There are a lot of problems we can face in a relationship, and one of the most subtle is becoming disconnected. In most issues there's a clear and obvious feeling – if the other person did or said something that upset me, I know that that's an issue; the feeling is rather intense. But when we're disconnected we could go weeks or months and not recognize it.
That's why it's important to talk about - so that you're able to catch it. Maybe in the first few days or first couple weeks you can recognize the disconnect, instead of multiple weeks or months. It also becomes more difficult to reconnect the longer you go – it's metaphorically like drifting away from each other in separate rafts. If you catch it early it's not too much trouble to get back to each other, but if you're miles apart when you notice, it's going to take a hell of a lot of effort to just get back to where you were before.
What does it mean to be disconnected?
Feeling disconnected can look many ways, but at its core it often feels like you aren't noticing each other. Sure, you might be living in the same house and coordinating plans with each other, but you're not "seeing" each other – there isn't a lot of interest between the two of you.
This often is subtle because it might not be a bad feeling, it's more of a lack of a good feeling. There might not be any fights, but there are rarely times where you engage with each other – you might ask each other about your days, but the answers are fine or good instead of going into detail about something that frustrated you that day, or made you feel good.
The important thing isn't to find who's to blame for the disconnect – it's almost always both partners' doing, unintentionally. The important part is to notice it – that way you can actually do something about it.
What leads us to disconnect? Arguments and negative interactions can easily cause this. If the other person is hurting me, I'm naturally going to pull away from them. If I touch a hot stovetop and get burned, I'm going to keep my hand away.
It could also be prioritizing other parts of life. This is especially true for couples that have young children – we spend so much of our time in other avenues that we don't have enough time, or don't carve out time for the relationship.
Not knowing how to ask for connection could also be a roadblock – if we want it but don't know how to ask, or are afraid to ask, usually that distance will continue to grow
What does it mean to be connected?
Feeling connected can also look many ways, but it feels like you're in a groove together – that you're complimenting each other well, and the connection you have is enhancing your whole life, making it easier. Metaphorically it's as if you're dancing and completely coordinated at every step. It's not awkward or jerky, it's smooth and easy.
What leads us to connect?
Prioritizing connection is huge – even if I have a bunch of things going on, if I prioritize connecting with my partner, our connection will still be there despite the chaos of life.
Resolving conflict and communicating productively is also crucial – arguments are roadblocks to connection so being able to work through them takes those roadblocks away. Also, just the process of communicating well usually makes us feel connected to each other.
Continuing to do the little things that add up over time is an often overlooked way to keep the connection. Every day we can choose to make bids for connection with each other - it can be so helpful to get in the habit of doing these small things.
How can reconnect?
The first step is recognizing that we're disconnected, as well as gauging the scope of the disconnect. Feeling disconnected for a week will look a lot different than feeling disconnected for the past year.
Then, try to identify what factors are disrupting that connection. Is your relationship going well overall but you just need to carve out more time together? Is there resentment and guards that have been built up over time, even if there's not a lot of arguments now? Or are there frequent arguments with both of you feeling upset and wanting that distance to get away from the pain.
This is often the hardest part, but then try to communicate with each other through these issues – try not to problem solve right away, and just hear each other. You'll likely have completely different perspectives so try to avoid figuring out who's right and who's wrong, and just try to understand their different perspective.
When you're able to do that and feel heard by each other, it's much easier to problem solve. Do we just need to incorporate a couple date nights a month? Do we need to do more of the little things in our day to day? Do we need to really work on our communication so that we can work through past hurts?
Think through all of these things together, and expect it to be a difficult process.
We're often told/shown (by media, movies, etc.) that connecting is easy and it just takes one apology to work through an issue. This is just not reality – staying connected takes conscious effort, and that effort will often involve you going out of your comfort zone.
If my partner's love language is words of affirmation, I could put in effort to make her feel cared for even when that's not my natural way of showing love. The cliché sentiment is that relationships are work, which I think is an okay way of looking at it, but I think saying that relationships take consistent effort is more true and carries less of a negative connotation. And that's what staying connected is all about – continuing to put effort in month to month, year to year.
So what should you take away from this blog? Recognize if you're disconnected, figure out why that is, try to talk with each other about it / work together on it, and after you feel like the other person understands and has an appreciation for your perspective and vice versa, try to think of some solutions together to that disconnect.
If you battle with each other, it's going to get both of you nowhere. So try to get on the same team against the problem of feeling disconnected, and make a plan for how you can stay engaged no matter what's going on in life.
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