Understanding And Overcoming Emotional Abandonment

Libby Shively McAvoy
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Understanding Emotional Abandonment

Are you struggling to put your finger on what is not right in your relationship? Do you feel lonely even when your partner is next to you? Do you spend less time together than previously? Emotional abandonment is a form of neglect, but it is not always intentional. Emotional abandonment leads to feeling rejected, which is very painful.

All men and women have emotional needs. Some everyday needs include:

  • To feel appreciated
  • To feel accepted
  • To feel cared for
  • To feel heard and understood
  • To feel affection
  • To feel friendship
  • To feel loved
  • To feel safe
  • To feel important
  • To feel respected

Sometimes one partner withdraws, possibly to avoid conflict or shame. Other times, one or both partners fail to communicate their needs and concerns. Emotional abandonment may not seem evident initially, but left unresolved can lead to resentment and contempt, dangerously challenging to overcome. Emotional abandonment can also lead to affairs.

Common Causes for Emotional Abandonment

  1. Financial constraints and pressure. Concerns over finances can be an issue for couples in any economic bracket. When one partner is stressed, they shut down rather than discuss it and find solutions. Fears and insecurities may even cause conflict.
  2. Lack of mutual interests. It is essential to enjoy each other’s company and have common interests. My experience shows that couples who do everything separately generally do not last. Some independence is good, but only some of the time.
  3. Resentment. Your partner may need to know they are not meeting your emotional needs. If your partner is not taking your frustrations or concerns seriously, it may lead to resentment. When resentment builds, it is challenging to have any intimacy.
  4. Parenting in a way that robs your attention from your partner. It is essential when parenting to keep a balance between your partner and your children. We get caught up running carpools, attending sporting events, hosting sleepovers, and helping with homework. Avoid giving all of your energy to your kids. Create time for your partner.
  5. Work schedules may conflict. If one of you works the first shift and the other the second shift, this may be great for children and pets, but it may leave you feeling lonely. You can create unique together time on days off, try to alter schedules, or make an extra effort to make your partner feel loved, supported, and understood through love notes and memorable gestures.
  6. Avoiding conflict. Conflicts are a part of every relationship, but how we resolve the conflict can make or break the relationship. A partner who avoids conflict and shuts down is essentially stonewalling their partner. It sends a message that the partner’s feelings are unimportant and makes that partner feel discarded.
  7. Missed bids for attention. John Gottman, a well-known Psychologist, explains the importance of bids for attention. This may be a text that your partner needs to respond to, and one person may need to realize the importance of it being more than just a text. Gottman says, “the bids are a fundamental unit of emotional connection.”

It is critical to always make time for your partner and vice versa. If you feel emotionally abandoned, your partner may or may not be feeling the same way.

How to Overcome Emotional Abandonment

  1. Have open conversations regularly. Both partners should share their needs, concerns, and frustrations regularly. They should also tell their partner what they appreciate about them. If your partner expresses frustration with your behavior, try not to take it personally. Practice active listening with the intent to understand. You both must validate each other, even when you disagree.
  2. Lean into or pull into your partner. Walking away, avoiding conflict, or building walls will further resentment and contempt. Being there for each other will create closeness.
  3. Practice interdependence. Being clinging or overly needy is not attractive. If your partner has difficulty managing stress and shuts down, learn to enjoy hobbies and do stuff alone. This will show your partner your confidence which is incredibly sexy.
  4. Avoid playing the victim or being passive-aggressive. It is best just to be open and honest with your partner. Try not to rehash past problems and place blame.
  5. Carve out time to have fun together. We often take our partner for granted after being with someone for a long time. Cut loose, play, and laugh together.

How you approach a conversation, and your timing will make a big difference. If you tell your spouse you feel emotionally abandoned as they walk out the door for work, this might cause anxiety, and you likely will not receive the response you hoped for. Watch body language as well. Avoid texting as a method to resolve conflict or share concerns — it won’t go well because emotion gets lost in translation.

Final Thoughts

Relationships need four types of intimacy to succeed; emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual. Try to balance those types of intimacy so that both people feel satisfied.

It is often not a blowout fight or singular event that ends a relationship but a slow death where small gestures become significant issues. Nurturing the relationship is much like tending to a garden. You must pull the weeds and get rid of what doesn’t belong, fertilize it with love, attention, and laughter, and water it with acceptance and appreciation.

If you feel there may be verbal and psychological abuse in addition to emotional abandonment, I would advise you to seek counsel with a therapist. Abuse is never justified and should not be accepted. Your needs are important and deserve to be met.

If you are lonely with your significant other, a conversation is necessary to salvage your connection. Speak honestly but with kindness and respect. Help your partner to understand what is lacking and what you need. It is always possible to rekindle the passion.




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Libby is a Personal Development and Relationship coach specializing in emotional intelligence. By blending motivational speaking, leading yoga and wellness retreats, and writing, she has mastered the art of living her best life while helping others.

Cincinnati, OH

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