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My Spouse is Neglecting Me; Should I Leave?

“He just keeps me around to take care of the kids, make the meals, and for sex. I can’t do it anymore.”


“She focuses all her time on her new career. When she is at home, she has no interest in being intimate with me.”


“He spends his time looking at other women on his phone. I have no marriage.”


“She’s so wrapped up in her (insert hobby here) that she hardly pays attention to me. She’d rather do anything else than spend time together.”


“I suppose I should be happy. He works hard at his job and provides for our family. But I’m always alone.”


Do any of these thoughts resonate with you?

Are you disappointed with your marriage?

Is your heart broken, empty, and sad; grieving over the marriage yours will never be? (You're not in the marriage of your dreams; what should you do? Click HERE for encouragement.)

Maybe you feel like you can never do enough to make your spouse happy, even if you give in to their every demand. (Is it good to give in to their every demand? Find answers HERE. Or listen to a helpful podcast HERE.)


If it seems like your spouse is more interested in their cell phone, sports, college degree, kids, career, ministry, etc. than you… I’m glad you’re here today.

If you feel alone, neglected and rejected, you’re not the only one.

If you want your marriage to change and your spouse to pursue you, read on.

Rest assured: there is hope.


Handle with Care

Our hearts are delicate; God made them this way. So we must handle them with care.

We’re designed to be whole in marriage by having unity with Him (God) and with our spouse. It’s a progression.

If we don’t invest in our marriage, we’re in danger of standing by and watching it wilt. (To better understand what it means to invest in your marriage, read THIS.)

In marriage, we’re either moving toward each other or away from each other; there’s no static status.

God designed marriage to be a place of freedom to love like HIM.

But too often we twist it. We give in order to get.

We make withdrawals from our marriage without making generous deposits, and soon our marriage is bankrupt.

We’re dissatisfied, so we begin to act out of desperation. We…

  • Bruise our spouse’s ego. (“You call that clean? I have to do EVERYTHING if I want it done right!”)

  • Sit in judgment. (“All you care about is yourself.”)

  • Beat each other up with our attitudes. (The silent treatment is my default when I have a bad attitude. But there are other ways to show it: sarcasm, making demands, complaining, playing the victim.)

We act out of the pain and disappointment we feel, blaming our spouse for all our marital problems.

Our tender hearts get cut and bruised- wounded over and over by the one closest to us- and a callous, hard-heartedness takes over. We hurt each other over and over instead of handling each other with loving care.


In God’s design for marriage:

  • Many of the wife’s needs for intimacy, protection, spiritual growth, and love are met by her husband.

  • Many of the husband’s needs for respect, physical touch, intimacy, and love are met by his bride

BUT…

When a wife or husband feels neglected by their spouse, all the other good things in life start to feel rather meaningless. Depression and hopelessness set in; we default to despair.

The cycle goes on and on. Wounds get deeper until one or both of you may think: My marriage is over.

If you’re in this spot, please take some time to read:

Or listen to:

My Dear, DO NOT DESPAIR. There is HOPE.

Read on to discover the truth about God’s love, hope, and plan for you and your marriage.

First and foremost, let’s get one thing straight:


God LOVES you, and He sees you.

That is not something to take lightly.

He loves you with a fierce, protective, jealous (in a righteous way), unselfish, kind, and tender love – the kind you expect and desire from your spouse.

Isaiah 54:5-6 says, For your Maker is your husband, the Lord Almighty is His name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, He is called the God of all the whole earth. 6 The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit; a wife who married young, only to be rejected, says your God. This is the God of ALL of us, and He loves us perfectly, even when our spouse doesn’t.


You are responsible for caring for the condition of your heart.

When you don’t feel loved or pursued by your spouse, It’s easy to fall into the trap of bitterness. Slowly, your heart grows cold and hard- waiting to feel loved, soul filled.

(If you’re wrestling with bitterness and anger toward your spouse, please read How Do I Stop Resenting My Spouse (Part 1) and 3 Steps Toward Reconciliation in Your Marriage.)

When we’re stuck in that trap, Proverbs 4:23 reminds us: Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.


In this instance, you’re guarding your heart against doubt. Doubt that God is good, and wants to bring love and healing to your marriage. Doubt that God IS working all things together for His glory and the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

Guarding your heart against thoughts like: I can't feel God's love like I can feel my wife's love. Or, God's love isn’t the same as when my husband is passionately in love with me. These thoughts say, "God's love is not good enough. I need my spouse's love."


Guarding your heart means taking your doubts and frustrations to your loving Father and Creator, choosing to accept God's love and pray for contentment. Not letting your feelings of disappointment determine your thoughts, leading you to reject God's love as insufficient.


Should I stay or should I go?

Feeling “unloved” is not a reason to leave your husband/wife. Period.

Yes, being unhappy in your marriage is painful, but God meets you in the pain. He offers His peace, comfort, and love in the midst of that pain.

But it is not a reason to divorce. Because marriage as God designed it means covenant love, NOT conditional love. Just look at Mark 10:9: Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.

(To gain a better understanding on what covenant love is and how it will revive and save your marriage, click HERE.)

God’s transforming grace can change your marriage when you have a correct belief and understanding about WHO God is- His character and capabilities. (Do you want a crash course on getting to know God? Check out THIS quick read.)

Even the most broken, hurting marriages can become walking/talking testimonies of God's love.

So again, being 2nd fiddle to a cell phone, video game, sports team, a career, a hobby, even the kids, is no way to live. But feeling alone in your marriage is not grounds for a Biblical divorce. (And really, you are never alone. Read Never Alone: Being Sprit-Led Instead of Self-Led to learn more.)

*For another resource if you’re considering divorce, please listen to Irreconcilable Differences (Part 1) from VowsToKeep.


EVERY marriage struggles. You are a sinner married to a sinner, and that will always cause pain. Marriage is not about happiness; it’s about learning holiness to love well.

Talk about counter-cultural. That’s a hard pill to swallow in a society that is so self-focused.

That doesn’t mean God wants us to sit in our misery and just “survive” our marriage.

Let’s look at some examples of hurting marriages in need of immediate work and attention, but are not grounds for divorce…


My needs aren’t being met

Guess what?

There’s no marriage on earth in which both spouses have all their needs met. God never intended marriage to meet all your needs, only HE can do that (Deuteronomy 31:6, Philippians 4:19).

No human can withstand that level of pressure or expectation.

Differing and unmet expectations are part of every marriage. Working to find creative ways to deal with them is possible and healthy.

So, what are we to do?

  • Learn to appreciate the needs your spouse does fulfill, then thank and praise them for all they do.

  • Seek fulfillment most of all from God Himself.

There’s no intimacy

Intimacy is a key element of a healthy marriage; it is 100% God's design.

But a lack of physical intimacy does not equal abuse.

Withholding and demanding sex are both wrong. Sex is the thermometer of your marriage; an indicator of the heart of your relationship. It’s not the thermostat; it does not SET the temperature.

Pursuing intimacy with your spouse is very important, but when there’s a void, it doesn’t mean the marriage is over.

When intimacy is lacking, pursue your spouse’s HEART, not just their body.

Sexual intimacy is a common issue in marriage, so it’s important to have a clear understanding of God’s design. Check out the following resources for more information:

We just don’t communicate well; all we do is fight!

God-honoring communication is necessary for a healthy relationship.

What communication issues arise in your marriage?

  • Silent treatment (stonewalling)

  • Selfishness (living in your own world)

  • Using strong, ungodly words (“verbal abuse”)

  • Threats (manipulation)

Again, these realities are painful, but they do not equal abuse or become grounds for leaving.

Communication is a skill that can be learned. HOW and WHAT we talk about are important for capturing the heart of your spouse. God's truth is the real need, so that must be your goal.

How we talk reflects our Savior. He is gentle, kind, and teaches us to walk in the Spirit; as we walk in the Spirit, the fruit becomes evident: patience, kindness, love, self-control, joy, peace, faithfulness, goodness, and gentleness (Galatians 5:22-23). Our spouse will see God's heart of love for them when we speak in such a manner.

Conversely, we can say all the right things, but if we speak from a heart of anger, bitterness, and resentment, WHAT we say will not make an impact.

Undoubtedly, fights and conflict will arise. (Remember: sinner married to sinner equals conflict). Disagreements are normal.

Couples who learn to handle conflict well may find their intimacy can actually increase!

We must learn to handle them in a godly way.

The power and wisdom of God’s word applied to marital conflicts will transform even the ugliest of fights into productive communication.

For help and guidance in how to handle conflict/fighting in your marriage, check out the following resources:

Every marriage causes wounds that need healing. But not every marriage is abusive like the world would say it is.


Satan loves the panic that comes with a victim mentality. We are so quick to believe the lies about how we’ve been wronged because it justifies our feelings. And Satan loves when we put all our stock in our feelings. He wants us to play the victim, using our feelings as grounds for divorce.

Along with glorifying the victim mentality, our enemy is reveling in our use of technology, because it’s destroying our relationships…


PAY ATTENTION- an important realization about cell phones and technology

Studies show that Americans check their phones every 6½ minutes during waking hours (roughly 150x/day). We check our phones far too often.

Sadly, the cellphone is a jealous lover in our marriages. It demands attention ALL DAY.

Calls, texts, Facebook, Pinterest, news feeds, sports scores, video streaming, music, free gaming apps, (the list is seemingly endless); they all hook us to our phones. We sleep with our phones by our beds, we constantly check them as we walk; we feel naked leaving home without them; they even come to every meal with us, sitting beside our plates as we eat.

Cell Phones have become our constant companion.

It’s no wonder many spouses feel like 2nd fiddle to them!


To be fair, not all of this technology is bad for a marriage.

Cellphones can help couples stay connected throughout the day with romantic texts and quick phone calls, making most couples happier and more secure in their relationship.


Still, cell phones have become Satan’s favorite playground.

He uses them as a source of frustration and conflict. They've become a "third wheel" in many marriages. What’s supposed to be husband, wife, and God in a marriage has become husband, wife, and phone.

Spouses (and kids!) feel they are competing with phones for their loved one’s time and attention.

We desperately crave meaningful conversation with our spouse to reconnect.


Unless we pay attention, the habit of deep, meaningful, God-honoring interactions can fall by the wayside over time.
  • Long, intimate talks turn to short interactions focused on administering our lives. We talk about to-do lists, budgets, who needs to go where and when.

  • Instead of working through conflict, we escape with our phone to numb our pain and anger.

  • Rather than praying together for Godly wisdom and guidance in raising our children, we turn to the internet for quick fixes. OR we hand our phone to our screaming child to pacify rather than instruct.

According to a source found online, most couples spend an average of only four minutes per day in meaningful conversation. How sad. God created us to be in relationship and community with one another (Galatians 6:2, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12); no wonder we feel neglected!


Think about it...


Bedtime

We can be lying in bed right next to each other but feel worlds apart. Evening/bedtime is when couples should be talking about the highs and lows of their day, discussing deep topics, snuggling, kissing or making love, and praying together. Instead of using this precious time to reconnect, we're on our devices; our attention shifts from each other, sending the unspoken message: My phone is more important than you. Neglected. Rejected.


Mealtime

Devices can also steal from mealtime. Eating promotes face-to-face conversation and eye-to-eye contact.

It provides opportunity for spiritual discussions about trials and triumphs in our day. Often it’s the location of our devotional time together.

But- too often we see it - cellphones at the restaurant table. Constant distraction prevents conversational depth and promotes broken connection for couples and families.

We must protect our meals together, setting them aside as a time to INVEST in one another.

(Are you wanting to invest more in your marriage? Read How to Get Out of “Survival Mode” in Your Marriage- Part 1 and Part 2.)


Car time

Time spent driving together can be sacred side-by-side conversation. Sometimes it’s easier to talk about the “hard stuff” when you’re riding side by side.

Also, you don’t have to talk; you can spend quality time singing to music or listening to podcasts together. Shared experience leads to deeper relationships with one another.

Constant interaction with devices robs us of precious time to simply BE with one another.


Vow to Change: Fingers off!

An Encouraging Call to Action


Fingers off the phones.

Put them down. Set healthy boundaries for device-free time every day. With your spouse, decide what those boundaries should be. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • No devices at the dining room table

  • No devices for 1 hour after the kids go to bed; devote that time to one another

  • Delete “mind-numbing” apps that you use as an escape or to mindlessly scroll

  • Agree not to respond to texts during conversation; this shows you prioritize the time you have your spouse in that moment

  • Once a month, have a device-free day; phones turned off and put away from sun-up to sun-down. Plan a surprise day date for your spouse and put your phones in the trunk of the car in the event that you truly do need to use them.

(Biblical boundaries are essential for a healthy marriage. For guidance on how to build those boundaries, click HERE.)


Stop pointing fingers at each other.

So many of us are convinced that WE are the only ones playing 2nd fiddle to someone or something in our marriage. But maybe your spouse is feeling the same way you are?

We are ALL guilty. We must acknowledge our own role in the problem.


Matthew 7:1-5 says Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.


It's easy to point the finger at our spouse on issues of neglect. (“You’ve got a speck in your eye!”)

We must face reality: we TOO have allowed things to command our attention. (There’s a log in our own eye.)

The little slips we make help our spouse feel justified in a small slip on their part. The cycle repeats for weeks, months, even years; the distance between feels HUGE.


The simple fact is ALL of us send unspoken messages about what we value most when we:

  • Check our phone/respond to a text in the middle of a conversation.

  • Scroll social media, news outlets, etc. while “enjoying” a movie with our spouse.

  • Keep our phone next to us at mealtime. (Can’t it wait a few minutes until mealtime is done?)

  • Keep our headphones in all day- even in the simple meanderings of home life- as a way to tune out or escape.

And guess what?

God’s got it worse than we do. How many things- in addition to our phones- do we prioritize over our time with Him? (To understand the power your heart idols have over your life; how to recognize and let God tear them down, read THIS.)

Intended or not, far too often nowadays the message conveyed is, "You are less important than my phone."

Fingers on God’s word.
As always, His Word has the answer, so put down the phone and pick up the Bible.

Proverbs 3:9 says, Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce. The term "firstfruits" refers to the first and best “crops” you produce.


One way to honor the Lord is to give your God and your spouse the firstfruits of your time. When you’re tempted to check your phone, use it as a reminder to pray. Or give that attention to your spouse!


If your marriage is unhappy, but not abusive (this is 99% of us at some stage in our marriage)- GET TO WORK!

You cannot change your spouse, but GOD can change YOU, your spouse, and your marriage, too.


Check out the following articles for hope that your marriage CAN change:

Invite God to intervene in your own heart.

So many of us ask for our spouse to be freed from his/her phone addiction before we pray to be transformed and love them well; love them like Jesus.

John 13:34 says, A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

It takes experiencing God’s love to be able to give it, so make sure you prioritize your time with HIM, first and foremost.

Focus your energy on loving your spouse rather than worrying about being loved.
How can I encourage my spouse to reduce their phone or video game usage?

Maybe you’re in a place where you are genuinely trying to make changes in your own cell phone usage. But your spouse doesn't seem to care. What should you do? Let's start with what not to do...

  • Do not make demands for your spouse to put down his/her phone or other technology

  • Do not use your phone MORE just to spite him/her

  • Do not complain to others about your spouse's phone or other technology usage

If technology is stealing their attention from God-given priorities, it has become an idol. We know from Scripture that idol-worship is a sin (Exodus 20:1-10). Remember, an idol is anything that rules our heart other than God.


(To further understand your spouse's struggle and to learn about how to come alongside them AND to take steps in personal heart change, please read the book Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands by Paul Tripp. The first several chapters are especially helpful for this).


How do we love our spouse when they’re stuck in sin?

If you recall my last post, I wrote about this very thing. One of the things mentioned was loving them through it.

My advice?

  1. Pray. Ask the Lord for guidance on how to best love your spouse with regard to his/her phone usage. Ask Him to provide a time for loving conversation to take place between you and your spouse in which you tell them your concerns. Then pray that He would work mightily in your spouse’s heart- softening it to conform to Christ.

  2. Encourage your spouse. Be honest with your spouse; tell them that you miss spending quality time with them and you would love to have space carved out of each day in which you’re together without cell phones. Let them know you enjoy their company! Also, look for ways in which they're succeeding and doing well. Show your appreciation, even if it's simply being thankful for how God made them. (It always helps me to remember that God made my spouse especially for me, and vice versa.)

  3. Ask for forgiveness. Even if you only do it occasionally, chances are you’ve neglected your spouse by being on your phone, too. Perhaps your spouse has felt that rejection from you. Even if it only happened once this week, apologize for your part.

  4. Plan a tech-free date night. If possible, leave the phones at home (or at least turn them off); I dare you!


God wants to be the One to love you and to satisfy you.

The desires He has planted in your heart are best directed to Him. My soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water (Psalm 63:1). God listens and embraces you. There’s no phone distracting Him. He is 100% all in on your relationship.

(For extra encouragement in this area, listen to Your Self-Talk About Your Spouse Could Be Ruining Your Relationship- Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.)


Jesus understands what it’s like to rarely, if ever, feel like your love is being returned. While that’s a tough place to be in, God’s grace empowers us to do it with joy and love, finding our contentment in HIM.


So stay. And love your spouse when it’s least deserved.


For further encouragement, listen to:

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