You want to have a good relationship. You want to be close to your partner. But, for a variety of reasons, you may find yourself feeling neglected and alone. What can you do about it? Instead of waiting for a miracle to happen, you can take charge of the situation and work towards change.
Get To The Source Of The Problem
First, take some time to look at reasons you might be feeling neglected. You may recognize some of the sources of your feelings. You may even know how to deal with them. Often, though, people need help from a counselor to learn more about what’s behind their feelings of being neglected, practice techniques for managing those feelings and stay close to their partner at the same time.
Being Emotionally Abandoned As A Child
What happened in your childhood may be impacting how you feel in your relationship right now. In many cases, people look for the same type of relationship with a partner as they had with their parents. Maybe your parents never showed empathy to you. Maybe they didn’t show any respect for you as an individual. They could have been critical or overly invasive. Or maybe, they didn’t meet your basic needs. As a child, that probably caused you a lot of pain.
Some discuss how being emotionally abandoned as a child can lead to feeling neglected in adult relationships. First of all, you may unconsciously look for a partner that will emotionally abandon you. After a relationship starts, you look for and focus on behaviors that confirm you’re unlovable, just like your parents taught you. You feel unworthy, and you look for evidence that it’s true, whether it’s there or not. If this sounds familiar to you, you might need to talk to a counselor to get past the damage that happened to you in your childhood before you can improve your relationship.
Another source of feeling neglected is often the current relationship itself. It may be true that your partner isn’t giving you much time and attention or helping you meet your needs. And, there could be a lot of reasons for that. They may be under extreme pressure at work. They may be preoccupied with raising the children.
Other relationship problems have more to do with how you interact as a couple. You may be having a hard time getting close to them because of disagreements. Or, you may have developed poor communication habits that are keeping you from connecting. And, they may be more than willing to give you the love and attention you’re seeking, but they don’t even realize you’re feeling neglected.
Fear Of Rejection
Sometimes, when you have a strong fear of rejection, you end up feeling neglected. Why? It’s usually because you’re afraid to ask for your partner’s help. You fear that your partner will dismiss you, be angry, or judge you harshly if you express your needs to them. The fear of rejection can often keep couples from being close and cooperative.
Meet Your Needs When You Can
One way to deal with feeling neglected is to meet as many of your own needs as you can on your own or through people outside the relationship. In 1943, Abraham Maslow published a paper called “A Theory of Human Motivation.” In it, he described a hierarchy of needs, a concept that has become a mainstay of modern psychology. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is shown as a pyramid in which the wide lower levels are basic survival needs that have to be met first.
In a healthy interdependent relationship, you do rely on your partner to contribute. However, you also act independently so that you can also contribute. By doing all you can to meet your needs, you decrease the pressure you put on your partner.
Your physical needs include water, food, air, rest, and health. If you’re living with someone, you may work together to meet some of these needs. You might both work to put food on the table, for instance. It’s important to make sure you’re taking care of these needs as much as possible. Follow good sleep hygiene habits, like putting away electronics an hour or more before bed. If you buy food, make healthy choices. If your partner doesn’t want to exercise with you, go to the gym or for a walk on your own.
Being in a relationship can make meeting security needs, like safety, shelter, and stability, much easier. However, if your partner isn’t supplying these needs, you may be able to do more to take care of them yourself. For example, say your partner has a night job, and you live in a dangerous neighborhood. You’re feeling neglected because your security need for safety isn’t being met. But there are things you can do to feel safer. You can lock the doors, avoid going out alone late at night, or even get an alarm system and turn it on whenever you’re at home alone.
Often, when you’re in a relationship, other social connections weaken. The more focused you are on your partner, the less time you spend with other friends and family. Then, you feel neglected when your partner is extra busy or preoccupied with something else.
You may be able to do a lot more to meet your own social needs. You can feel a sense of belonging and inclusion with a social group, club, hobby group, or volunteer project. And, you can feel the love of your friends and family when you make time to be with them, share good times, and get to know them better.
Ego needs are generally yours to meet. Yet, often, people look to their partners to meet these needs. They base their self-esteem on how their partner views them. They get prestige from the status of their partner. Or, they get recognition from their partner. Some people even get a sense of power when their partner encourages them to stand their ground.
It’s healthy to get support from your partner in meeting some of these needs. At the same time, it’s primarily your job to build your self-esteem, find your power, accomplish things to get recognition and get prestige on your terms. Through therapy, the two of you can develop strategies both for supporting each other and for meeting your needs individually.
Your self-actualization needs to relate to your development as a person. You want to be creative, wise, and masterful. This is something only you can do. Sure, you can have support from others. In the end though, no one self-actualizes because someone else did it for them. If you’re counting on your partner to make you the best you can be, you might need to dial back your expectations.
Communicate Your Needs
Once you have identified what your needs are and met the ones you can, it’s time to communicate about needs. Sit down and have a discussion with your partner about what you’re going through and what you need from them. Or, you can talk to a counselor to discover why you’re feeling neglected and learn what you can do about it.
Ask Your Partner For Attention
It’s perfectly okay to ask your partner for attention if you feel they’re neglecting you. You can even talk to them about what they could do to help you feel valued. You could suggest that you go together to do an activity, attend an event, or take community education classes. Or, you could make a point to let them know when they say or do something that helps you feel appreciated. You can also request that they consider your needs when they’re making their plans.
Make sure you communicate with them directly about these requests. What can happen is that people seek attention indirectly by manipulating their partner. But when you choose to state your needs clearly and make honest requests, the two of you have a chance to work out a solution.
Talk It Out with A Counselor
The reasons behind feeling neglected can be both serious and complex. And, repairing a relationship in which the two people have started to neglect each other is usually quite difficult. Without help, you might not be able to get your own needs met, much less build a strong relationship where you’re both satisfied with each other.
Talking to a couples counselor will give you many opportunities to identify, accept, learn from, and overcome abandonment issues from your childhood. Your therapist helps you understand the issues that are happening in your current relationship as well. They’ll give you tools and techniques for discussing your needs and building a stronger relationship overall. And, they’ll help each of you recognize your individual needs and work toward meeting them, alone in some cases, and together in others.
“Sessions with Natalie are very insightful and give practical advice on implementing new habits and changes. Be prepared to engage and be challenged to think in a different way. I know that my partner and I can already see improvements in our relationship and feel more positive about working through our issues together.”
“With Cassandra’s help, we’ve been able to bring our relationship to a new, healthier, and much happier level, working through painful situations, growing as individuals and as a couple, and with tools to stay on this path. She’s very responsive, and it has been great to have her facilitate our messaging through the app all week. I highly recommend Cassandra. She’s skilled, supportive, and down-to-earth. We feel totally comfortable with her.”
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What does it mean to feel neglected?
Being neglected in your relationship means that you feel like your partner is not paying attention to you in a way that leaves you feeling less secure in the relationship. This can mean that they are failing to take your feelings into consideration, don’t respond to your expressions of emotions, or aren’t paying attention to you physically. These feelings can stem from something as simple as your partner failing to acknowledge your expression of thoughts or feelings about a bad day at work, or a reduction in the amount of physical intimacy that you and your partner usually engage in.
Is it normal to feel neglected in a relationship?
Nearly all adults spend their young adulthood seeking out the love and support of a romantic partner with which they can settle down and build a life. Everyone needs emotional support, and it is something that we rely on our significant others to provide us. While all relationships go through ups and downs, if you are feeling neglected by your partner it is important to bring the topic up with them.
As time passes in a relationship, it’s easy for us to become less considerate of our partners and take their feelings for granted. But emotional neglect doesn’t just make someone feel lonely in a relationship, it can also leave you feeling unwanted or unloved. Feeling emotionally neglected in a relationship isn’t normal; it means that you and your partner are not communicating as openly as you should. This lack of communication can lead to other issues beyond emotional neglect if not addressed.
How do you know if you are being neglected?
Emotional neglect takes many different forms, from failing to notice what you say or how you feel about something, to your partner giving you ‘the silent treatment’ when they are angry or upset with you. Other people in your life, such as friends family or coworkers, may make comments about how you don’t “seem yourself,” or seem unhappy or unwell. There are other signs that can indicated that you’re being emotionally neglected, which can include:
If you’re experiencing more than one of these situations, there is a good chance that you’re being emotionally neglected.
What does it mean to be emotionally neglected?
When talking about feeling neglected in your relationship, most people are referring to emotional neglect. Emotional neglect is a relationship issue in which a person’s emotional needs are disregarded, ignored, invalidated, or unappreciated by their partner. When people are being emotionally neglected, they feel as though their feelings don’t matter to their partner, or that their partner doesn’t care about them. Having a healthy emotional connection with your partner isn’t just about sharing positive feelings, it is also about being able to share your negative feelings, and working through problems as a couple. When you feel neglected, you and your partner are not working through problems together; instead, you’re ending up having to try and deal with your problems on your own.
What is neglect abuse?
When we talk about neglect as a form of abuse, we are usually referring to the neglect of a child, not an adult. Because adults are independent, we have the choice to leave abusive relationships, as well as neglectful ones. This is not true, however, for adults who rely on others to provide their basic care, such as people who are severely physically or mentally disabled, or the elderly. For these people, neglect can constitute abuse because they are not able to care for themselves.
Is emotional neglect abuse?
While emotional neglect can leave you feeling as though your partner doesn’t care for you, it doesn’t mean that your partner is abusing you. Abuse is usually something that is done intentionally to someone, and often your partner doesn’t realize that they are emotionally neglecting you. That doesn’t mean that you’re aren’t allowed to feel lonely or feel sad if your partner is neglecting you. You deserve to feel loved by your partner, and if you’re instead finding that you’re lonely in a relationship, you need to address the issue before it leads to a breakup or divorce.
How being neglected as a child affects adulthood?
When a child is emotionally neglected by their parents, the child can not only suffer problems in their youth, but they can also have issues that carry over into their adulthood. Mental health issues such as depression, low self-esteem, substance abuse issues, and even eating disorders have all been linked to emotional neglect in childhood.
One of the biggest carryover problems from childhood emotional neglect are attachment issues, which prevents a person from forming and maintaining meaningful emotional attachments to other adults, especially in romantic relationships. If your partner experienced emotional neglect as a child, this is something that you encourage them to see a therapist about. Addressing these childhood issues through therapy can help your partner learn how to form meaningful relationships, and thus help you rebuild your relationship into a stronger, more fulfilling union.
How do you deal with feeling neglected?
Feelings of neglect often stem from underlying issues from within the relationship, the most common being a lack of communication. Sometimes taking a short break from the situation can make it easier for you to calm down before addressing your partner’s actions. Try and help them see the situation and how it makes you feel emotionally neglected using clear, non-judgemental language. Focus on using “I” sentences instead of “you” sentences, which sound accusational. Instead of “You’re doing X and making me feel Y,” say “I feel Y when you do X.” You can also try spending time together alone, such as having a regular date night, in order to try and rekindle a feeling of love and support. Having a special date night with your partner helps the both of you focus on each other and build a stronger bond, which is what healthy relationships are built on.
If talking with your partner doesn’t seem to be helping, it is probably a good idea to find a therapist. A licensed therapist can offer relationship advice, give you a safe place to talk about how neglected you feel, and help find reasons behind your partner’s actions. You can find a therapist through your insurance, local health services, or online. What is important is choosing what will work best for you, as you can only begin to rebuild your relationship if you see your therapist on a regular basis.