In 1933 the movie The Invisible Man was released. Based on the novel by H.G. Wells, it’s the story of a man who learns how to become invisible. His invisibility starts off as a good thing, something he can play around with and be that proverbial fly on the wall in many situations. However, he soon finds that being invisible is not all it’s cracked up to be. Invisibility begins to erode the quality of his relationships and the quality of his life.
Invisibility in a relationship can have the same effect. Of course, one cannot become physically invisible. However, one can begin to feel invisible when they are ignored, dismissed, or disregarded by their partner. The partner doing the disregarding may not even be aware of the feelings of invisibility by the other because it happens gradually over time. The ignored partner begins to shrink in on themselves, a little bit each day, until eventually they experience emotional and relational invisibility. This is a very unhealthy situation for both partners and for the relationship.
So, what can you do about it? First, the partner that feels invisible must communicate that to the other, clearly explaining what they mean by feeling invisible. But do so without blaming, shaming, or finger pointing. Just be clear about what is needed to help you not feel invisible and be very specific. For the other partner, do the following: 1. Listen carefully, without interrupting 2. Acknowledge your partner’s feelings 3. Do not get defensive or make excuses for your behaviors 4. Offer an apology if appropriate 5. Commit to doing those things your partner has expressed a need for.
Sometimes, especially in a long-term relationship, life can get in the way of our relationship, the attention we give our partner, and how we nurture our relationship. That being the case, we must approach nurturing our relationship with intentionality so that neither we nor our partner ever feels like the invisible man.