My Husband Ignores Me – What Should I Do?
Updated January 21, 2019
Reviewer Richard Jackson
One of the most disheartening things in the world is the sight of a long-married couple who no longer converses with each other. 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 is more likely to be an issue in longer relationships, "my husband ignores me" is a common complaint from many wives, no matter the length of their relationship.
The problems with this type of couple often begin with one half of the relationship becoming distant. This then causes anxiety in the other partner, which in turn makes them want to ignore the problem to avoid feeling the anxiety. It is human nature to believe that time will heal all wounds. We believe that on a long enough timeline all of our problems will disappear, and everything will go back to normal. However, the issue of a distant spouse is something which requires action to fix.
When communication between two partners ceases for an extended period of time, the intimacy of the relationship fades away. It can then be very difficult to claim back this intimacy as you no longer feel like lovers and instead are more akin to housemates. A distant spouse is also the number one reason for divorce. It also can lead either partner looking outside the relationship for sharing their hopes, dreams, and frustration, further damaging the relationship.
Why does my husband ignore me?
Ignoring a spouse is a common reaction when there is an underlying problem in the relationship. That problem can be anything from minor disagreements taking their toll on the relationship over time, or to one of the partners feeling as though the relationship has become stale. It is also a common response when a cheating spouse is racked by guilt.
The problems aren't always with the relationship itself, though. Your husband might be trying to find some personal space in a busy season of life (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 like he doesn't have the energy to maintain your relationships right now.
What is the solution?
Due to the myriad of reasons why husbands become distant from their partners, it is difficult to offer an immediate solution. It helps if you know the reason for the distance, but even if you don't, there are a few things that you can do to try to bridge the gap.
If you believe that your husband is ignoring, that means that there is a lack of communication going on in the relationship and this is the first thing which needs to be addressed. Although it may appear on the surface that you are the victim in this predicament, it is important that you address the issues your husband may be suffering from. There is a reason that he is ignoring you, therefore it is these factors which need to be resolved first. You need him to open up to you. Without effective communication, you are co-existing with incorrect beliefs about each other, and this is a recipe for an unhealthy relationship.
If you haven't tried to have a conversation with your husband about his behavior, and you aren't sure where to begin, try these steps:
- Make sure that 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 make it clear that that's what this is. 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 - and make sure that you're ready to hear it. Although the emotional distance is often caused by rather 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, or defend yourself. Please remember that this doesn't mean that 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 towards resolving it. Here are a few ideas based on the most common reasons for distance in marriage:
- If your husband needs a little more alone time, give it to him. This can be very difficult, depending on your life situation, schedule, and own needs. It is, however, vital. Different people need different amounts of time to unwind, relax, and recharge their batteries. 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 that 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 that he needs.
- If your husband is feeling estranged from the relationship himself, take any of his suggestions for renewing intimacy very seriously. It is possible that he might ask things of you that feel stressful and difficult, but you need to take a good look at what things you really can 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 bit - 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 you're husband has told you that you're being too needy, you may be very hurt. That's a normal, valid response. It doesn't mean that you can dismiss what he said. It may be time to take a look at yourself, and see if you're asking your husband to fill needs that aren't his responsibility. It might be helpful to have input from a therapist. You may even find that 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 that he needs to rejoin your relationship.
- If your husband has told you that he feels overly criticized, stop. Just stop. Even if all of your criticisms are 100% true, 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 that you tried to have a conversation with your husband about his distance, and he was simply unwilling or unable to give you the information that you wanted. Some people have more difficulty verbalizing their feelings, needs, and motivations 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 that 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.
- Give him a little space. This can be physical space or mental and emotional space. This can be very difficult, but it can also help your husband 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 some space shows him that you respect his boundaries as a person. It can also meet his need for alone-time, or give him the time that he needs to de-stress.
- 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, or being the one to fill your shared car with gas.
- Withhold criticism. This doesn't mean that you have to pretend that 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 right over the edge. Acknowledge the validity of your criticisms to yourself, but choose very carefully which ones are worth bringing up.
- Pour on the positivity. Remind yourself what it is that you love about your husband, and then remind him. Bring out the compliments, gratitude, and affirmations that 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 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, and shouldn't, but meeting the needs that you can outside of the relationship can free your husband up to meet the needs that only he can.
- Nag at him about his distance. If you have agreed to ways to address the issue and he's not following through, it is 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 that you want.
- Place more demands on him. Neediness and withdrawal is a potent cause for distance in many relationships. The needier that your husband perceives you to be, the more that he may withdraw. Healthy relationships do have a give and take, and room for both partner's 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.
Most couples who are together for the long haul 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). 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. 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 on what is going on. If your marriage is toxic or abusive, the advice in this article may not be appropriate for your situation. Contact a trained, licensed therapist or counselor, like the ones at BetterHelp, to figure out how to decide what to do going forward.