- Benign Neglect -

Benign Neglect: What Is It and How Does it Affect Couples?

Benign Neglect is what happens when you give your time, energy, and attention to everything else but each other and the relationship you are in.

You may look at that statement and wonder how, exactly, this can have a negative impact on your relationship. After all, we are all busy and often get pulled in many different directions throughout the day. But what we don’t do can be just as important as what we actually do.

There are two main reasons why partners allow benign neglect to take over their relationship. Either they believe that once love is discovered it will continue to flow naturally on its own with no care or maintenance necessary, or the time you put aside for each other is constantly under attack due to difficult circumstances, conflicting work schedules, feeling overwhelmed, or other situations that demand your immediate attention.

Common examples of couples likely to be involved in benign neglect include:

  • Couples who have small children and do not make the time for just themselves.
  • Couples who think it’s selfish to take time away from their kids—so they don’t.
  • Couples consumed in careers or circumstances that demand all of their attention

Many of us believe that a healthy relationship will flourish all on its own and maintain itself through the many trials and stresses that we experience, but the reality is that love does not maintain itself spontaneously. It has to be intentionally expressed through kindness, caring, and affectionate attention. When you assume that feelings will automatically renew themselves, you set yourself up for neglecting the one you care for most. Because love is both a feeling and an action, you make it happen by what you do or say.

Doing nothing and hoping things will get better on their own is most often not a good idea and, strangely, neither is trying—if you try too hard. If both of you are working full-time or on separate schedules, the quality of your time together decreases and in an effort to get everything done, you slip into routines. As a result time together becomes just as rushed and harried as everything else and you may look towards your electronic devices as a sanctuary, which ultimately works only to further involve yourself in separate lives.

However, just as they may separate us, the advancements of our modern age can also work to bring us closer. Through effective communication and greater levels of flexibility, it is quite common for couples to maintain a job while raising children and still have time for each other.

To prevent a relationship from becoming a one-sided emotional support system, you need to remain conscious of your behavior and learn how to dedicate time away from work and other interests to focus on who you love and the expression of that love. As an example, couples who put in scheduled time with each other tend to experience a stronger emotional connection.

When you actively structure 15 minutes into your day in which you emotionally connect, you are better able to communicate your needs with your partner. Sometimes you have to fake it until you make it! Just like any other important aspect in life, you need to set aside dedicated time, and then keep it on a schedule.

Yes, our careers are important. And yes, so are pursuing interests that we are passionate about as well as the demands of meeting the obligations of family and kids. But when you take the time to express your affection in ways that have meaning to your partner, you maintain the intimate connection that you both share and let your partner know that they are cared about, they are important, and you are grateful for the role they play in your life.

If you’re struggling to determine if you’re in a relationship of benign neglect, therapy can help. You can contact us here..

Call Child & Family Therapeutic Systems today at 414-325-7741 for more information or visit our Contact page.