There are a great number of things that can contribute to this emotional distance depending on your phase of life and personal situation.
Common experiences include focusing on careers or study, having young children, chronic illness, focusing on separate personal goals, becoming ‘empty nesters’, mental health issues, lack of effective communication, not prioritising the relationship and much more. As you can see, it's not only negative circumstances that lead to emotional distance. However, people often believe if they are not feeling connected, close or intimate with their partner then they must not be in love with them any longer. The culturally glorified ideal of a soulmate, or the perfect partner, certainly plays a part in this perception. I may have to burst your bubble here, but these ideals are fantasy at best and damaging ideals at their worst. No matter who you end up with (your perceived soulmate or not), there will be a unique set of conflicts awaiting you.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, once we accept that relationships will have their up and downs and that it’s not always greener on the other side we can make the choice to turn towards our partner, reach out and reconnect.
Five ways to reconnect with your partner:
1. Empathy: Ask about their day without giving advice or finding solutions, simply listen with interest and empathy (it’s more difficult and more powerful than it sounds).
2. Rituals: Remember to say goodbye and hello with a hug and a kiss. It’s easy forget these small gestures in the day to day rush of life, particularly if you have young children.
3. Gratitude: Thank your partner for the little things they do. “Thanks for cooking dinner, thanks for making the bed, thanks for getting up to the kids last night, thanks for working so hard…”. Happy couples appreciate one another and don’t take things for granted.
4. Compassion: Don’t sweat the small stuff- it’s easy to become irritated by the small things when we don’t feel close to our partner. So be kind to one another and try utilising humour to diffuse tension.
5. Prioritise: Make your relationship a priority. This means giving it the attention and support it requires. Perhaps you need to schedule regular dates, seek counselling, be more intimate, talk more or create new life goals together.
Remember, healthy happy relationships require continual maintenance, these are just a few simple examples of how you may connect with one another. Please feel free to comment about the ways you and your partner stay connected.
And lastly, don’t be ashamed to reach out for support if your relationship is suffering. Let’s break the outdated belief that couples therapy is a ‘last ditch effort’ and create a new cultural norm that values emotional intelligence and encourages couples (and individuals) to be supported and empowered.
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