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What to Do When Your Partner Ignores You

A relationship expert shares what to do when you’re feeling neglected

Being ignored in a relationship can feel really lonely. Whether your partner doesn’t listen to you when you’re talking, ignores your emotional or sexual needs, or pays more attention to his phone than you — a phenomenon called “phubbing” — feeling neglected can seriously impact your relationship.  

We all want to feel seen and heard. Psychologists believe our need to feel seen by those close to us relates to prehistoric times when being abandoned by your tribe could mean your family was left to fend for themselves. Today being ignored projects similar feelings of distrust and lost connection. 

A successful relationship needs a certain amount of this emotional connection — that’s probably what bought you together in the first place. So, when your needs aren’t being met, you’ll start to feel emotionally abandoned.

It’s hard not to take it personally when your partner or spouse never pays attention to you, but experts warn that sometimes it may not be about you at all. So before jumping to conclusions or assuming that your partner doesn’t love you anymore, there are a few steps you can take if your partner is ignoring you. 

If you’re feeling neglected, there are ways to try and bridge that gap and understand why your partner is ignoring you.

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Listen to your partner

There could be many different reasons why your partner is ignoring you — don’t just assume they’re unhappy with you. But if they’re ignoring you all the time, it’s time to sit down with them and ask what’s going on. 

“Tiredness, mental health struggles, and stress could all be why your partner is finding it difficult to be in tune with your feelings. If they are feeling low and drained, it will make it a lot harder for them to give you the full attention that you desire,” says dating and relationship coach Pippa May.

Try and figure out if they are also disinterested in their other relationships with friends and family too, as this can be a good indicator of whether there’s a problem in your relationship alone, or if there are outside factors playing a part as well. 

Communicate your feelings 

Most couples believe they’ve communicated their feelings, but very rarely have they sat down and spoken about it. If your partner is ignoring you, communicate with them directly.

“Sometimes we think we have made it clear what we need by dropping hints here and there, but often we haven't made it clear to our partner how we feel,” says May.

“Lack of communication is one of the biggest things that kills a relationship. If you can communicate productively in a relationship, there is usually scope to overcome the challenges that you face.”

Share positive feedback 

If you’re scared of being direct, May advises using the feedback sandwich strategy: say one good thing, one bad thing, then another good thing. 

“For example, you could say, ‘I love when we spend time together, but I feel like recently you've not made as much time for us, I'd love to try (insert experience) together. What do you think?’” 

This type of communication shows your partner that they’re in a safe space and you trust them, but also that your needs aren’t being met and they need to make more effort.

If you’re feeling ignored in bed…. 

Being sexually ignored in the bedroom feels very personal and can knock your confidence outside of the bedroom, too. 

If you feel your husband or partner is ignoring you in the bedroom, May advises you to explore your feelings and emotions before you bring the subject up with them.

“It can feel really painful but remember that everyone should have the right to turn down sex when they do not want it. Therefore, taking care of yourself is really important throughout the process. In this time of reflection, figure out what it is that you need. Sex is so much more than the action, it's connection, intimacy, and closeness, too.”

If you want to get to the root of the problem, May says you need to discuss it with your partner. “Make sure there is time and space to have this discussion and try not to come from a place of blame. Then be vulnerable, express how you've been feeling, and ask them how they have been feeling in this area of the relationship. This can be resolved if both parties want to work on it together.” 

When the relationship is over 

Being ignored by your partner could be because they’re unhappy in your relationship and want to end it. May believes that when communication still doesn’t change how you feel or when you both no longer have the same goals for your life together, it can be hard to make the relationship work.

“When you no longer have the same vision for your relationship and no longer are interested in working through your challenges together, this is a good indication that the relationship is over,” she says. 

“If you are being stonewalled completely, it is cause for concern. It's difficult for a relationship to improve without communication.”

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