Why My Emotional Needs Are Neglected In This Marriage?

"ltr">Are your emotional needs neglected now?


emotional needs

Couple at home - Young adults flirting and having a nice time at home

We received this poignant letter...the writer doesn't ask for a response; only the possibility of being listened to in this important question:

"Do my emotional needs have a place in this marriage?"

Of course, you know the response:

A healthy, supportive marriage is a home for your emotional needs of any kind! This role is at the core of a good marriage: reciprocal support. Which of course, is the pain in this marriage!

Here is the letter:

"I keep coming back to what I understand a true marriage is: a relationship where you support and respect and love each other....so, why I'm feeling so abandoned?

I was expecting that my emotional needs were going to be important to my partner. Perhaps he doesn't know them, or even if he does not understand them, but if I communicate my needs, I expect him to try and meet them if he really cares and loves me."

What I get sometimes is that he tries to silence my pain or undermine how I feel.

"I keep asking my friends what is their definition of marriage....I don't want to give up my own idea that he would show a willingness to address my emotional needs and he would want to find out how he could fill or assist with my needs, as I do with whatever he may need from me.  How can I be so wrong? what is marriage, then?

In my definition of marriage, I would like him to feel the WANT to fill my needs instead of becoming immediately very defensive about him being the cause of my lack of fulfillment.

I would like to feel I am part of a couple; that I am with someone who loves me and cares enough for me to listen to my needs and try to fill some of them. I'm not asking for someone perfect to fulfill my every wish and desire, just someone who loves me enough to TRY, to want to do things that make me feel happy and loved.  And, I would do the same for that partner.  With my passive-aggressive husband, I feel like he gives me the exact opposite of anything I ask for.  I would like to feel as if I matter.  I would like to feel as if making me happy is a real goal of his.  Instead, I am always being "punished" somehow for expressing any emotional needs at all.  He is so scared of not being "enough" for me, that he never really listens to what I'm asking for..

I would like to feel heard, loved, cared for, listened to; I would like to be kissed and hugged; I would like to hear him say "I'm sorry", "I'm gonna try my best", "I love you"...

I would like him at least to notice if or when I'm upset and "offers" to listen to me,  discuss the situation, and offer ideas on how we can both be satisfied.
My emotional needs are important, and they should be included and listened to,  with love and respect, and without hostility...
I would like to feel my emotional needs are as important as his or anyone else's. Every human being needs these things to feel a connection to the good in the world. We need freedom from the emotional denial that devalues us. We simply need respect, in simple actions as the willingness to listen. Is this too much to ask in a marriage, at least a normal one?"

I appreciate your listening,


NOW, we are throwing this question to you, (with our answer in the link)

How much do you feel listened to when you express your emotional needs?

How much do you share or not Sally's questions?

What could you answer to her?

Thanks for your answers!


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  1. Linda- please write more….

  2. Linda. Your response to Sally was so profound and insightful. It helped me- Thank You

  3. Sally,
    I can’t believe how accurately you described my situation- you put the words to my feelings exactly. My PA husband says that I should not have any expectations of him and that is where I am wrong. I go as far as communicating my needs to him as to show him the $40 pair of earrings that I would like for my birthday and he will not do it. I tell him that celebrating days like Mother’s Day or Birthdays are important to me to acknowledge- he tells me what he wants for his birthday and I buy it in a heart beat. He does the opposite of what I want or need and resents me for making my needs known. He punishes and WITHHOLDS anything he can from me, knowing that that is what I want- I figure your spouse is not a mind reader-you should tell him your needs and he should tell you his needs so that we could take care of each other in the ways that are meaningful to each other. He told my girlfriend when he abandoned me and our daughter, that I ask him to do very reasonable and sometimes little things. That he knows how to make me happy but he just won’t or can’t do it, and he does not know why. What is that?

  4. I’m sorry I meant to add Linda to this as your comments realllllly hit home for me!

  5. What an amazing summation of what this is all about Sally….I think I will copy it and keep it with me at all times to remind myself when I fall into those frustrating patterns.

  6. To Sally & Linda – I thank you so so much for sharing. I am at the beginning stages of separating from a PA husband of 30 years and your words have helped me more than you’ll know. My self-esteem has been instantly boosted from knowing that this is a real thing, that I have not been crazy all these years. It’s incredible to me to read so many similar situations out there but somehow take comfort in knowing I’m not alone. I am working with a therapist on becoming “whole & happy” again. Your words are an inspiration to me.

    With gratitude,

  7. Sally,

    I feel you because I lived that for 23 years. Unfortunately are no easy answers to your questions. In a PA marriage the “partners are operating from two diametrically opposed worldviews. Ours is that marriage is about connection. Having a partner means that we invest in one another and learn about each other so that we can grow together in a mutually supportive environment. They believe that the world is made up of winners and losers; and they can’t be a winner unless someone is losing. They are terrified of being
    controlled and interpret meeting someone else’s needs as giving in and allowing
    themselves to be controlled. In short, they see giving you what you ask for as losing. Their subconscious need to win overpowers their needs for intimacy and connection. When he declines to meet your needs, he gets a guilty little charge from your frustration and feels like he is in control.

    The crux of the issue is that you do not have the same goals. It is hard for us to imagine not wanting a trusting, loving bond as the foundation of the relationship. However, the ugly truth is, they interpret such vulnerability as weakness and just cannot go there. Here is the thing that you really need to start hammering in to your head: You don’t have the power to change him. He might tell you that he wants the same things you do, but he can’t really own that winning is much more important to him than your emotional fulfillment. He will tell you whatever it takes to keep you in the game, because without you he has no opponent.

    The first thing you must come to terms with is that this man is never going to meet those needs. The healthiest thing you can do, once you have swallowed that bitter pill, is examine your life and figure out why you yoked yourself to such a person. I expect that you will uncover some deeply ingrained attitudes of self sacrifice. Our culture reinforces the idea that a woman/wife’s value is in propping up her man’s ego, anticipating his needs and fawning over his accomplishments. Look at the football player and cheer leader dynamic to see how that model for relationship ripples throughout our culture. Do you see
    a lack of reciprocal exchange? Our emotional needs have never been an issue in their world, and it is a rare man who can seriously elevate a woman’s needs or accomplishments into the same sphere as his own. Most of us never experience that.

    Sally, you must not let our cultural craziness deprive you of your self-worth. The trap we fall into is feeling we must not be worthy of that kind of love because they will not validate us as full partners. Your self- concept has to be rewritten so that you see yourself as whole and lovable; and this takes practice – endless repetition because you are reprogramming at the subconscious level. Your self-concept is fused to a dysfunctional person, and it is necessary to disentangle yourself. Your ideas about yourself must first be validated by you, before you can expect another give you what you don’t really believe you deserve. I know this is hard. It is so much easier for it to be their fault, but they are only playing the role that we have invited them to play.

    Your attitude towards your man must be revised as well. You do not need to excuse his bad behavior, but it is helpful to allow his problems to be just that: his problems. When
    he shuts you out, it has to be framed as; he does this because he does not feel safe – and that has nothing to do with me. This dynamic was established long before you entered the picture, and as tempting as it is, you just can’t take responsibility for it. It is not
    happening because you are not good enough, pretty enough… fill in any blank that pops into your mind. It would happen to any woman who was standing in the spot you have chosen. His fear of intimacy is his problem, don’t make it yours. You have enough to deal with in figuring out why you settled for this guy.

    The road to recovery from this point is still a long one. It is well worth getting off of the PA carousel and setting off on the path back to your Self. You wouldn’t waste your energy being mad at your cat for not whistling Dixie, would you? Well, being angry and full of self loathing because a passive aggressive man will not meet your emotional needs is every bit as futile.

    You are one of a great number of women who are waking up and realizing that we want more from our marriages. You are not crazy, demanding, unworthy or all used up. Work on making yourself whole and happy, despite this man and his problems. I did it and I can tell you, it is the best work I have ever done.

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