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How to Stop Your Spouse from Ignoring and Avoiding You

Is your spouse ignoring you, making you feel frustrated and angry? Making changes in the way you handle this will stop your spouse from doing this behavior.

get ignoring spouse to change
Stop blaming and start taking effective action to end your spouse’s ignoring and avoiding.

Is your spouse tuning you out, refusing to answer you, or pretending that you are not even in the room? This behavior is meant to either punish you, avoid you, or both. In either case it creates emotional distance.

The longer you allow this kind of situation to go on, the more difficult it is to change. Just as with all other problems, you have to stop doing what does not work and intentionally and willfully do what does work long enough to have success.

People who do not have success in repairing marriages either do not use the correct skills or use them inconsistently. Success requires the right skills to be used consistently.

While it is easy to blame other people, who may deserve to be blamed, blame is not beneficial when it comes to creating positive change. Blame makes us feel like we are not responsible to do anything. It often leads to conflict with a spouse who will also blame back. Two people blaming each other will not create positive change.

Regardless of who is at fault, it only takes one person using good skills, to change the situation for both of them.

As a coach my goal is not to validate people for blame. It is to help them to identify and learn the correct actions to take to improve their relationship.

Counselors help people to feel good; coaches help people to do good, even if it is difficult. If it feels good do it is something a counselor might say, but not a skilled coach.

Understand what your spouse is trying to accomplish in ignoring or avoiding you. Your spouse may be:

  1. Trying to avoid conflict,
  2. Pressure you to do something,
  3. Pressure you to allow something,
  4. Intentionally creating emotional distance, and/or
  5. Punishing you for something you did or did not do.

Some examples:

  1. Your spouse may realize that if he responds to you, you will start questioning, complaining, criticizing, or discussing relationship problems (all of which will make your spouse want to avoid you even more).
  2. Your spouse may want more attention or affection and use avoidance as a way to create more submissive and placating behavior from you.
  3. Your spouse may want to buy something, go away for a weekend alone, or even want to date others and avoid you until you allow it.
  4. Your spouse may be wanting to separate and intentionally avoid you in order to help you get to the point where you will also want to separate.
  5. Your spouse may be punishing you for withholding sex or affection, money, or not helping around the house.

The more success your spouse has in accomplishing his or her goals through ignoring or otherwise avoiding you, the more it will happen. Behavior which is rewarded is strengthened. Most of the time when one spouse is continuing to do a damaging behavior, it is being rewarded unwittingly by the other spouse.

Your spouse is talking–just not with words

Many people feel frustrated because they are attempting to get their ignoring spouse to verbally answer them. Even if you could get your spouse to answer you, he or she would not be saying anything that is not already being said through body language and lack of communication. Ignoring generally means, “no,” to any request. So, when you make a request and are ignored, just interpret that as a “no.”

You: “Would you like to go out to dinner this Friday?”

Spouse: (Ignores you).

This has the same meaning as,

You: “Would you like to go out to dinner this Friday?”

Spouse: “No, I would not.”

A helpful thing to do is to let your spouse know how you are going to interpret the ignoring behavior:

You: “Whenever I ask you something, and you ignore me, I am going to assume that the answer is ‘no.’”

This will help you not to wait for an answer from your spouse. Waiting for an answer when your spouse ignores you gives your spouse control. By using this explicit assumption, you take that control away from your spouse.

Another example:

You: “The sink is stopped up. Can you fix it?”

Spouse: (Ignores you).

You: (Call the plumber).

Although your spouse may become upset because you called the plumber, it is something that your spouse could have easily avoided by simply answering you. Consistently behaving this way will help your spouse to communicate with you.

Don’t let your spouse’s ignoring you stop you from having a good time

In the example where you ask your spouse out to dinner and he or she refuses to answer, you could just give up going out to dinner. If you stay home, your spouse gets rewarded by making you more miserable. To avoid that go out anyway, without your spouse. If your spouse often rejects an offer of going out, make sure you have a backup plan before you ask your spouse. That will help you to answer in a non-reactive way.

You: “Would you like to go out to dinner this Friday.”

Spouse: (Ignores you).

You: “That’s okay. I thought you might not, so I’ve arranged to go out with my friend instead. Maybe we can go out some other time.”

If your spouse then jumps in, sensing that he or she has lost control, and wants to out with you, you should treat that positively, but still keep your backup plan in case your spouse changes his or her mind at the last minute.

This way, whether your spouse ignores you or not, or changes his or her mind or not, you still get to go out. Behavior which is rewarded becomes stronger. Your not being reactive and by having a good time regardless of your spouse’s behavior, prevents your spouse from being rewarded for bad behavior.

If your spouse does go out with you, then help your spouse to have a good time when you are out. Then, your spouse will be rewarded for good behavior.

Is the ignoring a single behavior or a pattern of behaviors?

If your spouse has this habit of ignoring you, but otherwise is generally positive, then the way I gave you will help your spouse to become more verbal. It will also remove the power struggle since you won’t be pressuring your spouse to answer or interact.

However, if your spouse not only ignores you, but is consistently rejecting in other ways there is more going on. Most likely trying to push you away. This usually comes with affairs, plans for affairs, and/or plans to leave you. If, no matter what you do for your spouse, or how positively you behave with your spouse, you get rejection, then it is a divorce warning sign.

Pursuing your spouse in this situation will just get you more rejection, as your spouse does not want a better relationship. Getting closeness involves using good relationship skills, like the ones I teach in my Re-Connections Coaching Package, while spending less time with your spouse. You must create pursuit from your spouse rather than pursuing your spouse.

If you behave in hostile and critical ways, your spouse will only distance and will not pursue you, even if you use good skills part of the time. You will have to stop these needy behaviors and use good connection skills before you can expect your spouse to be interested in you again. My book on overcoming neediness will help you to identify the changes you need to make.

How long has your spouse been this way?

Always?

If your spouse has always ignored you then you are dealing with a personality trait and/or poor social skills.

Some spouses are simply poor communicators and don’t do much better with other people than they do with their partners. When that is the case, focus on enjoying those aspects of your spouse that you do like and accept that your spouse does not have the ability to be more interactive, even if you badly want that.

You have to be careful not to give your spouse the message that his or her behavior is unacceptable if he or she has been that way since you first met. When you married, you accepted however your spouse was at that time.

Gradually became this way?

If your spouse became this way gradually, it is sign that your relationship has been deteriorating probably because the two of you don’t have enough quality one on one time together.

Gradual declines happen when people stop:

  1. Dating regularly, or
  2. Spending daily one on one time together at home, or
  3. Having a sexual relationship that was good for both of them.

There is no excuse or reason that will stop the necessity of doing these three things.

You only get to keep what you prioritize.

You and your spouse will need to gradually return to a less businesslike, more romantic style of relationship with regular connection. If you don’t, your relationship boat will at some point be going over that steep waterfall.

Suddenly?

On the other hand, if your spouse suddenly became this way in an otherwise enjoyable relationship, then it is likely that your spouse has begun an affair.

Boundaries, not conflict or questioning, will be your most important tool for properly managing this situation before it gets worse. I do coaching for this as well if you need extra help.

The winning combination for improving your marriage

Although you may be tempted to criticize your spouse for ignoring you, it won’t help. Instead, strive to make your relationship more enjoyable for your spouse, while also not being reactive to your spouse’s damaging behaviors. Doing both of these things together will help to create a more positive relationship for both of you.

Remember that the goal of your interactions with your spouse should always be to make the relationship more enjoyable for both of you and not just for yourself. Having such a win-win perspective will help you to keep your love alive and your relationship strong.

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