Every day, countless marriages are neglected and eventually lapse into dissatisfaction. Yet, the marriages continue without either partner complaining or calling for action to improve the relationship.
The top lineup of excuses for why couples neglect their marriages? Too busy with the kids, demanding jobs, family life fatigue, lack of newness, boredom, and stress top the list. They simply do not make the time for their partner. If any of this sounds familiar to you, beware: Neglected marriages are a prime target for emotional cheating.
Are We Neglecting Our Marriage?
If you value your marriage, but do not devote ample time to nurturing it, you are neglecting it. Think about it. There are two marriages in every marriage – his and hers. This expression tells us a lot about how men and women see marriage. It suggests that couples often differ in how they place importance on their marital relationship, intimacy, and connection.
Some partners may value children, friends, extended family, or career over their spouses – or at least behave as if they do, spending far more time, energy, and effort on those relationships. Each may become separately entangled in the routines of daily living and the needs of others. Sadly, many married people move through their family life like ships in the night, seldom docking at the same port. Marital neglect is born.
Couples neglect their marriages when they fail to regularly touch base with each other in a warm and personal way. Emptiness is created within the couple’s relationship. Yet often only one partner experiences the emptiness feeling. The other may be indifferent, clueless, or insensitive to the problems in the relationship experienced by the other partner.
What Is Emptiness in Marriage?
This is the basic recipe for emptiness in marriage:
1. Meaningful connection to the other spouse is lost.
2. One or both partners experience too little closeness or intimacy (physically, sexually, emotionally, romantically).
3. Marriage includes no playfulness or exclusive couple date time.
4. Simple conversation about each other, goals, or a future together has stopped.
5. That magical ‘in love’ feeling seems to have disappeared for one or both.
6. Expressions of personal interest in each other have dwindled.
7. Inattention to each other has become the norm.
8. Common courtesy and affection have all but disappeared.
By ignoring this recipe for emptiness and not taking any corrective action, sedentary lives, boredom, and complacency settle into a marriage. Partners may react to emptiness and substitute over-involvement in outside activities, or simply tolerate a life without closeness and partner connection.
Over-focus on kids, jobs, extended family, and friends are typical compensations to fulfill their unmet marital needs. Emptiness weakens marriages. Even if couples have settled, their marriages still remain vulnerable to emotional cheating, but emotional cheating is not inevitable for them.
Solution-oriented couples directly address marital emptiness and engage in self-help activities or seek professional marriage counseling (or ultimately divorce) in order to achieve a more fulfilling relationship. Too frequently, however, tempting emotional cheating opportunities interfere beforehand with a couple’s motivation to strengthen their marriages.
Emotional cheating negatively distorts the view of marriage by filling in lives with promises of excitement, ego boosts, newness, intimacy, and connection. Then it no longer feels necessary to rebuild those qualities in marriage. An almost irresistible temptation to emotional cheating is often disguised as serious flirting or passively accepting friendly moves toward private emotional exchanges with an opposite sex co-worker or acquaintance.
Is Emotional Cheating Really Cheating?
Yes, emotional cheating is cheating. Emotional cheating secretly strips the left behind partner of the time, attention, and connection they expect and deserve in their marriages, but was directed to the emotional affair partner instead.
Both partners share equal responsibility for tolerating marital neglect and lack of connection. Cheating is a choice only certain individuals make in response to marital neglect. Simply put, cheaters choose cheating. Marital dissatisfaction does not cause cheating. Emotional cheating sabotages marital satisfaction.
How Do We Know If Our Marriage Has Enough Intimacy and Connection?
Easy. Your marriage has enough intimacy and connection if both you and your spouse say so. Likewise, your marriage is being neglected if either you or your spouse says so. Period.
Feelings of intimacy, connection, and neglect are very personal. You and your partner may not feel those emotions in an identical way or have matched needs for intimacy and connection or share equal sensitivity to neglect. But also remember that if the needs of one are not satisfied, then there is either not enough or too much intimacy and connection. Enough for one may be too much (or too little) for the other.
How Do We Prevent Emotional Cheating?
Simple. Look above at the recipe for emptiness in marriage. Does your marriage have one of these ingredients? Maybe two, three, or more? Review the list with your spouse. Take immediate action to eliminate these ingredients before they pile up and cook up a problem in your marriage.
You can also prevent emotional cheating beginning with these five tips, which guide you to daily actions for relationship rejuvenation:
1. Touch, be affectionate, and respond to each other.
2. Give your partner attention. Share your day and feelings.
3. Spend time together, plan new experiences, and join in future life goals.
4. Demonstrate love and respect daily. Check to see that your message is getting across to your partner.
5. Place the other person’s needs and feelings in a place of importance next to your own and above all other people and things.
The cheating trouble can only begin if you are unaware of your needs for intimacy and connection, or are aware but fail to express them to your partner. Couples must also take action.
Work actively together to respect and fulfill the unique needs of self and partner. Make a conscious choice to strengthen your marriage. Couples can prevent emotional cheating. Be an activist in your marriage. Create milestones, not millstones, in your relationship.