My Husband Is Ignoring Me: How To Restore Communication
Being ignored can be a terrible experience that often stings worse when it comes from someone you consider a beloved partner. So, you’re likely to feel both confused and hurt if your husband is shutting you out. What can you do to bring back healthy communication in your marriage?
The answer may depend a great deal on what’s causing this unexpected distance. Your husband might be ignoring you on purpose out of anger, or he might simply be distracted by day-to-day stress. It’s also possible that he’s withdrawing because he’s having difficulty processing strong emotions about something in his life. See below for some ideas on how to identify, address, and resolve the issue.
The pain of being ignored by a loved one
Sometimes it can be hard to take action when you’re feeling ignored. You may not want to admit to yourself how much your partner’s lack of attention affects you. It can feel like you’re giving them “too much power,” or overreacting to something that’s not a serious problem.
Yet there’s no denying that being cut off from interpersonal relationships hurts.
A lack of communication can also be detrimental to the long-term health of your marriage. A 2012 study found that more than half of couples who divorced said that an inability to talk to one another was a major reason for the breakdown of their relationship. Restoring your ability to talk with your husband could be necessary if you want your partnership to last.
Why does your husband ignore you?
Saying, “my husband is ignoring me” can cover a surprisingly wide range of behaviors. These different scenarios may call for different solutions. We’ll explore what each one might mean for your relationship and what you can do about it.
Scenario 1: Your husband is distracted and inattentive
Does your husband always seem to be scrolling on his phone when you’re supposed to be spending time together? Is he retreating into TV or his laptop as soon as he gets home? Surveys show that this can be a problem in many romantic relationships.
For some men, this may simply be a matter of the powerful temptation offered by modern electronic devices. Rather than consciously ignoring you, he could be falling into distractions without realizing it. In this case, you may need to have a serious conversation with him about cutting back on phone use, perhaps establishing “tech-free times” when you’ll spend time together face to face.
It may help to examine your own tech-related behavior first and make a point of decreasing your phone use. Then you can mention to your husband that you’ve enjoyed feeling more present in day-to-day life, and suggest that a reduction in screen time could benefit both of you.
If he’s resistant to this idea, it might be time to let him know how his inattention is affecting your marriage. You can try explaining that you’ve been feeling disconnected from him because it seems like his mind is elsewhere when you’re together. This might help him understand why creating space for phone-free interactions may be important for your partnership.
Another thing that might help is finding novel, exciting activities to do together. It’s possible that your marriage has hit a bit of a rut and the routine is leaving him bored or restless. Researchers studying long-term couples who described themselves as “intensely in love” found that trying new and interesting challenges as a couple was strongly linked to relationship health.
Scenario 2: Your husband is ignoring you for other priorities
Sometimes it’s not technology that’s taking your husband’s attention away — it’s other demands on his time. If he’s grappling with career challenges, problems with other individuals in the family, or other major issues, it could cause him to forget to make time for you. Even when you are together, he might be too emotionally exhausted to talk.
If you know that the situation is temporary, the best thing you can do may be to try to support him through it. There are times in life when it’s impossible to find time for everything, and a willingness to make occasional sacrifices can be important in building a successful marriage. Consider whether you can take some of your husband’s responsibilities off his plate. With less to stress about, he may be better able to spend time with you.
On the other hand, if this has become a long-term pattern in your relationship, you may need to have a discussion with him about making time with you a priority. You can let him know that he needs to include your relationship in his plans.
If that doesn’t change his behavior, you may need to consider whether you’re enabling him. Are you constantly rearranging your life around his schedule and making sure to be there for him whenever he’s finally able to get away? This may only send him the message that he doesn’t really need to change.
Instead, you can try finding your own hobbies and activities to do without him. And instead of postponing dinners, outings, and family trips when he can’t make it, you can simply go by yourself (or with the kids). This may make it clear that he’s missing out on time with you because of his choices. As a bonus, it might also boost your self-esteem and help him to see you as a complete person instead of an extension of his life.
Scenario 3: Your husband ignores you when he’s upset
Many people tend to become silent and withdrawn when they’re feeling angry, sad, upset, or worried. Some research indicates that this type of response is more common among men. This may be due to differences in socialization between genders that result in many men feeling less equipped to express their emotions. As a result, they may be inclined to avoid conflict and become silent when something is wrong.
Giving your husband some space when he’s upset may make it easier for him to work through his emotions. But if he’s ignoring you for prolonged periods, it can be detrimental to your self-esteem and to the health of the relationship. Some psychologists have noted that the “silent treatment” can even be a form of emotional abuse.
Does your husband frequently refuse to acknowledge you for hours or days at a time? Does he use silence to punish you for disagreeing with him, criticizing him, or not giving in to his demands? If so, it might be worth asking yourself if you’re in a healthy relationship. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can offer information and assistance if you’re concerned about an abusive spouse.
If your husband is simply having a hard time processing his feelings, you may want to remind him that maintaining communication is important even if you can’t resolve the problem right away. You can let him know that you’d rather he tell you “I need time to think this through, and I will talk with you about it later” instead of simply going silent.
Scenario 4: Your husband is ignoring you for no apparent reason
It may not always be clear to you why your husband has become inattentive and distant. This can be particularly distressing since it can leave you with no idea how to address it. In some cases, this shift could mean that he’s unhappy in the relationship and has started mentally checking out. It could also be a warning sign of infidelity.
There could also be plenty of less drastic explanations. However, your husband will almost certainly need to communicate with you in order to avoid serious damage to your marriage. You might have to make it clear to him how distressing and damaging this silence has become, explaining that he needs to talk with you if he wants to salvage the relationship.
Scenario 5: He’s not ignoring you
It’s often worth at least considering the possibility that factors like anxiety or low self-esteem are the real reasons you’re feeling ignored. Sometimes a person’s need for attention, affection, and reassurance can become excessive, causing them to feel like their partners are pulling away when they’re not. This may be exacerbated by some mental health conditions.
Before you assume that something is wrong in your marriage, you might want to ask yourself whether your feelings of being ignored crop up in response to emotional stress. If so, you could be projecting negative emotions onto an otherwise healthy relationship.
Therapy can help with all of these scenarios
No matter what’s behind the breakdown of communication with your husband, seeking therapy as a couple could be an important step toward resolution. The existing research suggests that couples who engage in therapy have significantly better odds of making their relationships work in the long run.
Many couples find online therapy to be a convenient option — when you can connect with a therapist remotely, it may be easier to fit sessions into both parties’ schedules. The added distance of internet counseling can also be reassuring if you’re worried about people in your community learning about your marital challenges.
Studies on the outcomes of online relationship therapy indicate that it’s positive and helpful for most couples who try it. A 2020 paper reported even participants who were skeptical of the online method often reported that it worked well for them. Some noted that talking with their therapists remotely gave them an added sense of control that helped them feel more comfortable with the therapeutic process.
What do you do when your husband won't talk to you?
It can be upsetting when your partner seems to be ignoring you. That said, it may be possible to restore communication using the following strategies:
- Give your partner space if they seem like they need time to gather their thoughts.
- Bring up the topic when they aren’t likely to be distracted, such as before bed or during a lunch break.
- Explain how the behavior makes you feel using “I” statements.
- Avoid assigning blame.
- Invite your partner to share their perspective, thoughts, and feelings.
- Practice active listening to understand their point of view.
- Approach the conversation with curiosity and a problem-solving mindset.
- Take a step back from the interaction and come back to it later if you need a break.
These methods may be helpful for starting an initial conversation about your partner’s behavior. If you are unable to start a dialogue with them or would like extra support from a third party, it may also be worth talking to a couples therapist.
What is emotional neglect in a marriage?
In a romantic relationship, emotional neglect describes someone failing to meet their partner’s emotional needs. This can take a variety of forms, such as:
- Failing to show affection
- Failing to consider a partner’s feelings
- Failing to support a partner’s goals and projects
- Not prioritizing quality time together
- Not making an effort to communicate
Emotional neglect can often be unintentional, but if the behavior becomes a pattern, it can have negative effects on the relationship.
What is emotional abandonment in marriage?
Unlike emotional neglect, which may be caused by distractions, routines, or other outside factors, emotional abandonment tends to be intentional. It generally involves someone making the conscious choice to disregard their partner’s emotional needs. Emotional abandonment may involve behaviors like:
- Ignoring a partner completely or intentionally minimizing communication
- Belittling, insulting, or disrespecting a partner
- Abandoning efforts to resolve conflicts
- Refusing to return gestures or words of affection
Emotional abandonment is often a sign of unhealthy dynamics in a relationship, and in some cases, it may even be considered a form of emotional abuse. If you or someone you know is experiencing any kind of abuse, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at any time by calling 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
What is silent divorce?
The term “silent divorce” tends to refer to a situation where a couple has emotionally distanced themselves from each other, even when they are still married. This can involve ignoring each other, but it might also involve other behaviors. Symptoms of a silent divorce may include:
- A lack of physical or emotional intimacy
- A lack of interest in solving conflicts
- Reduced or nonexistent communication
- A lack of interest in spending time together
- A desire to no longer be married
Although couples experiencing a silent divorce might not have officially broken up, there tends to be a noticeable lack of investment in the relationship from both partners. This may be due to infidelity, falling out of love, an unresolved conflict, or various other factors.
What is walkaway wife syndrome?
The phrase “walkaway wife syndrome” refers to a situation where one spouse decides to leave their marriage, seemingly out of nowhere. Although this may catch their partner off-guard, it often comes after a prolonged period of feeling unhappy or emotionally neglected in the marriage. Often, the partner “walking away” has already tried to bring up their concerns and has been repeatedly ignored or dismissed by their spouse.
Although “walkaway wife syndrome” is often associated with women, partners of any gender can experience it.
What is stonewalling in a marriage?
Stonewalling is the act of intentionally shutting down communication with a romantic partner. Although it is often associated with the “silent treatment,” stonewalling can also involve giving one-word answers, leaving the room in the middle of a conversation, or otherwise withdrawing from the interaction. This behavior may be an unintentional response to stress or conflict, but it may also be a form of emotional manipulation.
In any case, stonewalling can lead to resentment and frustration between partners, and it may make it harder to address problems. Practicing open, empathetic communication is generally the healthier strategy.
Why is he purposely ignoring me?
It may not always be easy to tell why a partner seems to be ignoring you. Although people might sometimes give their partners the “silent treatment” when they feel angry or hurt, there may be other explanations for the behavior, such as:
- An underlying mental illness
- Trouble with communication
- Stress from an outside source, such as work or family
- Distractions, such as hobbies, social media, or work
- Dissatisfaction with the relationship
- A lack of awareness that their partner feels ignored
If you’ve noticed a pattern of being ignored by your partner, this may be a sign of an unhealthy relationship dynamic. If your partner repeatedly uses the silent treatment as a way to punish or manipulate you, it may also be a symptom of emotional abuse. (If you or someone you know is experiencing any kind of abuse, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at any time by calling 1-800-799-7233.)
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