You know that sinking, yucky feeling when suddenly you and your partner feel disconnected. You cannot totally put your finger on it, yet it feels incredibly loud in the silence between you. It feels like you are “roommates” or living somewhat separate lives. When you ask “What’s Wrong?” more often than not, they say “Nothing,” but most likely there are reasons for that distant feeling.
For most couples – and most of us – life gets busy. Career, friends, family and then children come along, making life even busier. Couples often divide and conquer for work, kids, home life and just about everything else that comes their way. Both feel run into the ground caring for kids or working long hours with little time for self-care or relationship maintenance as they pass one another along the way.
Eventually, life does become easier and all the hard work pays off, as the kids have grown, careers have been built, and money has been made. However, the couple has spent a substantial amount of time “divided” and the need/want for one another has become barely recognizable. Years and years of working hard as a “team” only to feel alone and disconnected in the end. Ultimately, it’s like running a marathon and not getting to cross the finish line.
So how is that even possible? It’s not so much that there’s no love or they no longer share all of the same interests, but it’s the tiny little nicks and bruises on the relationship and the lack of care or attention that has worn on its foundation. Picture termites taking tiny little bites at a house for years until one day the house just collapses in a cloud of dust. The tiniest bites lead to the relationship’s ultimate demise.
We truly have it all backward. We wait for some “special occasion” to show grand gestures of love and admiration when it’s the tiny everyday gestures of love, passion and admiration that keep a relationship solid and strengthen its core. Those tiny generous moments create and strengthen a couple’s bond!
I very much admire the work of John Gottman, whose ideas are remarkably similar to my own. He explains that by taking moments throughout the day to positively connect with your partner is imperative to building a strong relationship. The journey that is shared by both parties in the relationship begins with how you say good morning to one another and ends with how you share your evenings.
The sense of a shared journey comes from every day interactions; for example, how you say goodbye in the morning, whether you’re home for dinner when you say you’ll be, or the tone of your voice when you’re frustrated.
There’s room for mistakes for sure. There needs to be. Even so, it is the sum of all those simple interactions over the hours and days of your relationship that create the feelings of love and commitment. Tiny microscopic choices in the way you interact with one another is what determines the strength and quality of the relationship.
It’s important to state that it’s no single act, interaction or choice that determines the outcome of the relationship. Instead, if they are recognized and honored, there are opportunities for meaningful connection all day long. Once you really wrap your mind around this concept, you will come to understand that feeling disconnected and drifting apart is not accidental or unavoidable. Every behavior is a choice that can either move you toward or away from one another – and you get to choose! So what are you going to choose?