Feeling Ignored by Your Partner? Emotional Absence Wreaks Havoc on Relationships

Feeling ignored by your partner

The pain of feeling ignored by your partner can be enough to leave you curled up in a corner. It can make you question your own self-worth and leave you wondering whether your relationship was ever good in the first place.

You might be making efforts at reconnection—ordering in your partner’s favorite meal, asking about her day, reaching out to hold his hand—and nothing seems to get through.

Or you might be struggling to just go about your day-to-day routine while your partner is consumed in work, hobbies, or addiction.

Feeling ignored by your partner is a symptom of emotional absence. Your partner isn’t there when you need support and connection. Even when the two of you are together, you may still feel alone.

Emotional absence can take many forms, but its effect on the relationship is the same. It’s like the two of you have been stranded in a white-out snowstorm and despite your efforts to find your partner again, you keep wandering farther into the cold.

How to recognize if you’re with an emotionally absent partner

If you’re in a relationship with an emotionally absent partner, your interactions might feel one-sided. You ask questions to little response. When you reach out for his hand, you don’t find it. You hope she’ll recognize that you’re hurting, but she doesn’t seem to notice—or maybe she doesn’t seem to care.

Overt signs (maybe you’re not just feeling ignored)

One tell-tale sign of this relationship difficulty is feeling ignored by your partner, but there are others as well. Some of these signs can be overt and still seem like they snuck up on you. Here are a few of these bigger signs:

  • They’re glued to their phone and social media

They spend every spare moment on their phone, whether you are with them or not. They can talk about nothing else, and they become angry if you suggest spending less time scrolling through or posting to their favorite platform.

  • They’re gaming at every free moment

This modern hobby has taken on the magnitude of a lifestyle and an identity, so it deserves a category of its own. Maybe you met gaming, but now your partner races home from work to game, or even misses work to game. Instead of experiencing life together with you, your partner only wants to experience life as it can be lived through their game.

  • They’re addicted to alcohol or drugs

Addiction occupies more than just the time your partner spends drinking, smoking, or doing drugs. It takes over their thoughts throughout the day, wondering when they’ll be able to imbibe again. Eventually, the addiction becomes more important than everything else in their life, including your relationship, and, devastatingly, including you.

  • They’re a workaholic

While professional ambition is lauded in our society, sometimes a partner takes this to the extreme. They might be spending longer days at work, or behind the computer screen, constantly checking work messages on their phone after hours, or letting the stress of work bleed into their interactions with you.

Subtle signs

Emotional absence also comes in the form of smaller, subtler signs. They might be personality styles or the result of life or situational experiences. An emotionally absent partner might:

  • Deflect serious conversations

When you want to talk about something that’s bothering you, your partner pivots the conversation to something lighter. Maybe they even become angry and question why you worry/plan/think so much. They’re uncomfortable with the vulnerability it takes to have these kinds of conversations.

  • Be noncommittal

This could be noncommittal with making plans for dates or with when they’ll be ready to take the next big step in the relationship. Avoiding plans or next steps signals a person who is not ready to be available.

  • Still be focused on their ex

If your partner often refers back to their ex, they may not be ready to fully open up to the possibilities of their relationship with you.

  • Let you do all the relationship work

You’re the one who’s always making sweet gestures or planning special activities for your time together. It seems like you’re always the one pursuing your partner and never the other way around.

What to do if you’re feeling ignored by your partner

Feeling ignored by your partner is not a situation that will resolve itself. It can worsen over time, and sometimes it might even lead to depression in the ignored partner.  

There are couples therapy exercises you can do to help rejuvenate your relationship, but sometimes the best help comes from the guidance of a professional.

One of the best couples counseling techniques for couples struggling to find connection is Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT). Developed and tested over many decades, EFT can help couples develop the emotional intimacy that relationships thrive on.

That emotional intimacy is built on vulnerability, and professional counseling can give you a safe space to begin the journey of building trust and opening up to each other.

Of course, there may be instances in which your emotionally absent partner is not able to make themselves present for you.

But feeling ignored by your partner does not have to be the status quo of your relationship.

If you would like more information about how EFT can help you connect with an emotionally unavailable partner, or if you would like to schedule an appointment, contact Dr. Irena for a free 10-minute video consultation:   irena@permalink.com or call (281)-267-1742.

Dr. Irena offers online therapy for women and couples in Texas and New York City. 


Bugatti, A. (2020, August 06). Identifying and addressing competing attachments with couples. Counseling Today. Retrieved March 15, 2021, from https://ct.counseling.org/2020/08/identifying-and-addressing-competing-attachments-with-couples/

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