HOW DOES EMOTIONAL NEGLECT SHOW UP IN RELATIONSHIPS?
Updated: 5 hours ago
You can build a castle in a year but without a solid base it takes a single day to take it down. Why are some relationships lasting and some are repeatedly, and somewhat predictably, failing?
Much has been written about emotional abuse and how it presents in personal relationships. Many, who have experienced it, are on high alert to spot its early signs but may be completely oblivious to its silent predecessor...
When our relating lacks depth, our days lacks lustre making us feel discouraged and disinterested in searching for meaninful connections. Uninformed, we roam the streets of life alone, dispirited and confused. Yet, understanding and communicating our feelings is a teachable skill that can majorly improve the quality of our daily existence and lift the relationships with people we truly care about.
What is emotional neglect?
Emotional neglect is what didn’t exist for us to feel significant, valued, and loved by our parents. It refers to the non-action of adults around us which led to us not understanding the language of emotions and how to freely, safely express them. Due to the lack of positive emotional guidance we were unable to understand ourselves and reach emotional maturity relative to our age. We were either shown that some emotions were not welcomed, that they are a nuisance or the sign of a weakness. Like a dangerous, invisible gas which kills the love and appreciation for ourselves, being emotionally neglected resulted in us feeling wrong about experiencing our emotional guidance (which could teach us what we truly like and desire and what we don't). Our inner compass, present to authentically lead us, was made redundant and the source of a confusion. Feeling our free flowing feelings used to be natural like breathing air to us, but with our negative experiences of stuck emotional energies they became the enemy that left us powerless and filled us with shame. Which in turn has reinforced us feeling deeply wrong about ourselves, unlovable, unworthy. Emotional neglect is all that hasn't been addressed and acted upon by the adults which led to our basic needs being left unmet. Because our carers failed to emotionally read us, for various (sometimes very valid) reasons, we have lost the ability to evolve. Unable to acknowledge and express our truth, we have disconnected from our authentic self and lost touch with who we are which left us vulnerable to being controlled by others and their emotions.
Emotional neglect left us unable to reliably read situations, our loved ones, and safely express ourselves without feeling ashamed or guilty for putting our sanity and wellbeing first. On the outside we may seem to do well but when our life is emotionally baseless, our castle can crumble anytime and without prior warning.
When both parties have endured emotional
neglect as children their relationship typically starts with great intensity, fuelled by the excitement of something new. But their great love story only lasts a limited time as the idea of connection both parties had imagined (and may well genuinely desired) drowns in an overwhelming emotional emptiness. Emotional distance is the hallmark of emotionally neglectful relationship. Some call it boredom, some say things ‘fizzled out’, or that they have ‘fallen out of love’ with their partner. It really isn’t so. In the same way we just don't 'decide' one day we no longer love ourselves or our children. When that happens true love wasn’t present in the first place besides a false idea in our head of what it looks like...
How does emotional neglect affect our ability to find a compatible partner?
When we perceive our partner as flawless at the start of a relationship it is our mind unconsciously projecting our positive attributes (things we like and admire about ourselves) and our un-acknowledged desires of wanting to be loved, seen and understood, onto them. When our basic childhood needs aren’t met we are forever seeking to fulfil these through other, similarly neglected and emotionally stunted, children in adult bodies who are (unsupringly) unable to help us...
For us to become compatible with an emotionally mature adult - someone who has the necessary skills to deeply connect and genuinely care - we must be able to understand ourselves emotionally. Only then we are able to spot the signs of emotional neglect (and emotional abuse as its extention) in others. Being unaware of our unconscious beliefs that formed due to us experiencing the lack of emotional education we are well primed to fall for masked manipulators who can read our unfulfilled needs like an open book to create a well fitting idea of love we are seeking.
The quality of our love for our partner really depends on the quality of our love for ourselves. Self-love is either modelled by our parents by the way they treat themselves and each other, by the way they openly communicate their emotions to each other (and to us) teaching us of their inherent wisdom.
If our family modelled hiding the truth and rewarded emotional ignorance, we are destined to get lost in emotionally unrewarding relationships of our own. At some point, unsuprisingly, we experience either a midlife crisis or a wild divorce. Some deal with the Dark night of their soul, keen to explore the ever expanding void inside. They came to understand that no matter what possessions and achievements they throw at it the emptiness just doesn’t go away. Even if we make the whole word smile, inside we will remain sad. And our sadness won't go away with us starting a new relationship either because distracting ourselves with swiping left and right only feeds into the illusion of a new stranger understanding us better than we understand ourselves, leaving us open to predators that pray upon our naïveté and emotional unawareness.
To protect yourself from abuse it isn’t enough to address what was clearly wrong and present in your childhood and past relationships. You need to heal the underlying problem of what was missing in order to fully restore your connection to yourself and your authentic guidance (which is there to keep you safe!). This is a life long practice in which every step counts. Even though it may feel like at times you are standing still, walking sideways, or backwards, do not panic! It is all part of the process because without failing you wouldn’t know where to focus your, in this day and age, precious attention and energy. Also you woldn't be here and realised why knowing more about this topic is so important to you. To start moving ahead you have few directions to choose from. Depending on your situation you can either hire a therapist that specialises in treating childhood emotional neglect, check out useful resources, or read on by clicking the links below.
Learn some basics about emotions and EQ.
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Copyright © 2023 Michaela Patel