Husband emotional neglect
What is emotional abuse? | The National Domestic Violence Hotline
“I don’t want you going out with them. I trust you; I just don’t trust them.”
“You know you can’t get anyone better than me. You are lucky to be with me.”
“Are you sure you want to eat that? I’m just attracted to someone who takes care of themselves.”
“You’re so dumb. I knew this would be over your head.”
Do any of these sentences sound familiar? If so, you might be in an emotionally abusive relationship.
Many people hear the word “abuse” and think of physical violence. Physical abuse is one type of abuse, but it is certainly not the only one.
According to The Hotline’s 2020 Data, 95% of contacts stated they were experiencing emotional abuse. Emotional abuse may not be what most people think about when they picture abuse, but that does not make it any less real or less serious. Because of its subtleties, emotional abuse can be quite difficult to detect when it is being experienced. Emotional abuse is also a foundation for other forms of abuse. Often, it is used erode a person’s self-esteem and self-worth and create a psychological dependency on the abusive partner. Let’s look at what emotional abuse is and how to know if emotional abuse is present in your relationship.
Emotional abuse includes non-physical behaviors that are meant to control, isolate, or frighten you. This may present in romantic relationships as threats, insults, constant monitoring, excessive jealousy, manipulation, humiliation, intimidation, dismissiveness, among others. Sometimes emotional abuse is more obvious, like a partner yelling at you or calling you names. Other times it can be more subtle, like your partner acting jealous of your friends or not wanting you to hang out with someone of another gender. While these emotionally abusive behaviors do not leave physical marks, they do hurt, disempower, and traumatize the partner who is experiencing the abuse.
Over time, emotional abuse can wear down a person’s self-worth, confidence, and their mental and emotional strength.
It’s difficult to feel sure of yourself when a partner is demeaning, dismissing, and second-guessing you constantly. Additionally, when you care about someone and have invested time in the relationship with them, you want to believe the best of them, and you may convince yourself that you were overreacting in how you interpreted their hurtful actions or words. An emotionally abusive partner may try to gaslight you by telling you outright that you are overreacting, being dramatic, being too emotional, or that you can’t take a joke.
For these reasons and more, it can be tough to detect emotional abuse and see it as a dangerous concern. Even then, survivors of emotional abuse are often hesitant to seek help or tell friends and family about their relationship concerns because they fear they will not be believed or taken seriously. Nonetheless, emotional abuse is serious, and it is not uncommon for emotional abuse to escalate to physical violence. In some relationships this escalation to physical abuse is slow, and in others it can happen rapidly.
So how do you know if you are in an emotionally abusive relationship?
- Here are some red flags:
- Your partner name calls you or demeans you.
- Your partner tries to control you, your time, and your actions.
- Your partner tells you what to do and what to wear.
- Your partner often makes you feel silly or dumb.
- Your partner questions your reality and says that things that you know happened didn’t happen. This is called gaslighting.
- Your partner is critical of your appearance.
- Your partner is jealous of time spent with your friends or family.
- Your partner punishes you by withholding attention or affection.
- Your partner doesn’t want you hanging out with someone of another gender.
- Your partner makes threats to hurt you or others to get what they want.
- Your partner wants you to ask for permission before doing something or spending time with other people.
- Your partner monitors where you go and stalks your whereabouts.
- Your partner doesn’t want you to work.
- Your partner embarrasses you in public.
- Your partner does not trust you and acts possessive.
- Your partner threatens breaking up or divorce to manipulate an argument.
- Your partner wants access to your phone, your passwords, or your social media.
- Your partner threatens suicide during arguments.
- Your partner is constantly accusing you of cheating.
- Your partner blames you for their unhealthy/abusive behaviors.
- Your partner makes you feel guilty or immature for not wanting to have sex.
- Your partner overloads you with compliments and gifts, and then uses that to manipulate you later (love bombing).
If any of these red flags feel familiar to you, know that you do not deserve to be treated that way and that you are not alone. It can be hard to decide what your next step should be, after learning that your relationship is not healthy. You might consider reaching out to a trusted friend or family member to talk about what you have been going through. You can also reach out to our Hotline advocates to talk about next steps and options available to you.
We are here 24/7 via phone, online chat, and text to provide you with education, support, and safety planning. The Hotline is completely free and confidential.
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How to Deal With Emotional Neglect in a Marriage
We’re all familiar with the idea of happily ever after, but the truth is that happily ever rarely comes without a few bumps in the road. Life is filled with plenty of ups and downs, and there are days when everyone wants to tune out and wait for the storm to pass—this is normal. However, when that type of coping mechanism turns into weeks and months, this could be a signal that something much bigger is going on, like emotional neglect in a marriage.
What Is Emotional Neglect?
Emotional neglect is marked by a distinct lack of action by one person in a relationship and is often difficult to identify. Hallmarks of emotional neglect in a marriage are a lack of emotional support and failing to meet your partner’s needs.
According to associate marriage and family therapist Sarah O’Leary, "Emotional neglect is when someone’s attachment and/or emotional needs are disregarded." She adds, "Emotional neglect, unsurprisingly, pushes couples apart; you can’t feel emotionally safe or secure in a relationship with emotional neglect. It can also really negatively affect your own personal well-being—both mentally and physically."
Meet the Expert
Sarah O’Leary is an associate marriage and family therapist who currently practices with Estes Therapy in San Diego. Her areas of expertise include premarital counseling, relationship issues, and life transitions, just to name a few.
The interesting aspect of emotional neglect is that the victim may only have a vague sense that something is amiss. Without tangible evidence or written proof, they’ll likely find it hard to quantify or express what the issue is. In the end, many people tend to stay in relationships that aren’t working because there is no smoking gun, even as the relationship is crumbling around them.
Ahead we take a deep dive into the topic of emotional neglect. We discuss common signs to be on the lookout for and we also share a few tips for coping with emotional neglect in a marriage.
Signs of Emotional Neglect
While it may be difficult to identify emotional neglect, there are some telltale signs that could help you recognize if it’s going on in your marriage. O’Leary notes the many ways this behavior can play out in a marriage, including invalidating your partner, ignoring your partner or their bids for connection, or disregarding the vulnerabilities they share or boundaries they assert. Some common signs of emotional neglect in a marriage are:
- You feel like you’re alone in your relationship.
- You prefer to spend time alone versus time with your partner.
- Your partner shuts down when you want to talk.
- You’re not sure what your partner wants from you.
- You don’t engage in social activities as a couple.
- Your go-to person is a friend, not your partner.
- You consistently ignore or suppress your feelings.
- You don’t feel comfortable around your family and friends.
- You procrastinate on long-term decisions and are hesitant to move forward with things like having kids or buying a home.
- There’s a lack of physical intimacy.
- You don’t feel like you can be yourself with your partner.
- You don’t trust your partner.
Causes of Emotional Neglect
The specific causes of emotional neglect may vary from one relationship to the next, but the overarching theme is a shift or transfer in the support one partner gives to the other. This could look like one partner throwing themselves into a new job or a new mom shifting her focus to her baby. And, of course, in some cases, emotional neglect in a marriage might be the result of an extramarital affair.
O’Leary also notes that the cause of emotional neglect could run deeper. "Emotional neglect often stems from an individual’s own attachment injuries. If someone never learned how to have a supportive, healthy relationship in childhood or adolescence, they will struggle to make that change in adulthood."
O’Leary goes on to share, "Struggle does not mean unable; however, it will take work, but the way you interact with others and within your relationships is malleable."
How to Cope With Emotional Neglect
Like most issues, complaining about the problem or staying silent won’t fix anything; for committed couples, the key to getting past this situation is working together. Ahead we discuss some tips on how to handle emotional neglect in a marriage.
Don’t be a victim.
While your partner’s behavior may be hurtful, it’s important that you don’t play the victim card. Doing so can be counterproductive; you’ll likely be more accusatory and fall back on the blame game to no avail. The fact is, if you spend most of your time and energy telling your partner what they did wrong or how they hurt you, that could put them on the defensive and cause them to distance themselves further.
While it’s important to talk to your partner and let them know how you feel, it’s equally important that you don’t rehash the same things over and over again. Perhaps the initial conversation should focus on your hurt feelings, but once you get it out, subsequent discussions should be focused on how to fix the problem and move on to a healthier dynamic in your relationship.
Examine any underlying causes for the behavior.
Just like any problem you tackle in life, it’s important to spend some time thinking about what sparked the issue, or in this case, the behavior, in the first place. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Was your relationship always like this or did it deteriorate over time?
- Does it feel like your partner’s attitude changed from one day to the next?
- Is there a situation or event that precipitated their change in behavior?
If your partner’s emotionally neglectful behavior has always been a part of your relationship, this might be a far bigger issue than you realize. However, if you can trace this change in behavior back to a specific event, or you can say with some certainty that your partner is just going through a rough patch, that could make all the difference in how this all plays out. If being emotionally unavailable is just how they operate, changing their behavior will be substantially more difficult, if it’s possible at all. However, if this behavior is situational, your chances of mending the relationship are likely far greater.
With any relationship, it takes two to tango, and while the source of neglect might be coming from your partner, it’s probably not a good idea to just sit back and wait it out. Remember that sometimes people don’t recognize their own behavior. So, if your partner doesn’t realize that they are being neglectful or hurting you, you’ll likely never see a change because they don’t even know that something is wrong.
While it’s tempting to think that the onus is solely on the responsible party to right the wrong, remember that relationships are not one-sided. If you want to be with this person, then it’s time to start thinking about how you can work together to fix it.
Talk about it constructively.
As difficult as it might be, it’s important that you and your partner invest the time to sit down and talk about your relationship. Be sure to pick a time where upcoming commitments don’t put your eyes on the clock, and perhaps most importantly, try to do it when you have the bandwidth to deal with it. Trying to have a productive conversation when you’re tired, hungry, or stressed will never be fruitful.
Additionally, it’s important that you make the conversation constructive. Angry words, hurling accusations, and pointing fingers are never helpful. If saving your relationship is the ultimate goal, you must approach the conversation from a place of love, understanding, and forgiveness.
Make arrangements to spend quality time together.
While spending more time with an emotionally neglectful partner may seem counterintuitive, sometimes that could be precisely what the relationship needs. Getting some distance from the stress of everyday life, work, and other demands can give everyone a little room to breathe. In the absence of "the noise," you can spend much-needed time focusing on each other. Who knows, it might be just the thing you need to rekindle the spark.
Seek professional help.
Emotional neglect in a marriage is an issue that can be incredibly difficult to fix on your own, but a good therapist can be infinitely helpful. A trained professional can facilitate constructive conversations, help you get some perspective, and give you both the space to express your feelings.
Moreover, a therapist is an unbiased third party who can identify emotional neglect. Coming from a neutral third party, your partner might be more likely to "hear" it and make amends.
Remember that issues that take months or years to play out cannot be resolved overnight. Correcting a pattern of emotional neglect is most certainly a labor of love if there ever was one.
Getting your relationship back on track takes hard work, patience, and time. If you seek professional help, remember to put your best foot forward and trust the process.
Does Marriage Counseling Really Work?
What does it mean to be a godly husband?
When considering how to be a godly husband, one of the first truths to recognize is that no one is naturally godly. Neither men nor women themselves can be what God wants them to be. Therefore, we must first give our lives into the power of Jesus Christ. To be "godly" implies that God must be present in us. Thus, when His Spirit dwells in us, He enables us to lead godly lives (Galatians 2:20; Titus 2:12).
Philippians 2:3-4 lays the foundation for all godly relationships, including marriage: “Do nothing for selfish or conceited reasons. Be humble and consider others superior to you. Be guided not only by your own interests, but also by the interests of others” (hereinafter - New Russian Translation). In marriage, this means that the husband and wife no longer belong to themselves. Each of them voluntarily gave the other spouse the right to do whatever he wants, when he wants. This can be especially difficult for men, especially if they have been single for a long time. It may not occur to a man that his wife is not so excited about the idea of spending the weekend at a football match or in the country. But this passage teaches us to deliberately consider other people's feelings and thoughts, and not to assume that they think the same way we do.
1 Peter 3:7 says, “In the same way, you husbands, treat your wives with understanding as weaker ones. Respect them, knowing that they have inherited the same gift of life as you, then nothing will hinder your prayers. The term "weaker" is often misunderstood. It does not imply inferiority, as the text further states that the woman is the co-heir of her husband. In the context of this verse, the phrase "weaker" means that the woman should not be treated as "one of the boys. " It was created differently - both in body and spirit. The key words are "with understanding". A husband must study his wife, find out who she is, and make choices that highlight her strengths and beauty. Physical confrontation, verbal bullying, and emotional neglect should have no place in a Christian marriage. Treating her with understanding means that a wise husband controls his own needs and desires in order to satisfy her needs and desires. He does not belittle her, does not diminish her contribution to the family, and does not expect her to do what God has rewarded him with. He makes the study of this one woman his life's work, striving to become an expert on the subject.
Ephesians 5 continues this description of the godly man. Verse 25 says, “But you husbands, love your wives as Christ loved His church. He gave Himself for her." This comparison with Christ and the Church speaks volumes. Husbands are to show sacrificial, unconditional love for their wives, just as Jesus loves us—his Bride—even when we are rebellious and unattractive. Verse 28 continues, “In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they love their own body. He who loves his wife loves himself." Men usually have no problem loving their bodies. Sexual satisfaction and other physical needs are often their top priorities. God instructs husbands to give their wives the same priority as their physical needs. Jesus willingly subjected His own body to abuse, humiliation, and want for the sake of His Bride, the Church. This is the role model that Scripture gives to husbands.
Christian wives desire godly leadership, not dictatorship. However, the husband cannot lead to where he himself has not been. The leader goes first, leading the way, battling spiritual obstacles, and then presenting God's instructions to his family. An ongoing personal relationship with Jesus is critical to spiritual leadership in the family. The Lord holds husbands responsible for the spiritual and physical well-being of their families (1 Timothy 5:8). Even if the wife is better able to teach and lead, the husband should still be involved in the education of his children. He should lead by example in church attendance, Bible reading, prayer, and spiritual discipline. It will be difficult for a Christian wife to respect her husband in other areas if he is not consistent in spiritual leadership.
Both married and unmarried men would benefit from paying attention to the following traits of a godly leader:
• A leader is first and foremost a servant (Matthew 23:11)
• he is ready to learn (Proverbs 19:20)
• he is filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:3)
• passionate about their role (Ephesians 6:7)
• a pattern of humility and forgiveness (1 Peter 5:6; Ephesians 4:32)
• loves those he leads (Matthew 5:46; John 13:34-35)
• willing to admit your failures and shortcomings (Philippians 3:12)
More specifically, a man can become a godly husband by considering the following:
1. Does your routine make your family a top priority in terms of time, energy, and attention?
2. Are you heeding the instructions in 1 Peter 3:7 and are you actually studying your wife?
3. Do you take the initiative to guide your wife spiritually by sharing what God teaches you?
4. Are you attentive to your wife's physical condition and sexual needs? They are different from yours, and a godly husband respects this without showing displeasure or trying to "punish" her.
5. Do you accept equal responsibility for raising children? Even if your wife is better at it, your children are your responsibility. Your wife needs a partner who will willingly share the responsibilities with her.
6. Notice the tone of your voice. Are you used to rudeness, accusations or veiled disapproval?
7. Do you ever resort to physical or verbal abuse in any form? If you need help with anger management, get it.
8. In areas where your wife is weaker, do you help her grow without being critical or repressive?
9. Can you listen? Wives need to open their hearts, and you should be the safest place to do so.
10. Do you protect her heart, dreams and self-esteem? You cannot replace God for her, but you can encourage her to develop a relationship with Him that meets her deepest emotional needs.
Men often judge themselves by external factors that are beyond their control. Money, fame, physical ability and power are fleeting. However, a husband can measure his own success by how well he follows God's command to care for his wife and lead the family. A happy wife is a testimony in favor of her husband. While he is not responsible for his wife's reaction, each husband can control how well he follows Jesus' example in loving and guiding those whom God has entrusted to him.
What does it mean to be a godly husband?
Psychological violence and ways of coping
Zyuzkina Anastasia Andreevna, psychologist of the health care institution "City Clinical Psychiatric Dispensary"
Often domestic violence against women and children is not perceived as an act of violence.
The topic of psychological abuse is broad, this issue is relevant not only in the family system, but also in the world of work.
For example, in the scientific literature, psychological violence is called mobbing - the employer's disrespectful attitude towards employees in the context of labor relations. Situations where periodically (at least once a week) the employee is humiliated and harassed by the team or the manager, the purpose of which is to dismiss the employee during the period of employment. Mobbing is manifested in the oppression of a long period of time and includes negative statements, unfounded criticism, social isolation of an employee, dissemination of deliberately false information about a person, and more.
Psychological consequences for the object of mobbing are so serious that social significance is perceived as traumatic and compared with murder, rape and robbery. Some people even think about suicide.
Most often, psychological abuse occurs in the family. The main victims of domestic violence are women and children. The consequences of psychological violence include sleep and appetite disorders, alcoholism, reckless committing of traumatic actions, a change in the nature of the personality.
Psychological violence is a form of influencing the emotions or psyche of a partner through threats, intimidation, insults, criticism, condemnation, etc. That is, a constant verbal negative impact on another person. More often this type of violence is subjected to wives from their husbands, much less often vice versa.
Psychological abuse can escalate into physical abuse.
Domestic violence also spreads in cohabitation as cohabitation. Most often it is a form of psychological abuse. Psychological abuse is on a par with physical abuse, since the personality is violated by suppressing self-esteem. Under such conditions, the person who is targeted by the negative impact does not assess the situation as dangerous and sometimes it is necessary to convince them that they have become precisely the victims. Beliefs are formed as if she herself is to blame, misunderstood, did not tolerate, did not prove, provoked. As a result, personal characteristics are formed: self-restraint, alienation, negativism, refusal to express one's own position.
Insults, violence, mistreatment in psychology is called abuse. The person who forces to do something, offends, forces to perform actions that are unpleasant to another person, respectively, is an abuser.
The reasons why one partner affects the psyche of another are varied, the most common: the need for self-realization and self-affirmation at the expense of the other, difficulties in the inability to express one's desires and thoughts, past experience, financial dependence on one's partner, the perception of violence as a norm in family behavior, propaganda of violence in the media / movies / video games, psychological deviations in the form of a psychological trauma.
With constant criticism, the self-esteem of the victim decreases to a certain level and self-confidence is shaky, in this state it is easier for the tyrant to impose his opinion and desired behavior. The victim in such a state of mind doubts the correctness of his actions, a feeling of insignificance and guilt is instilled. By psychologically influencing such a person, another model of life is laid, the position of a tyrant is adopted and control is exercised on his part.
There are many signs of psychological violence and a combination of signs is used to determine it, and not each factor individually:
- criticism - a rough assessment of shortcomings, comments about appearance, intelligence, taste preferences, such criticism may be followed by insults.
- Humiliation - insults, rough treatment.
- Accusation - conviction of guilt, for example, in family failures and shifting responsibility for everything that happens.
- Despotism - commanding tone in communication, orders and instructions instead of requests.
- Intimidation - Threats of physical violence against the victim and their loved ones, limiting prohibitions on contact with children and threats from the tyrant to commit suicide.
- Prohibition to communicate with relatives, friends, colleagues, deprivation of means of communication.
- Prohibited from visiting places outside the home and obtaining permission from a partner to leave the house.
- Permanent presence, partner rarely leaves alone.
- Monitoring behavior and communication outside the home, checking private messages, checking call lists, checking email, installing software, hidden or open surveillance (video surveillance).
Emotional abuse also includes jealousy, which manifests itself in constant accusations of adultery.
A psychological abuser has such qualities as: disrespectful attitude towards a partner and his life principles; the imposition of help that was not asked for, generosity that puts you in an awkward position; total control; jealousy; threatening behavior; the presence of double standards “I can, but you can’t”; life credo "a man (woman) is never guilty of anything."
There are several types of psychological violence. Gaslighting is one of the most severe forms of psychological abuse. The gaslighter denies their partner or child adequateness using the phrases “it seemed to you”, “it didn’t happen”, “you just don’t understand it”. The victim is instilled that the perception of the environment is erroneous, therefore, the victim is convinced that she is going crazy. Neglekt - ignoring any needs, arguing that a person does not need it, deliberate negligence. Sometimes the abuser pushes his partner to plastic surgery, refuses to deal with everyday life and children. In this situation, it is best to isolate yourself from the abuser. Visholding - refusal to discuss an exciting topic. Emotional blackmail - ignoring any action of the victim, emotional coldness, silence, blackmail with personal information. The purpose of such behavior is the subordination of another person, deprivation of one's own will, and only by limiting communication can one protect himself from this. Ignoring - emotional withdrawal. Isolation - prohibition of communication with everyone except the abuser himself, so the request for help is difficult to carry out. Control - tight control over any actions of the partner. Criticism - pointing out shortcomings and miscalculations, that in front of other people it looks like ridicule. The purpose of such behavior is to form an inferiority complex, after such an impact it is difficult to recover from such a relationship, faith in oneself, partnership is lost.
It is best for the victim to get out of the situation of violence (even run away, disappear from view). Victims of psychological abuse cannot avoid mental problems. Such people are in a state of psychological trauma and experience anxiety, fear, may become depressed, and suicidal attempts are not excluded. There is also emotional dependence, neglect of one's needs, various addictions may arise, for example, alcohol or drugs.
According to studies, in those families where various types of violence (physical, psychological) are used, signs of a delay in the physical and neuropsychic development of children are noticed.