How Do You … Go From Neglect to Connect?

This is a problem that many couples face and most times only one half of the couple finds it to be a problem. I’m not gonna say it’s gender specific because I doubt that to be the case. It’s probably a 50/50 split on which gender does the neglecting. I will say that I believe eventually all couples face this problem in one form or another…here’s the question:


Dear Big Girl’s Guide,

My wife is neglecting me and I don’t know what to do about it. We’ve talked about it and she promises to change and she changes for a few weeks then slides right back into the wife she was. I can’t take much more of this, it’s killing our relationship, it’s destroying the intimacy we once shared and honest to God, I’m on the verge of cheating on her. I’m the least important person in her life and our two kids are only slightly more important than I am. I have emotional needs and I don’t care if that doesn’t sound manly, I have needs and she doesn’t seem to care about them.  She spends all her time on Facebook playing games and chatting with anyone and everyone. She’s constantly distracted. We can’t talk because she’s always so focused on who might be IMing her.  I tried telling her about a medical problem I am having and during our brief encounter she looked at her phone 9 times, answered questions of someone who she values more than me and then looked at me as if I were insane because I got angry. Truly I was in the middle of telling her a really serious thing I needed her to know and she actually started sending an IM to someone else WHILE I WAS SPEAKING.  She couldn’t remember anything I said to her and when I stormed out of the room, she went right back to Facebook like nothing out of the ordinary just occurred. I can’t take it anymore. She has a lover, it’s Facebook, so why shouldn’t I have one? Please advise.

You are not alone. I Googled these stats for you. In a 2009 study, Facebook is responsible for ruining 1 out of 5 marriages. Seriously! As of 2011, nearly 1/3 of all divorce filings mention Facebook as one of the reasons for the marriage ending.

“Facebook-induced jealousy may lead to arguments concerning past partners. Also, our study found that excessive Facebook users are more likely to connect or reconnect with other Facebook users, including previous partners, which may lead to emotional and physical cheating.”

Now that the stats are out of the way, let’s talk about your issues.  Do not cheat. Cheating is the worst thing you can ever do, it’s so destructive and painful to the other person. I understand that you’re hurting and you feel like she is being unfaithful to you and she may be having an emotional affair. I don’t know. I do know this, if you feel like you need to cheat…leave her. That’s right, I said leave her. Don’t break your vows, don’t be vindictive. Just tell your wife that you want a divorce. That will either get her to listen and understand just how much damage has been done and want to fix it or she’ll agree and you will have a much more amicable split. You have children together, trust me when I say this, YOU WANT an amicable split.

Now for those of you experiencing something similar and you don’t want to be driven to cheat or end your marriage, what can you do? You have to find a way to talk to your spouse about this issue. Of course, it may be hard especially if they can’t listen to you for more than a few seconds before Facebook starts blinging and they are back to typing that oh so important response to the random person that is much more important than you are at the moment but…you need to persevere. If you can afford to replace it, I’d say to put a hammer through the laptop/desktop/Smartphone/Ipad or whatever device is momentarily disrupting your life. You NEED to make your spouse listen to you. You also need to make your issues understandable. This is not going to be easy, people get defensive and argumentative when being told that they are hurting you. They get angry, they lash out, they blame you for their mistreatment and you may not realize it but they may be partially right.

Love, life, arguments, pain…all of these things run in circles or cycles. There is no beginning and no end, they just go around and around. Most people will say I did X to you because you did Y to me. The person on the receiving end of that gets pissed because it sounds like they are being blamed for your shitty behavior.  That’s not really the case, it’s more like you are being told the reason behind the action. Unless you or they are a psychopath, there is usually a reason for hurting someone and it’s usually a response to a hurt or a perceived hurt. That does NOT excuse the person from choosing to hurt you. They had other options and they are responsible for their choices. They could have tried talking to you, they could have forgiven you and let it go or they could have hurt you differently. Communication is the best way because often we misunderstand or perceive things incorrectly and wind up hurting someone who did nothing wrong and that makes us an even bigger asshole. It happens.

So how can you go from neglect to connect?

Communication, communication, communication…

You MUST learn how to communicate your wants/needs/hurts/issues effectively. You MUST learn how to express yourself in a manner that makes the other person willing to listen. Learn their triggers and avoid them. If you don’t know them ask, “hey, I need to talk to you, I need you to hear me. How can I do that for you? What am I doing wrong?”. It could be your tone, it could be that they feel lectured to and not engaged in the exchange. Ask them what the best approach to talking to them about serious issues is. If you don’t know what you’re doing wrong, you will continue to do it.

Be patient. Breaking patterns is not easy. Allow them slip ups and be understanding when they make a mistake. If they genuinely want to improve things between you, then you need to do your part as well.  Since no relationship problem is ever just one person’s fault, you need to ask what you did to contribute to the problem and fix your shit!

I hope this helped!


4 thoughts on “How Do You … Go From Neglect to Connect?

  1. It’s a good start and it opens the door to trying. Sometimes people can’t see that need until something, a crisis, ultimatum, affair-whatever it may be, triggers the uh oh this shit just got real epiphany. Then there is the work to understand how the neglect began in the first place which typically brings up a whole bunch of things neither party was aware of or never acknowledged and then, then the hard work begins. Reconnecting is a choice and one that can take a lot more work than it did to become detached. It is a choice and communication is indeed the key ingredient. Good post, thanks for sharing.

  2. Agreed. DON’T CHEAT! Unless you want permanent damage to your marriage. I doubt you do.

    It’s perfectly manly to admit you have emotional needs. Men are emotional creatures just like women are. The trap that we “manly men” fall into is expressing our hurt by showing anger. It’s hard for a “manly man” to admit hurt.

    Well, after 30 years of marriage, I have finally learned how to reach my wife on my emotional terms. I have to TELL HER I’M HURT and make myself vulnerable to her reactions. The good thing in that is if she gets defensive, angry, or confrontational, I can simply remind her how I reacted in anger, in the past, when she hurt me. I tell her I’m expressing my hurt to her not to make her angry but so we can work through the issues.

    It usually doesn’t work during the initial conversation but within a 24 hour period, she’s standing humbly before me apologizing for her behavior that hurt me. Our relationship grows stronger and more meaningful.

    NEVER, EVER feel less than a man for expressing your hurt. Your wife will love you more for it.

  3. I agree, don’t cheat. Cheating will automatically make everyone think of you as the “bad guy” when you clearly are not.

    I’m a little crazy and I totally would smash her phone/computer. How about a mature compromise and challenge her to put her phone/computer away. Completely away. If it’s laptop -turned off and in a case. If it’s a desktop-unplug it completely. The phone, when coming home from the day, turn it off and put it in a draw. Challenge her to interact not only with you but the kids! I think that’s important too because it’s setting an anti-social example for the kids. Have dinner and family time everyday for a week without internet.

    Behavior breaking is hard. I think every long term couple experience this stage of lack of intimacy and connecting. We all get too complacent and take for granted of all the little things. I’ve been there with my guy with my binge reading. We compromise now.

    Honestly though, it’s up to HER if she is willing to put in the effort. Try to talk it out with her and honestly if she is unwilling to change then i agree with thinking about divorce as an option.

    • I totally agree with you on this. It is really ball in her court time. I suggested telling her that he wants a divorce because a divorce is preferred to cheating. Also, she will know he is at the end of his rope and if she wants to save the marriage she needs to know how in jeopardy it is.

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