Benign neglect is what happens when you give your time, energy, and attention to everything else in your life except one another.
Essentially there are three reasons why partners stop allow benign neglect to take over their relationship. First is a commonly held belief that once love is discovered, it continues to flow naturally on its own. No care and maintenance necessary, just good vibrations forever. This belief, which your ego buys into big time, is sure to set you up to be just roommates.
Let's be clear about this: love between adults does not maintain itself spontaneously. Love has to be intentionally expressed; it comes alive in kindness, caring, and affectionate attention.
When you believe that love maintains itself naturally, you set yourself up for neglecting the one you love. You act as if there is nothing for you to do, because you think love feelings will automatically renew themselves. Love seems to be only a feeling, but it's really both a feeling and an action. Love is a verb. You make it happen by what you do and say. If you don't express your love in behaviors that mean something to your partner, behaviors that leave them feeling cared about and important to you, it feels weak and anemic to them. Your love becomes an afterthought, an intellectual idea rather than a reality that your partner feels in her bones and that fills her heart.
The second reason benign neglect is so prevalent is that the private space between you and your partner is constantly being whittled down. If both of you are working full time, the number and quality of your face-to-face exchanges dramatically decreases. In an effort to get everything done, you slip into routines that quickly become entrenched realities. Time together becomes just as rushed and harried as everything else. To escape, people scatter to their electronic sanctuaries-separate TVs, separate computers, separate i-whatevers, separate lives.
Your private couple space is where your personal and intimate relating takes place; it is sacred ground. It's sacred because the very life of your relationship depends on what happens here. When you fill that space with affection, caring, humor, and respect your relationship flowers. But the possibility of this happening gets slimmer everyday when you're on overload. When you're pressured and over stressed on the one hand, and also have a multitude of distractions at your fingertips, then playing together may not happen.
One of the ways you can remember to keep each other feeling well loved is to periodically ask yourself this question: What's really important to me, to my life?
If you ask people this question, they usually respond with something like, "my wife (or husband), my kids, my family." But if you then followed them around for a week or two and saw how they actually live, you would probably find a lot of contradictions between what they say is important and what they actually do. You would find that the things they say are important often don't get much attention at all.
One way you can remember what is important in your life is to make sure that your ego doesn't make decisions that lead you toward neglecting one another. Your ego always thinks of itself first and your relationship second. If your husband/wife/partner and the relationship and family you share is truly a top priority, then every important thing you do and say has to be measured against the next question, which is: Will whatever I'm about to do or say bring me closer to having the love I want, or will it take me away from it?