Disconnection In Marriage: 3 Steps to Reconnect

Disconnection In Marriage: 3 Steps to Reconnect

Couple feeling disconnected in their marriage or relationship

It’s not uncommon for partners to blame and criticize as a way to help their partner love them better.

“What’s wrong with you…?”

“Why do you always…”

“You never…”

Hoping to whip their partner into warmth and good feels, partners use negative tactics in desperate attempts to reconnect.

Maybe you don’t blame and criticize. Maybe you withhold affection and emotionally distance yourself.

Whatever the tactic, it’s a frantic attempt that, typically, doesn’t go as planned.

What’s clear — but probably not so clear based on their actions — is that your partner wants the relationship to return to its loving ways. You want the same thing.

You don’t like the way this feels, either.

But where do you even start? Who needs to change? Is it even worth it?

Emotion Plays a Significant Role

Emotion provides us with information. It evaluates and communicates to us if our intimate relationships are good, distressed, or needs maintenance.

You’re relaxed when the relationship is in a good place.

“Ahhh, you forgot my favorite wine? Don’t sweat it. I’m disappointed, but we’ll just use what we got.”

Not so much when the relationship is in a distressed place.

“How could you forget the wine? I reminded you last night. You always do this. It never fails!”

Emotional connection gives energy to your willingness to grow and change. Your partner will be more open to change, compromise, adjustments, hearing you, speaking up, and closing the emotional distance when they feel loved and connected and important.

I’m willing to bet the same applies to you.

Emotion influences what we pay attention to. When you feel bad about the relationship, nearly everything is viewed in a negative light. Assuming the worst about each other, chronic distrust depletes any sense of safety and positive support.

The following are ways to consider starting the process towards reconnection:

Outline Your Relationship Vision

You’re not drafting a ten page business plan here.  But being in a difficult place, we tend to focus on all the things wrong with the marriage.

What about redirecting that energy to how you would like it to be. Looking towards the future expresses hope. And a sense that trying is worth it.

Not to be confused with avoiding conflict or ignoring the past, defining your vision energizes a relationship that’s stuck.

What does that look like?

Constructing your statements in the present tense as if the future were already here. Positive statements like:

We eat dinner together.

We share important decisions.

We are physically active.

We have daily “just us” time.

We have fun together.

Take a few minutes to write your lists, and rank them 1-3 of “most important” to “not too important.” Share your lists.

Together, highlight the ones you feel would be most difficult to achieve. If “we have daily just us time” seems impossible, come up with a plan to intentionally make time, even if other activities need to be shortened or cut out.

Be clear on what you want the relationship to look like. Visit your vision regularly. Refer back to it often. Even daily or weekly, if necessary.

Intentionally Reengage

This is easier said than done. But let’s talk about why it works.

Repeating positive behaviors pushes against the dominant message that “my partner doesn’t care about me.” Or “I’m not sure I care about them like I use to.”

Your perception of each other begins to change. Injecting life into the relationship opens the door for intimacy, friendship, and safety.

Tell your partner what brings you enjoyment. Disrupting the ineffective pattern of tit-for-tat — you do something nice for me and I do something nice for you — you meet your partner’s need despite what they do.

Your doing is, essentially, a gift. No expectation of repayment. It comes without a price tag.

Harville Hendrix tweaks the Golden Rule from “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” to “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.” In this way, you know specifically how to love your partner.

Some examples:

Bring me a treat from the grocery store.

Kiss me when you get home from work.

Compliment me on the way I look.

Text me in between meetings just to say hi.

Put Your Feelings into Language

Energy leaks out of the relationship when you act out your feelings. We tend to redirect our energy to avoid the feeling of being in a distressed relationship.

For some, it’s television, working in the garage, kids’ activities, working out, or volunteering. We distract ourselves with outside pleasures to minimize the degree of our unhappiness.

Some engage in inappropriate pleasures like an affair. Whatever the pleasure, it’s your welcome distraction from the reality of the marriage.

Reversing this requires some soul searching and being honest with yourself. And putting your feelings into language rather than acting them out.

For example: ”One way I act out my feelings is by saying things that I know will upset you. I do this because I feel lonely, and lately, I feel that’s the only way you’ll give me your attention.”

It’s not easy. But start with small changes — instead of going to the gym 6 days a week, cut back to 4. You free up a couple hours a week. Use that time and intentionally reengage.

Yes, It can seem daunting. But, reconnecting is a process, not a one time event. It will take time, sometimes several weeks or months. Feeling inauthentic and forced, you’ll consider giving up. That is normal. That is okay. Be okay with it.

Do it anyway. And trust that feelings of love and closeness will follow.

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