My Husband Ignores Me – What Should I Do?
Updated November 07, 2019
Reviewer Richard Jackson
One of the most disheartening sights in the world is a long-married couple who no longer converses. At one point they were a happy, stable couple who shared their most intimate moments together, and now they're strangers who just happen to share the same house. Although it's more likely to be an issue in older relationships, "my husband ignores me" is a common complaint from many wives. And if you're reading this article, you're probably saying this too, and wondering what you can do. Don't worry, there's hope. This article will explore possible causes and the steps you can take to improve your relationship.
Why Does My Husband Ignore Me?
Ignoring a spouse is a common reaction to an underlying problem in the relationship. That problem can be anything from an accumulation of minor disagreements to one of the partners feeling the relationship has become stale. It's also a common response when a cheating spouse is racked by guilt. The problems aren't always with the relationship itself. Your husband might be trying to find some personal space (this is especially likely if you have young children, and both of you are frantically busy all of the time). He might be stressed about work, or other parts of life, and feel he doesn't have the energy to maintain your relationship right now. While any type of marital struggle can be frustrating, there are steps you can take to improve your situation. Below, we'll cover a few things you can do to start bridging the gap in a distant relationship.
If you believe your husband is ignoring you, that means there's a lack of communication. This needs to be addressed first. Although it may appear on the surface that you're the victim in this predicament, it's important to understand what your husband is feeling.
There's a reason he's ignoring you, and you need to find out what it is. Without effective communication, you're co-existing with incorrect beliefs about each other, and this is a recipe for an unhealthy relationship. If you haven't had a conversation with your husband about his behavior, and you aren't sure where to begin, try these steps:
- Make sure your husband is ready. Don't try to fit the conversation in when either of you is rushed or tired. Tell your husband what you would like to talk about and ask if this is a good time.
- Be direct, but kind and respectful. This is not a time for making accusations. Present your perspective and nothing more. Use "I" statements, rather than "you" statements. For example, you can say "I feel like you haven't been spending as much time with me recently," or, "I've been missing you," instead of, "You've been ignoring me," or "You're spending too much time away from home."
- Ask for his perspective. Make sure you're ready to hear it. Although the emotional distance is often caused by trivial issues, there are times when it has deeper and more difficult roots. Be prepared to take in whatever your husband says and process it before you automatically disagree. Please remember that this doesn't mean your husband is always right, only that he deserves to be heard.
If You Know What's Wrong
If you had a successful conversation with your husband, you should have a better idea of the root issues behind his distance. The reason might be big or small, painful or freeing. Whatever the case, once you know the root cause of distance in your relationship, you can take some steps toward resolving it. Here are a few ideas based on the most common reasons for distance in marriage:
If your husband needs more alone time, give it to him.
This can be difficult, depending on your life situation, schedule, and needs. It is, however, vital. Different people need different amounts of time to unwind, relax, and recharge. If your husband isn't getting what he needs, it will negatively affect your relationship.
If your husband is stressed or depressed, support him in finding solutions.
This could be as simple as recognizing he's going to be a bit distant until that big work situation is resolved. In the case of depression or another mental illness, it can mean encouraging and helping him in getting the professional treatment he needs.
If your husband is feeling estranged from the relationship, take his suggestions for renewing intimacy seriously.
It's possible he might make requests that feel stressful and difficult, but you need to consider what you really can do. Maybe he wants you to come home from work earlier one evening a week to eat dinner together, or put off folding a load of laundry to watch a show. Do these things if you can. You may need to negotiate a little-maybe you can fold laundry together first, then watch a show. But if you want him to work at covering the distance, you need to be ready to put in some effort as well.
If your husband tells you you're being too needy, it may hurt.
That's a normal, valid response. It doesn't mean you should dismiss what he said. It may be time to take a look at yourself and see if you're asking too much of your husband. And it might be helpful to have input from a therapist. You may even find this cycle of neediness and withdrawal is present in other relationships in your life as well. Growing in your own self-sufficiency can be scary, but it could also give your husband the space he needs to rejoin your relationship.
Be careful not to criticize.
Even if all your criticisms are valid, there's a good chance that voicing them isn't helpful. Remember that negative communication doesn't just need to be balanced out by positive communication-it needs to be drowned out. Your husband won't be able to receive any criticism in a constructive way unless you're also unleashing a flood of positive communication. These could be compliments, affirmations, or expressions of gratitude. Just make sure that you're saying them.
If You Don't Know What's Wrong
It's possible you tried to have a conversation with your husband about his distance, and he was unwilling or unable to help. Some people have more difficulty verbalizing their feelings than others. In that case, you're going to have to do some detective work with the suggestions below.
On the other hand, your husband may simply not want to tell you what's going on. If that's the case, it will probably take couples and/or individual therapy to help you re-establish your relationship. You can still use the suggestions below as you look into your options-pouring a little more love and respect into a relationship you value is rarely a waste.
Below are some dos and don'ts for bridging distance in your relationship when you don't know what the problem is:
What You Should Do
- Give him a little space. This can be physical space or emotional space. Giving him space can be difficult, but it can also help him feel safe to begin easing back into your relationship. He might be worried that re-establishing your normal intimacy will come with a lot of neediness or demands. Giving him space shows him you respect his boundaries as a person. It can also meet his need for alone-time, or give him the time he needs to unwind.
- Continue to make your own efforts in the relationship. This might seem like it contradicts the suggestion to give him space, but it doesn't. You can make any number of small gestures that pour energy into the relationship without asking for anything in return. Think of what makes him feel loved and valued and do that. It doesn't have to be big-it might be as simple as buying his favorite snacks.
- Withhold criticism. This doesn't mean you have to pretend your husband is perfect. Nobody is. But secure, healthy relationships have more room for genuine, constructive criticism than relationships suffering from a lot of distance. If your relationship is fragile right now, criticism and fault finding could drive it over the edge. Acknowledge the validity of your criticisms to yourself but choose carefully which ones are worth bringing up.
- Pour on the positivity. Remind yourself what it is you love about your husband, and then remind him. Bring out the compliments, gratitude, and affirmations you think but don't always say. Be quick to see the places where he's getting it right-or at least trying to.
- Work on honoring yourself. Not because this is your fault, or because you need to become worthy of him, but because being a stronger, healthier person will be good for you in the future. Find a way to meet your own needs for time, space, and connection. Friends can't replace your husband, of course, but meeting some of your needs outside the relationship can free your husband to meet his. It's completely understandable to not know how to accomplish "honoring yourself." A licensed therapist is trained to help you recognize your self-worth, and has years of experience doing so with other people.
What You Should Avoid
- Nag. If you've agreed on ways to address the issue, and he's not following through, it's appropriate and necessary to bring that up. But if you've tried to talk about it, and he doesn't want to, bringing it up again isn't likely to have a good effect.
- Ignore him. Being ignored by your husband is hurtful, and it's normal to want to retaliate in some way. But if your relationship is valuable to you, you want to leave the way open for your husband to bridge the gap. Ignoring him, in turn, could close the door altogether on the kind of closeness you want.
- Place more demands on him. Neediness and withdrawal is a potent cause for distance in many relationships. The needier your husband perceives you to be, the more he may withdraw. Healthy relationships do have a give and take, and room for both partners' needs, but nursing a relationship back to health may require temporarily asking less of your husband. Restoring intimacy in your relationship will certainly not be helped by extra demands, or whining.
Why You Should Be Optimistic
Most couples go through difficult or distant periods in their marriage. It's important to remain optimistic about your relationship unless you have serious reasons not to (such as infidelity or abuse). Trained therapists, like those at BetterHelp, can help you address your specific situation. If you find yourself frequently belittled, laughed at, or yelled at when bringing up your concerns about your relationship, it may be important to get a professional perspective. If your marriage is toxic or abusive, the advice in this article may not be appropriate. A trained, licensed therapist or counselor can help you move forward. BetterHelp's network of licensed counselors have years of experiencing helping married couples find fulfilling love again. You can read reviews of BetterHelp therapists below, from people experiencing similar issues.
"I would refer Helen to anyone that would need to speak to a counselor. She listens and gives excellent advice. My husband and I are the closest we've ever been."
"Within just a few sessions with Monica, I was in a much better place emotionally, mentally, and had renewed hope. After a strong rift with my husband, I needed a compassionate ear that wasn't my friends or family. She listened, gave me good feedback and assigned helpful habits. So far everything she suggested gas been working really well. Thanks to her I've made great progress, and I'm excited to continue until I'm back to me. I'm so glad and thankful to better help for not only providing therapy at a price I could afford, but having sessions from home, which has been important for me since all of this has made me paranoid about going out to seek help. I know I have more work to do, but with Monica and better help I'm more hopeful now than I have been in about two years. That's priceless to me."
In some cases, following the tips in this article and brushing up on marriage best practices will be enough to re-establish a close connection in your marriage. If you continue to find yourself confused and frustrated, though, understand that it's normal and healthy to reach out for help. A truly fulfilling marriage is possible -- all you need are the right tools. Take the first step today.