Can emotional neglect be a form of abuse? In some cases it can. Note we are not saying if your partner withholds affection, that is emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is about power and control over another person, and emotional neglect can be one way they attempt to control another person. If you want to know more about what emotional abuse is, head over to our website and click on “Is It Abuse?”
Allowing room for feelings, giving and receiving attention and affection, keeping agreements – these are all elements of a healthy relationship. The absence of these things are a sign of an emotionally neglected relationship, and that can be, not always, a form of emotional abuse when coupled with other controlling and manipulative behaviors.
Is Emotional Neglect a Form of Abuse?
Emotional neglect is an unspoken but insidious form of emotional abuse that often goes unnoticed in relationships. It involves the absence of essential emotional care, attention, affection, and validation that one would naturally expect in a healthy relationship. Dr. David Hawkins, the director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute, sheds light on this crucial topic and highlights five key points to consider when assessing emotional neglect.
1. Having One’s Feelings Ignored
In a healthy relationship, partners acknowledge and address each other’s feelings, offering support and care when needed. However, in emotionally neglectful relationships, feelings are repeatedly ignored, dismissed, or neglected. Your emotions, whether they’re feelings of hurt, frustration, or irritation, are not given the attention they deserve. This emotional neglect is akin to ignoring physical symptoms in a medical context – it can lead to emotional deterioration.
2. Being Held to Unreasonable Standards
Just as demanding unreasonable expectations from children can hinder their growth, being held to unrealistic standards can create a toxic environment in adult relationships. In emotionally abusive relationships, these high expectations, excessive demands, and constant criticism create a neglectful environment where personal growth and prosperity become nearly impossible.
3. Lack of Validation
Validation is a cornerstone of healthy relationships. It’s the assurance that your concerns will be addressed, your feelings attended to, and that you’ll be cared for. In emotionally neglectful relationships, this validation is conspicuously absent. The lack of validation leaves individuals feeling unheard, unimportant, and unsafe.
4. Ignoring Requests and Bids for Attention
Neglect extends to the simple acts of ignoring requests and bids for attention. In emotionally neglectful relationships, important dates may be disregarded, agreed-upon actions may go unfulfilled, and emotional chaos may prevail. Trust erodes as individuals learn they cannot rely on their partners.
5. Lack of Genuine Caring
In a healthy relationship, there’s a palpable sense of genuine caring. Partners smile when the other smiles, there’s connection, and a sense of reciprocity. However, in emotionally neglectful environments, this genuine care is absent. It feels like you are withering away emotionally, as if you don’t matter.
Emotional neglect is a silent destroyer of relationships and individuals. It erodes self-esteem, creates emotional distance, and leaves individuals feeling unloved and uncared for. This form of emotional abuse often remains hidden, as society tends to focus on more overt forms of abuse. However, its impact on mental and emotional well-being is undeniable.
It’s crucial to acknowledge and address emotional neglect in relationships. By identifying the signs and discussing them openly, individuals can begin to heal and find the support they need. Emotional neglect is not a trivial matter; it can have profound and lasting effects on those who experience it.
In conclusion, emotional neglect is indeed a form of abuse, and its consequences can be devastating. Recognizing and addressing emotional neglect is essential for fostering healthier, more supportive relationships. It’s time to shine a light on this unspoken issue and take steps to break free from its grip.
Also read: What is The VITAL Skill Every Couple Needs?
About Dr. Hawkins:
The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.
Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.
He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.
In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.