Realizing that you are not as close to your partner as you used to be is scary. It is hard to even figure out how it started sometimes. But one day you just realize that it has been months since you went on a date, or had sex, or even just talked about your feelings. You come home at the end of the day in auto-pilot, fix dinner and just zone out. The butterflies in your stomach are gone. How did this happen, and what should you do?
How Did This Happen?
First of all, you do not need to feel weird. As a matter of fact, feeling detached from your partner is more common than you would think. There are a lot of different reasons why a couple might start closing off from each other emotionally. Often times, we begin to emotionally disengage because whatever negative emotion we might experience is overwhelming to us. Traumatic events can also lead to emotional detachment for our own self-preservation. There are enough different ways for emotional detachment to occur that there would be no way to tell from reading an article.
One common thing I will say, emotional detachment develops because emotions feel unsafe. Maybe this is because there was a stretch when everything led to a fight. It might be because of your upbringing. Whatever the case, you have learned in some way that showing emotions are bad.
So What Do We Do?
In these situations, it is important to have fun together. You might start feeling some pressure to change things when you notice you are drifting from your partner. Maybe you start putting pressure on yourself to have deep conversations, romantic dates or great sex. But no matter how much you try, it just feels like the two of you are forcing it.
Instead, just focus on doing things that are fun. Do activities that you enjoy together. Start treating this time like you are starting to date over again. When you went on your first date, you were not focused on having some kind of deep emotional experience. You were just trying to have a good time. Tap back into that! Spend some time together with absolutely no purpose other than having fun.
Another thing to try, make sure that you have time set aside to talk about your relationship on a regular basis. Drifting is different than fighting. With fighting you still engage with each other.
But when you are drifting, it can be really easy to find yourself falling in a rut. You just go into autopilot when you get home. Get home, fix dinner, get the kids to do homework, zone out in front of the TV. This is when couples start feeling like roommates instead of partners.
That is why it is important to make time for each other on purpose. If talking about your relationship is too intimidating initially, start by just talking about how you are doing that day. What was work like? Did you have a good or bad day? Talk about the deeper stuff once it starts feeling natural again. Even just 15 minutes a day will make a difference. You need to communicate that your partner is important to you. And how you spend your time is a great way to do just that.
Give us at The Marriage & Family Clinic a call if you need help reconnecting with your partner.
About the Author
Ryan Hicks is a licensed therapist and marriage counselor at The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, Colorado. He specializes in working with couples in high conflict and working with couples in the LGBTQ community. When he’s not working with couples, you’ll find him rock climbing or taking in the great outdoors of Colorado.