Feeling disconnected isn’t a sign to leave, but to go deeper

A disconnected couple
A disconnected couple
Image: 123RF / Katarzyna Białasiewicz

It’s typical for a marriage to go through seasons where one or both of you feel detached, lonely or dissatisfied.

When that happens, your relationship is not over, and it’s not time to pack you bags. It’s actually quite natural.

In marriage, we go through stages where we grow apart, and one or both partners gets more focused on individual desires, hobbies and careers.

Given time, however, we usually find our way back together.

This ebb and flow is a maturation process, for you, as an individual and for the relationship.

You learn to take it for what it is: a stage; and also how to reconnect after a season of feeling detached.

It’s fair to say the healthier the relationship, the more prepared you are to weather these dry seasons, but it doesn’t mean they are easy.

What can be especially challenging is when you are feeling disconnected but your spouse isn’t responding to your attempts to engage in a conversation about it.

When you ask what’s wrong, they say Nothing”. Or they get agitated with your questions, and refuse to talk about the relationship as though everything is fine.

However, every time you soften yourselves against one another and turn towards each other, you make a deposit into your relationship’s emotional bank account.

Every connected moment in your relationship builds up a savings of love that can be used during hard times.

If your marriage has more positive deposits than negative, you are less likely to distrust each other during hard times.

But if your emotional bank account is in the negative territory of disconnection, then trust and intimacy erode away.

Look outside yourself

Is there something your partner wants to do with you, but you’ve been making every excuse not to do?

Do they have a favourite hobby they want to share with you, but you’re not very excited about it?

Whatever it is, do it with them and learn to enjoy it.

They will be happy because you decided to value them and the relationship more than yourself.

Accept bids for connection

Couples often ignore each other’s emotional needs out of mindlessness, not malice.

It’s much more common for a spouse to ignore the other out of self-absorption than out of being spiteful.

The first step to feeling more connected with your partner is to recognise how vital these micro-moments are.

This is important not only for the trust in your marriage, but for romance and intimacy as well.

The simple shift of not taking everyday interactions for granted can do wonders for a marriage.

Helping out with work around the house is likely to do far more for your relationship than a two-week vacation in Singapore.

Sometimes we miss bids because our partner says stuff in a negative way.

For example, Patricia says to her husband, It never occurs to you to empty the dishwasher, does it?”

Marcus doesn’t hear her bid: “Please unload the dishwasher”.

Instead, he hears criticism. It’s not surprising when he replies in a defensive manner.

If Marcus would have said, Oh, you’re right. I’m sorry,” and then emptied the dishwasher, he would have scored brownie points and maybe even a sheepish smile from his wife as she hopefully realised her tone was unnecessary.

Before you reply defensively to your partner, pause for a second and look for the bid in their words.

If you feel bids are constantly wrapped in criticism in your relationship, we recommend you have sit-down to address this.

If the issue persists, then agree to invite a third party to assist with your communication skills.

Understand each other’s love maps

Often couples assume their partner feels heard and known.

The secret to understanding your partner comes not from mind-reading, but rather through the hard work of putting your partner in a position where they can share openly and honestly.

Do you know your partner’s worries and stresses at the moment?

What are their hopes and aspirations? Are you updated about their strained relationship with that work colleague or boss? What are their goals this year? Are they different from last year?

The key to understanding each other is to ask questions; remember the answers; and keep asking questions.

Getting to know your spouse better and sharing your inner self is a lifelong process.

Your partner’s favourite movie might not be the same as it was five years ago.

The better the questions, the larger the emotional investment both of you make.

Build a culture of appreciation and respect

We all have personality flaws. Instead of focusing on, thereby criticising, your partner’s inadequacies, learn to accept them.

And when you can, express what you cherish about your partner.

The idea is to catch your partner doing something right and say, Thanks for unloading the dishwasher, I really appreciate it”.

Each time you do this, your partner feels emotionally connected to you.

As a result, you invest in your relationship’s emotional bank account.

Ultimately, remember that when we feel disconnected from our partner, it isn’t necessarily a sign to leave, but to go deeper.

It’s a sign to make subtle changes to open your heart and create more intimacy.

Love is not built on the big vacations or expensive gifts.

Often it is the seemingly insignificant moments of connection that are the most significant of all.

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