- Have you been feeling like the things that bother you about your love/marital relationship are beginning to overpower what are (or once were) strong about your relationship?
- Do you find yourself frequently rolling your eyes in annoyance or disapproval at something your partner says or does?
- Does one negative interaction with your partner cause you to avoid him/her for the rest of the day?
- Are you frequently wishing he/she could be something different than what they are in a lot of areas?
- Has the quality and quantity of one on one time that you spend together become progressively less (and you’ve both been okay with it, or have not brought attention to it)?
If you’ve silently answered “yes” to any of the above questions, you could be on the way (if not already there) to a major distancing in your relationship. That doesn’t mean the two of you are doomed for disaster, or that your relationship likely won’t last. It just means that, as a couple, you may be heading for some tough times…times that could be weeks, months, or even years without addressing exactly what things have been contributing to the distance. Addressing this likely requires stepping out of your relationship comfort zone.
Couples that have become more distant with one another (lacking frequent and/or quality connection with one another mentally, emotionally, and/or physically), have likely slipped into an ineffective comfort zone in their relationship where they meet most or all of their daily necessities (cooking, cleaning, maintaining finances, parenting), but have neglected one or many couple necessities.
When couples become more distant, in most cases, they are at risk. They become at risk for a variety of potential situations to happen: they may grow apart, either partner may seek (either intentionally or accidentally) relational needs through infidelity/affairs, they may become resentful, they may become more “me” focused vs. “us” focus…..to name a few. If this relationship is a long term or lifelong commitment, it’s going to take some stepping out of your relationship comfort zone to reconnect and become close again.
So what can you do?
First, be fully honest with yourself and reflect. Are you frequently pointing the finger at what YOU think are his/her faults? It takes two, and unless you’ve communicated to your partner about how you feel and have suggested some action by him/her, your finger pointing is likely not fair. If you have a complaint, it needs to be brought to the table in a non accusatory, sensitive manner. In other words, how can YOU help him/her to change or improve in the ways that will help you and the relationship?
Second, being fully honest with yourself, examine the ways in which you are responsible for the distance….possibly avoidance of the issues, negative responses, insensitive verbal tone and body language….what have you done/not done that also has not helped to stay connected?
Thirdly, (and the stepping out of your relationship comfort zone part) you both need to do something different than what you have been doing. When something about your relationship bothers you, it needs to be addressed as soon as possible. If there is something that your partner does/does not do that bothers you, it is your responsibility to either bring it to their attention with kindness, sensitivity and respect, or either accept that it is something that you can live with without resenting him/her. Reflect on the ways that you negatively respond to issues between you and your partner (eye rolling, silence, rude tone, passive aggressiveness, etc.) and work on eliminating those responses or replacing them with something that supports the relationship.
Last thought. If stepping out of your relationship comfort zone is so awkward and foreign to you that every attempt eventually brings you right back to the ineffective comfort zone, then you will likely need to enlist some help. Additionally, if the ineffective comfort zone is so deeply embedded in your relationship that you have difficulty even considering a different way of engaging with one another, then you definitely need the help of a third party.
In some cases, it is quite possible, that the ineffective comfort zones have clearly been the result of extremely stressful and demanding situations (long term illness, severe financial issues, new baby and/or an expanding family, recent trauma, etc.). Situations such as these, don’t excuse distance between partners that may have been onset as a result. But it may be easier to accept the occurrence of something that was out of your control and, therefore, be much more patient and cooperative as it may be a slower process to reconnecting mentally, physically, and emotionally as a couple.