13 Habits That Show Your Partner May Be Emotionally Neglecting You
While all relationships go through ups and downs, if your partner has certain ongoing habits that leave you feeling ignored, misunderstood, or alone, it may be a sign they're emotionally neglecting you. And since it can quickly turn toxic, that's not a situation you'll want to ignore.
"Emotional neglect is the silent cousin of emotional abuse," relationship expert Amy North, tells Bustle. "While emotional abuse is about manipulating someone’s emotions to hurt or control them, emotional neglect is about denying someone’s feelings and emotional needs."
The problem is, there's a good chance your partner doesn't even know they're doing it. "Those who are emotionally neglectful are usually repeating patterns they learned in their youth," North says. Your partner may have grown up in an toxic household, for example, where they never learned how to show love. And as a result are repeating that pattern with you, North says.
There is good news, though, in that all you might need to do is bring it to their attention, and see if they're willing to change. "Be open about your needs and wants," North says. "Talk to them right away when their behavior hurts your feelings and explain to them why. Tell them what you want them to do instead in a similar situation."
If your partner wants to be more invested in the relationship, they'll make an effort to open up. But if they don't, it may be time to rethink things. "It is normal for people to display a few of these habits every now and again," North says. "It becomes emotional neglect when you’ve noticed a pattern that’s negatively affecting your emotional wellbeing." Here are a few habits that can be a sign of emotional neglect, according to experts.
1. Not Making Eye Contact
While it may seem insignificant, if your partner doesn't make eye contact or acknowledge you as they walk through the room, consider it a red flag.
"This is a classic sign of avoidance," North says. "Your partner should not treat you like a stranger on the bus, no matter how long you have been together"
If you point it out to them, and they are unwilling to be more present, it may be a sign the relationship isn't meant to be.
2. Forgetting Important Dates
While it's forgivable if your partner forgets a smaller holiday, take note if they constantly let you down. "For example, forgetting a birthday, or anniversary, or collective holiday such as Valentine's Day, when it's been made clear that it is important," author and psychiatrist Grant Brenner, tells Bustle.
This is especially neglectful if they don't apologize, or try to downplay the significance, Dr. Brenner says. It shows they aren't making your feelings a priority.
3. Asking For Help But Giving Nothing In Return
In these instances, your partner is "sending the message that you’re only valuable because you provide them with a service," North says. "That your own needs and wants are not their responsibility to fulfill."
And yet, keep in mind that in healthy relationships, both partners will be invested in each other's happiness by offering plenty of love and support. If yours is unwilling to do that, it may be a red flag.
4. Refusing To Argue
While it might seem great that your partner doesn't want to argue, this can actually be unhealthy — as well as a sign of emotional neglect.
If your partner is a little too laid back when it comes to upsetting situations, it may mean they're just not as invested as you'd like them to be.
5. Failing To Congratulate You
Let's say you just got a promotion. How does your partner react?
"If you share something with your partner that you’re proud of and they always see the negative side, blow you off, or simply don’t tell them they’re proud of you, then this is emotional neglect," North says. "Partnership includes building one another up and sharing good feelings."
If you point this habit out to your partner, and nothing changes, you may want to rethink the relationship.
6. Walking Away While You're Talking
If you live with your partner, or see each other frequently, then there will be times when one of you is busy or distracted, and as a result won't offer their undivided attention.
But if your partner makes it a habit to not listen, or walks away while you're talking, take note. "This gives you the sense that your conversations aren’t as important to them as whatever else holds their attention," North says. And that can make for a very lonely and neglectful relationship.
7. Running Late All The Time
Being chronically late — even if it's just five or 10 minutes — can be a sign that your partner is being emotionally neglectful, psychotherapist Laura Dabney, MD, tells Bustle. It shows that they don't value your time, or consider how you might feel if you're left waiting. And that's not OK.
8. Shutting Down During Conversations
Otherwise known as stonewalling, shutting down during a conversation isn't a healthy way to operate in a relationship. And it can even be downright neglectful.
"This is a sign of neglect because they are not listening to [your] needs, nor are they expressing theirs," therapist Jordan Madison, LGMFT, tells Bustle. "Therefore, [you're] left not knowing how they feel and not feeling heard as well," which means nobody's emotional needs are being met.
9. Being Inconsistent
If your partner is inconsistent, it's definitely going to mess with your emotions. They might make promises, then break them, or be reliable, but only for a short period of time. And you'll be left feeling confused and let down.
As Madison says, "When dealing with a partner who is inconsistent, it can lead you to feel as if you can’t rely on them to be there for you when you need them." And that is yet another form of emotional neglect.
10. Getting Defensive
If your partner is habitually defensive, they likely won't "take accountability for their actions or how their actions may have hurt your feelings," Madison says. Instead, they'll get angry, quiet, or upset.
"This is neglectful because you are often left feeling as if you are the problem in the relationship," she says. "It is hard to have a conversation about something that bothers you because your partner can't even see your side or understand how you are feeling."
If this is a habit they can't break, even after you've talked with them about it, it may be time to move on to a healthier relationship.
11. Not Showing Signs Of Empathy
"Neglectful partners aren't there for you when you're down or coping with difficult times," dating and relationship coach Rosalind Sedacca, CLC, tells Bustle. "They are too caught up in their own life to be that concerned about your feelings and challenges."
It might start to feel like your partner is oblivious to your feelings, even when you're obviously upset. "When you need them they fail to recognize the signals and disappoint you again and again," Sedacca says.
12. Never Being The One To Make Plans
Making sure a relationship remains fun and interesting is a two person job. If your partner doesn't make an effort — and you're not OK with that — consider it a sign. The last thing you want is to feel lonely in your own relationship, Matthews says.
13. Ignoring Your Requests For Comfort
Does your partner turn away when you need a hug? Or leave you hanging when you ask for support? As North says, "Partners that won't hug you or provide words of comfort are exhibiting emotional neglect. This is the case if they never initiate contact without you asking or just flat out refuse to fulfill your needs."
While you can't expect your partner to fulfill all of your emotional needs, that doesn't mean they should be emotionless, or leave you feeling unsupported or unloved. If your partner has habits that point to emotional neglect, point them out and clearly say what you need instead.
If they want the relationship to work, your partner should be able to pick up the slack and be there for you. But if not, it may be time to move on and look for a partner who can actually be there for you.
Editor's Note: If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1(800) 799-SAFE (7233) or visit thehotline.org.