By Flavia Borgiani
The most common theme that presents itself with the couples I see for therapy is that one or both people feel disconnected from their partner and are wanting to find ways to feel close again. Relationships are never a linear process and a lot of internal and external factors play a role in relationship dysfunction. All couples at some point in their relationship struggle with feelings of disconnection. It is only through self awareness, self growth, respect, effective communication, and commitment that couples can find their way back to a happier, healthier, more sustainable relationship.
The following 5 things may help to increase closeness and connection in your relationship.
- Spend uninterrupted quality time together as a couple. It sounds so simple right? Surprisingly this is one of the main reasons why couples start to feel a sense of disconnection. Not feeling like a priority in your partner's life can lead to feelings of worthlessness, isolation, rejection, anger, sadness, and hurt. When we talk about quality time, this means no phones, no technology and no distractions. Yes, this one can be hard for some couples especially if you have kids, work, feel tired, or don't know how to switch off completely. The one thing I always say to my clients who feel time poor is to book a time in with their significant other just like you would book a time to go to any other appointment. When you book an appointment to go to the doctor, you commit to going, because you know it's important. The same thoughts should be put towards this time with your partner. For some, booking in a time can take away the spontaneity in the relationship, but for others who are time poor this can cement the time and make it more of a commitment. Talk with your partner about how this will look and around how often you both can commit to spending uninterrupted quality time together. I would recommend starting off with at least once a week.
- Know your love language as well as your partner's love language. If you don't know about love languages then I highly recommend you read up on it. Dr Gary Chapman came up with 5 love languages which were: Words of affirmation, Physical touch, Receiving gifts, Quality time and Acts of service. Essentially, love languages are ways in which you show others you care about them and love them. You and your partner may have different love languages and may need to be shown love in a particular way, one in which can be very different to that of your partner.
- Effective Communication. This one is the foundation of a healthy relationship. If you are feeling disconnected from your partner it is important that you can express these concerns to them. Avoid using blaming language such as “you never have time for me”. Instead make statements such as “I really miss spending time with you. Let's come up with a plan to make sure we spend time together”. Another important factor in communicating is being able to apologise and take responsibility for your actions. This means your actions need to match your words. An apology can feel meaningless if the same mistake is being repeated over and over again. All relationships have some form of conflict but it is how it is managed which is the most aspect to remember. Gottman came up with four things that result in the breakdown of relationships. This being criticism, defensiveness, showing contempt, and stonewalling. Using these on a regular basis is detrimental to even the strongest of relationships. When in conflict, start up the conversation with a gentle start up, take turns expressing how you feel, and be able to validate your partner's feelings even if and when you have a difference of opinion. Remaining open minded and understanding as well having the ability to compromise is important for a healthy outcome. If one partner starts to continuously feel that they are caught up in a win/lose approach, this will result in distance, resentment and feelings of frustration.
- Be a team player. Help eachother out and build eachother up. If you can see that your partner is stressed or having a bad day, offer to help or be a listening ear. Feeling alone in a relationship or as though you are carrying the load of the relationship can be exhausting and frustrating. Relationships are a team effort, as too are chores and responsibilities.
Talk about joint future oriented goals together. I hear a lot of couples talk about how when they first met how they would speak about all the things they wanted to achieve in life as a couple, and that this made them feel excited about their future. Sometimes talking about your common goals and hopes for the future can reignite the fire in the relationship and show your partner that you are committed to the relationship. So, get out that bucket list and start writing down some goals you have as a couple and start working towards reaching them.
- If the above points are things you feel you are currently doing but still feel disconnected from your partner, perhaps seeking some professional help through couple counselling will be helpful as there may be some other factors to take into consideration. It is important to remember that there are two people in a relationship and if there is no balance of effort between the two, the path to resolution can be arduous.