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Physically Together, Emotionally Alone

One of the leading causes of divorce and break ups is emotional detachment. Emotional detachment builds up over time; even though you spend every day together, you begin realizing you’re feeling miles apart from each other. Marriage therapists are seeing more couple conflict since the pandemic because partners are focused on their survival and forgetting the importance of each other. Partners feel resentful for not getting the attention they need, and they begin building walls, withdrawing, and shutting each other out.

The good news is you do not need to continue living and loving like this, and walls you built can be broken down. Below are 5 common ways couples become emotionally detached and what you can do to restore your relationship.

  • You begin criticizing one another. Your partner does small things that irritate you, but that doesn’t give you permission to criticize them or call them insulting names. Harsh criticism hurts your partner’s self-esteem and causes them to withdraw, intensifying the problem. What to do: Find a balance and practice the 1 negative comment to 4 positive comments. Or explain directly how their annoying behavior makes you feel. If you focus on giving your partner more positive than negative, they will make changes to please you.

  • You take your partner for granted. Thinking your partner will always be there and you can reconnect later when the kids are grown is a bad plan. Issues are better dealt with when you are going through them because there is no guarantee you or your partner will make it if one partner doesn’t feel loved. What to do: Take a 2-minute gratitude break each morning and use that time to tell your partner what you appreciate about them. Doing this will restore emotional connection and intimacy.

  • You bring outside stress into your relationship. Let’s be honest – there is a lot of stress right now. Worries about finances, finding a job, whether the kids will go back to school and safety distract us from prioritizing our partner. During times of stress we are not kind to our partners, and it’s very easy to become detached. What to do: Take time to practice meditation, pray, and walk with your partner at least once a day. Walking offers a space for two of you to get back in rhythm with each other and is an activity that brings relaxation and enjoyment to both of you.

  • One person is feeling overwhelmed with household chores. When couples first get together, they share the workload naturally. As time goes on, one person begins taking over and doing it all. They may not complain, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t seething with resentment inside. What to do: If things have changed a lot since you first got together, sit down and take the chores seriously. Schedule what needs to be done and redistribute the list fairly. When both people feel the workload is fair, their attitude and emotional connection changes toward their partner.

  • No physical intimacy in or outside the bedroom. Feeling stressed with life can deaden your desire for your partner’s touch. When one partner makes attempts and reaches out to you or tries to touch you and you constantly reject them, they eventually give up and emotionally detach. You may not be rejecting them purposely, but your partner takes it seriously and feels that you are no longer attracted to them. What to do: Communicate when you’re not being approached for physical intimacy. Tell them honestly why you are rejecting their advances. Your partner will be less hurt and more receptive to working out a plan if they know what you’re feeling. It is extremely hurtful to feel undesired and rejected, so you need to talk about sex with your partner. Hinting or rejecting is not a healthy form of communicating.

Relationships that are emotionally detached lose their “staying power.” Couples lose the magic of their friendship and commitment to each other, which blinds them from their shared vision. Practicing gratitude and forgiveness and communicating honestly can restore connection. Like all things that matter most, prioritizing and appreciating each other keeps you attached and invested.


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