Are you living like roommates instead of having the intimate, close relationship you want with your spouse? There are lots of reasons why we grow apart. When Mike and I were young marrieds with a little one it was easy to just do the necessary communications (work talk) to make the household functional without stopping to really talk about where we were emotionally. Expressing emotions can be hard for some people especially when you’re stretched thin by the demands of work, family, community, and other responsibilities. Trying to carve out time with your spouse to talk about deep things may even make them nervous or anxious, which creates a barrier of its own to making the time for more heart talk.
Some reasons we grow apart in our most important relationships:
• Demanding work
• Another family member (baby or parent)
• Feeling misunderstood
• Anger issues
• Plus many more…
The cause of drifting apart may be a specific thing like a job or an illness. But sometimes it’s a feeling that’s less tangible, but just as real.
I recently had a conversation with a friend who has a really good marriage, but confessed that the craziness of a 2+ jobs household with 2 young children was overwhelming. She said it seemed like there was never time for connection between her and her spouse. Does this sound familiar?
I’d love to say that getting more advanced in careers and being at the empty nest stage fixes all of that, but I’d be lying to you! Most empty nesters or retirees I know are busier than when they were employed full time. Throughout our marriage we’ve had to fight for the time to stay close. We’ve been dual career for all but 2 years of our marriage and some of that time I’ve also had other businesses on the side.
SO WHAT IS GETTING IN OUR WAY? – – – EVERYTHING!
What are the Results?
One of the most detrimental circumstances for a marriage relationship is feeling disconnected and distant from to your spouse. The reason for the disconnect will vary from couple to couple, but if left unresolved the results will always be the same:
• Feeling unloved
• Further withdrawal from your spouse
• Seeking affirmation from others
• Seeking affection from others – DO NOT GO HERE!
How can we fix this issue in our relationship?
1) Acknowledge there’s a problem with your relationship. Maybe your spouse doesn’t realize how you feel or that there even is a problem. DO NOT EXPECT YOUR SPOUSE TO READ YOUR MIND! Even after being together for over 30 years we still can’t do this. You need to dig deep and figure out how to talk with your spouse about how you feel. If you express your feelings without blaming your spouse things will go much better.
• Don’t start your sentences with, “You always” or “You never” – recipe for disaster.
• Do start with something like, “I need your help. I’ve been feeling disconnected from you and I don’t like this. Can you help me work through this so…”
2) Figure out the issue(s).
• Does work control my time even when I’m not on the clock?
• Do I allow extended family members to have access to me and my home more than is appropriate?
• Are there other underlying issues in our marriage that we have chosen to ignore?
• Out of your control:
* Small children (actually any age children) – You know! They demand a lot! Find help – a weekly evening or afternoon when you can count on 2 hours away with your spouse and no kids.
* Illness – be involved with what your spouse is experiencing. Ask questions, go to treatments and appointments if possible.
* Relocation or extended work travel can be especially trying. The traveler can feel disconnected from what’s happening at home and the one at home can feel burdened to take care of everything. Use technology as much as possible. Video calls, phone calls, and texting are great tools you can use just to let the other person know you’re thinking of them.
3) Work toward a solution. Once you’ve figured out what’s making you feel more like roommates and less like a couple, then work on some solutions together. Set an appointment on each of your calendars to check in weekly and see if you’re making progress toward re-connection.
SUGGESTIONS THAT TAKE SOME THOUGHT BUT NO ADDITIONAL TIME (well maybe 5 minutes)
- When you are together, use Heart Talk (post on this coming soon) to connect at a more intimate level.
- Hello/Goodbye ritual. We’ve practiced this one for years. Whenever your spouse comes home, stop what you’re doing if at all possible and go greet them with a hug and kiss. Look them in the eyes and appreciate the fact that they are home. When you leave, do the same. Resist the urge to rush out the door and yell from downstairs, “see ya – love you”. This is not a great connector and will make your relationship stronger in the long run. Just the one little ritual!
- Take 1 minute to write down 5 things you appreciate about your spouse. Then tell them. Possibly in a note, email, or text. It’s amazing how connected you feel when you know your spouse appreciates you.
So what’s a creative connection you’re going to try with your love this week? Share with us and our community. We’d love to hear.