Relationships

17 Signs Your Partner Is Emotionally Neglecting You

Here's what the experts say.

What it's like when a partner is emotionally neglecting you.
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While everyone’s entitled to a bad day, you won’t want to ignore or accept ongoing signs of emotional neglect in your relationship. Not only will it take a toll on your well-being over time, but relationship coach Amy North says neglect is also considered a cousin of emotional abuse — and that can quickly become even more toxic.

"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,” North tells Bustle.

The trouble is, if your partner is emotionally neglecting you, there’s a chance they don’t even realize they’re doing it. “Some people are neglectful due to attachment issues, others are related to personality traits, and some are simply situational,” Dr. Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist, speaker, and author of Date Smart, tells Bustle. While some emotional neglect stems from a lack of interest or commitment, she says it may also be an unconscious fear of intimacy.

There is good news, though, in that you may be able to turn things around (with a willing partner) by talking about emotional neglect and finding ways to overcome it. "Be open about your needs and wants," North says. "Talk to your partner right away whenever their behavior hurts your feelings and explain to them why. Tell them what you want them to do instead in a similar situation." If you notice any or all of the signs of emotional neglect in a marriage or partnership listed below, it’s time to have this conversation.

1

They Don’t Want To Talk About Your Day

Whether you’re chatting about your day or trying to talk about something more important, take note if your partner refuses to hold a conversation.

“A partner who avoids having back-and-forth [banter] is depriving you of an important source of emotional connection,” Manly says. She says that conversation is one of the most emotionally connective and vital elements of a healthy relationship, which is why this is considered a huge problem.

Similarly, take note is your partner seems bored whenever you try to talk about your interests. While they don’t have to care all the same things as you, Manly says it isn’t too much to ask that they listen and ask a few questions.

2

They Refuse To Argue

While it might seem great that your partner doesn't want to argue, this habit can actually become unhealthy — as well as a sign of emotional neglect. "Conflict and healthy fighting show a commitment to stay connected and work through areas with your partner," therapist Latasha Matthews, LPC, CPCS, CPLC, CAMS tells Bustle. If your partner is a little too laidback when it comes to upsetting situations, it may mean they're just not as invested as you'd like them to be.

3

They Often Shut Down

Branching off of that, a neglectful partner may also shut down or turn away from you when times get tough. Otherwise known as stonewalling, shutting down is a great way to drive a relationship into the ground.

"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.

4

They Aren’t Into Foreplay

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Not every sexual encounter has to include hours of foreplay (sometimes a quick hookup can be fun). But it may be a sign of emotional neglect if your partner has taken to waltzing in, having sex, and then going on their merry way. “For those who value sexual intimacy, sex without emotional connection can feel very neglectful and lonely,” Manly says.

5

They Don’t Want To Have Sex At All

Of course, emotional neglect can come in the form of avoiding sex altogether, especially if it once meant a lot to you. There are instances where low libido or other issues might make sex difficult. But if your partner is simply not making the time, you’ll want to talk about it ASAP before it drives you apart.

6

They Aren’t Playful Anymore

Emotional neglect clearly comes in many forms, including refusing to joke around and be playful. “Partners who don’t make space for play and ‘couple time’ rob their relationships of vital emotional connection,” Manly says. “When partners play and spend mindful time together, they create a body-mind-spirit connection that keeps the relationship fresh and alive. Without this important connective time, feelings of emotional neglect often arise.”

7

They Don’t Make 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 remain unwilling to be present and warm, it may be a sign the relationship isn't meant to be.

8

They Forget Important Dates

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While it's forgivable if your partner forgets a smaller holiday, take note if they constantly let you down in the “important date” department. "For example, forgetting a birthday, 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, Brenner says. It shows they aren’t taking your feelings seriously.

9

They Ask For Help But Give Nothing In Return

If your partner gladly accepts your help but gives nothing in return, they’re "sending the message that you’re only valuable because you provide them with a service," North says. "Or that your own needs and wants are not their responsibility to fulfill."

Keep in mind that healthy relationships mean both partners are invested in each other's happiness, and that means offering plenty of love and support. If yours is unwilling to do so, it’s a red flag.

10

They Never 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.

11

They Walk Away While You’re Talking

If you live with your partner, or see each other frequently, there will be times when one of you gets busy or distracted and accidentally wanders away mid-sentence. But if your partner consistently stops listening while you’re talking, take note. As North says, "This will give you the sense that your conversations aren’t as important to them as whatever else holds their attention,” and it can make for a very lonely — and neglectful — relationship.

12

They’re Always Running Late

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Being late to things that are important to you — even if it's just by five or 10 minutes — is considered emotionally neglectful, psychotherapist Laura Dabney, MD, tells Bustle, especially if it happens on a regular basis.

It shows that your partner doesn’t value your time or that they’re failing to consider how you might feel if you're left waiting. (Bonus points if they’re somehow always able to show up on time to things they plan or when meeting up with friends. At this point, it may also mean they’re simply not invested in the relationship.)

13

They Break Promises On A Regular Basis

Inconsistency is definitely going to mess with your emotions, so take note if your partner often makes promises then breaks them. 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 yes, that is yet another form of emotional neglect.

14

They’re Always Defensive

An emotionally neglectful partner is way more likely to get defensive when they make mistakes, versus one who is just having a bad day. They’ll refuse to take accountability for their actions or how they hurt your feelings, Madison says, and instead will get super angry or upset.

"This is neglectful because you’re 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."

15

They Never Understand Why You’re Upset

"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 lives to be that concerned about your feelings and challenges."

To get away with focuses on just themselves, they may claim they don’t understand why you’re upset or why you’re craving attention, all as a way of brushing you off. "When you need them they [...] disappoint you again and again," Sedacca says.

16

They Never Make Plans Or Call First

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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 — go ahead and consider it neglectful. The last thing you want is to feel like you’re the only one who wants to make plans, Matthews says.

The same goes for texting or calling. While some people are “better” at using their phones than others, a committed and attentive partner will at the very least make an attempt to text and call if they know it’s important to you.

17

They Ignore Your Requests For Comfort

Does your partner turn away when you ask for a hug? Do they leave you hanging when you ask for advice? 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."

Again, whether you notice all or only a few of these issues, consider it a sign of emotional neglect. Let your partner know how it makes you feel and see if they’re willing to change. But if not, don’t hesitate to go your separate ways.

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.

Sources:

Amy North, relationship coach

Dr. Carla Marie Manly, clinical psychologist

Jordan Madison, LGMFT, therapist

Latasha Matthews, LPC, CPCS, CPLC, CAMS, therapist

Grant Brenner, psychiatrist and author

Laura Dabney, MD, psychotherapist

Rosalind Sedacca, CLC, dating and relationship coach