Are there problems in your relationship, yet you seldom fight?
Do you feel lonely?
When you have a problem, is the first person you want to talk to someone other than your partner?
Why is a lack of fighting a potential sign of Emotional Neglect? Strangely enough, often it’s the couples who fight the least who are in the most trouble. This is because fighting requires a willingness to challenge each other, an ability to tolerate anger (your own and your partner’s), and some element of emotional connection.
Emotional connection, the opposite of Emotional Neglect, is not made up solely of positive feelings like warmth, affection and love. It’s also made of the ability to tolerate conflict with each other, a trust that you as a couple can get angry and upset, share difficult words, and come through to the other side intact.
A willingness to fight is a willingness to share painful emotion. And that’s a sign of emotional connection.
There is no feeling of loneliness worse than that experienced inside of a relationship. It feels terrible to feel alone when you’re with someone. And loneliness is one of the greatest warning signs of an emotionally neglectful couple.
You can have a relationship which seems great, with a partner who has a good sense of humor, common interests, a good job and kind nature, but still feel alone.
This happens when your relationship with your partner is good on the surface, but lacks emotional substance. Emotional connection is the foundation of a relationship. When it’s weak, the relationship has an emptiness to it. It can take two people years to see past their good surface connection and realize what is missing underneath.
Do you find yourself using friends or family to “fill in” for your spouse when you need support? If so, is it because your spouse isn’t there? Because she often says the wrong thing? Because you’re not sure he’ll care?
In a close, connected, non-neglectful marriage, your spouse will be the first person you want to tell when things go wrong or when something great happens.
One key question to ask yourself is: Does she want to be the first person? If you don’t think so, this is a sign of other problems in your marriage. I encourage you to find a skilled couple’s therapist, and convince your partner to go with you.
If you think your mate does want to be your go-to person, then the problem may be simply that he doesn’t know how to be that person for you. This is a matter of skills, and the good news is that these skills can be learned.
Four Steps to Heal an Emotionally Neglectful Relationship
- Do your best to identify, as specifically as possible, the type of Emotional Neglect in your relationship. If needed, talk to a friend or therapist for help sorting it out. Put the problem into words for yourself so that you’ll be able to explain it to your partner when you’re ready.
- Think about your own contribution to the problem. How emotionally aware and skilled are you? Might you be partially responsible? What are you willing to do to fix this?
- Find a way to tell your partner that there is a problem. Do this with full awareness of the significance of your message. This means taking great care with it. Use words like:
“I’m happy in our relationship in some very important ways, but yet it feels like something is missing.”
“I read an article about relationships that struck a cord with me. Will you read it for me, and let me know if you have a reaction to it too?”
“Did you know that not fighting in a relationship is not necessarily a good thing?”
“I love you so much, and I want us to be even closer. Will you work on this with me?”
- No matter how your partner responds, start working on beefing up your own emotion skills. The more you understand your own feelings and are able to identify, name, share, tolerate and work through them, the better equipped you’ll be to provide emotional connection for your partner.