Emotional abuse can look like many things. It can be one person trying to control another person. It can be a type of deceit in words that we sometimes call gaslighting. It can be one person habitually belittling another person. At the other end of the spectrum is emotional neglect.
In a relationship, two people share words and ideas. They touch each other. They express their emotions with each other. The relationship becomes closer as they share more together. What happens to the relationship, then, when one side neglects to share himself? Sometimes the relationship dies off naturally, each person going their separate ways. Other times, the two people remain together in a one-sided relationship, one needing support from the other and not getting it.
Signs of Emotional Neglect
First, it’s important to understand that emotional neglect is not easy to detect. Whereas verbal and physical abuse are in the open for people to hear and see, neglect is in the negative space. It’s a lack of emotional support. It’s a failure to meet a person’s emotional needs. The victim may only be aware of a vague feeling that something is wrong, and he or she may not be able to express what the problem is.
A person who has been denied emotional support from another may feel:
- disconnected from others
- like she is different from everyone else
- guilty for not being able to trust someone
An emotionally neglected person will often turn inward, blaming herself for the problem she feels.
Causes of Emotional Neglect in a Relationship
When someone depends on another for emotional support, such as a child depends on a parent, and a wife depends on a husband, there is a need for that support to be fulfilled. Neglect happens when parents do not offer enough structure in the household, not holding to rules or moral guidelines that the child can follow. In a marriage relationship neglect can occur when a spouse becomes self-centered and looks to his own needs, leaving his spouse’s needs in limbo. Emotional neglect is not a one-time occurrence, but rather a habitual pattern of behavior (or lack of behavior).
Emotional neglect often occurs when one half of the relationship transfers the emotional support he should have been giving the other half to someone else. For instance, a husband could be having an emotional affair with another woman, neglecting his wife’s needs. Or, a wife could be concentrating entirely on her children, leaving her husband feeling unwanted and unneeded.
Lack of physical contact can also fall under the category of emotional neglect since emotional closeness is so often expressed with physical touch.
Effects of Emotional Neglect
A child who has been emotionally neglected by his parents may grow up struggling with self-discipline. Because his parents did not care enough to discipline him and teach him what is right and what is wrong, he has to learn it on his own. That is a difficult thing to do alone.
A wife who has been emotionally neglected by her husband might struggle with her self-worth. She could become depressed or anxious. Even if she leaves the relationship, she may not be able to fully trust another man again.
Emotionally neglected people are often compassionate to others, but very hard on themselves. They feel like they were born wrong, and so they mentally beat themselves up and deny themselves the self-love and self-care they need to feel better.
Healing Takes Time, But It CAN Happen!
If you believe you are experiencing the effects of emotional neglect, please take courage and let us help. ART helps reprogram your mind so you can think more clearly about yourself and your relationships. Emotional neglect is a real condition, and it is painful. Get the help you need!