Love Extinguishers: Emotional Neglect

Love is a decision, not a feeling; it is a conscious choice to act in a loving way toward another person.  Love is an initiated action.  To understand what a Love Extinguisher is, you could read the Basic Concepts article to get a more indepth explanation.  Briefly, to help you envision the idea, think of the love in your marriage like a campfire.  The feelings of passion and interest are the fire.  Around the fire are the protective stones of your vow.
There are actions that people do that are likely to stoke the fire of love and make it hotter–those are Love Kindlers. Then there are actions that people do that are more likely to quench the fire of love like putting water on a fire–those are Love Extinguishers.  Some Love Extinguishers are like dribbles out of a holey bucket and only slightly decrease the blaze, but some are like dumping a big bucket of water on the fire. Actions that kill the fires of your love are Love Extinguishers.  Over the next two weeks, we’ll be going over one Love Extinguisher every weekday to examine them more fully.  Today’s Love Extinguisher is:
1.  Emotional Neglect–this would be neglecting your spouse’s need for you to be sensitive to what they are feeling.  We are not responsible for our spouse’s emotions–that is a choice they make–but we can be sensitive to the emotions they are experiencing.  When we become calloused to what they are feeling and treat our spouses with emotional harshness, it becomes the Love Extinguisher of Emotional Neglect.
  • Scorekeeper–this is the tendency to “keep track” of who is getting what from the marriage.  Usually the scorekeeper starts to become resentful of doing things for their spouse, like picking up their dirty clothes or putting their dishes in the sink.  You may feel like your spouse is taking advantage of you, and you’re not receiving as much out of the marriage as you are giving.  Usually the scorekeeper is much more aware of the negative and fails to notice any positive actions or gestures.
  • Fault Finder–by definition this is a person who makes a practice of discovering the faults of their spouse and censuring them; a scold; one who is given to petty criticism and constant complaint.  Usually the fault-finder tells their spouse what they *should* be doing and sends the message to their spouse that not only do they disagree with what you’re doing but also you didn’t meet their standard.  Fault-finders often say “You should have known…” or will counter attack if they feel criticized.
  • Controller–someone who is a controller rarely thinks of themselves that way until they realize one thing:  Their spouse is an entire individual, separate from them, whose views and ideas and opinions and ways of doing things are JUST as valid as theirs!  A controller will manipulate the environment (and any people in the environment) to get what they want.  Controllers can be aggressive or passive, but both will want to dictate every single moment of their spouse’s life to get the results they want.
  • Bottomless Pit–this person thinks of their spouse as “too needy” and thus they retreat and withhold love, affection and attention. This sends their spouse into emotional deprivation and intensifies the need, and the bottomless pit withholds based on the theory that if they did give love, affection and attention…it would never be enough.  The flip side of this Love Extinguisher is the spouse who actually *IS* so low in self-esteem and self-worth that they constantly pursue their husband or wife night and day for “reassurance.”  They want their spouse to “make” them feel lovable, and since that comes from within (and not from your spouse), the result is emotionally draining the spouse.
After the wedding bells are over and the honeymoon bliss wears off, sometimes life can creep in and without meaning to, slowly but surely more Love Extinguishers creep in while Kindlers decrease…the fire can begin to fade.  To find out which Love Extinguishers you may be doing, please go to the Love Extinguisher Questionnaire and ask your spouse to fill it out–or fill it out as if you were in their shoes.
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