nothing.
Failing to notice when your partner is upset.
Failing to ask, “What’s wrong?”
Refusing to answer when your partner asks, “What’s wrong?”
Ignoring the problems between you in hopes they will go away on their own.
Keeping your festering anger to yourself.
Failing to notice or respond to your partner’s emotional needs.
Emotional Neglect in a marriage is like a quiet monster hiding under the rug. It’s not a “problem” so much as an empty space; an absence of some essential ingredient that no one knows about, but everybody misses.
If you or your partner grew up in a family that was blind to the feelings of its members, there’s a good chance that one or both of you didn’t have the chance to learn what true emotional intimacy is.
Emotional intimacy requires emotional work; like paying attention to your own feelings and the feelings of the other person, being willing to fight things out even when it hurts, and being vulnerable to the other person: all things that are NOT done in an emotionally neglectful family. All things that are NOT learned by the child growing up in it.
As a specialist in marriage therapy, I have worked with hundreds of couples, many of them experiencing Emotional Neglect in their relationships.
3 Ways Emotional Neglect Plays Out in Marriages Over Time
- Important topics, not only negative ones but maybe even positive ones too, are not talked about.
- One or both partners end up feeling deeply alone in the marriage.
- Gradually, over time, the two partners drift apart.
In these ways, the emotionally neglectful marriage gradually emotionally starves its members. Some husbands and wives feel it happening to them, while others seem to go through their days blissfully unaware.
One thing is clear: if the Emotional Neglect goes unchecked, it will eat away at the heart of the couple’s love and passion, eroding that magnetic chemistry that brought them together in the first place. They are likely, after decades of living like this, to end up feeling more like roommates than love mates.
How To Prevent Emotional Neglect In Marriage
- Ask yourself this question once every day: “What is my partner feeling right now?” Simply focusing on your husband or wife’s feelings will help you begin to tune in to him/her emotionally. You do not have to be right. When it’s possible, follow up your guess with a question to your spouse such as, for example, “You look frustrated right now. Are you?” Or, “You seem a little sad today. What’s going on?”
- Make quality time together. Emotional Neglect is not dependent upon the quantity of time. It’s all about the quality. Quality time requires a true connection, like walking and talking about something meaningful; not just taking a walk together. Bring up something you’re worried or concerned or hurt or angry or sad about. Talking with your partner about something that has feelings connected to it will deepen your connection.
- If you feel lonely in your marriage, tell your partner. The worst thing you can do is try to “protect” your partner by keeping silent about what’s wrong or what is missing for you. Tell your spouse how much you love him, and then explain that you want a more meaningful, intimate connection. If your spouse has no idea what you mean, have her read about Childhood Emotional Neglect on this blog or EmotionalNeglect.com. If she begins to understand what this means, and how it applies to her, it will open doors for you and your spouse that you never imagined were possible.
Strive to notice when your partner is upset.
Be sure to ask, “What’s wrong?”
Always give an answer when your partner asks, “What’s wrong?”
Address the problems between you in a direct and honest, but caring and compassionate way.
Accept that conflict is a healthy part of every strong relationship.
Voice your anger to your partner so it will not have a chance to fester.
Do your best to notice and respond to your partner’s emotional needs.
Usually invisible in your childhood and in your marriage, Emotional Neglect has the power to drain your energy, dampen your joy, and make you feel disconnected, lost and alone.
But this means that you have the power to make the invisible visible and the unspeakable speakable. Drag the Emotional Neglect in your marriage out from under the rug, shine a light on it and say:
“ I love you and I want to be closer to you. Can we please work on this together?”
To learn much more about Emotional Neglect in marriage, how it looks and how to heal it, see Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships With Your Partner, Your Parents & Your Children.
To learn more about Childhood Emotional Neglect, see my first book Running on Empty No More.