5 Questions to Ask Yourself if You Feel Emotionally Disconnected From Your Partner
The couples that walk through my door are in need; desperate need to figure out how to fix what is broken. They seek help to restore a marriage or relationship that has been hanging on by a thread for a very long time. So this begs the question, "What did it take to get these couples in here?" Most often people recognize that they are having communication issues, trouble with conflict resolution or trust and intimacy difficulties but they are not seeing the root problem- emotional disconnect. Yes, all of the issues that they are facing are real and valid, but, those are just the symptoms of the real problem. They have disconnected emotionally. Do you feel emotionally disconnected from your partner? Are you ready to reconnect? Find out here.
Somewhere along their relationship the break down began and slowly over time the emotional distance between the two partners has grown greater and greater. It is not always identifiable right away because the busyness of life can be such a distraction that the awareness to their emotional disconnect is not yet known. The demands of work and finances, raising children, social pursuits and maintaining a household often take priority over cultivating the marriage. So here begs another question, "How do you know when you have disconnected emotionally?" Let me offer some key questions to ask yourself to clarify this:
Are you and your partner not spending as much time together as you used to?
Are you not communicating like you once did?
Are you not feeling secure when talking to your partner?
Are you feeling lonely in your relationship?
Are your needs are not being met?
At some point, one of the partners will notice that something is wrong and will make some efforts to repair things but when the efforts are not reciprocated the unresponsiveness leaves the partner feeling isolated, sad and hurt. This then leads to feelings of insecurity and discontentment in the relationship. Attachment theory (Ainsworth,1973; Bowlby, 1969) explains that our love, security, protection and comfort is derived from our loved one. Therefore, when we are emotionally disconnected from our partner our attachment needs are not being met and the security we once had is uncertain, leaving us feeling scared and hurt. Thus, recognizing the problem and communicating it to our partner can lead to intentional emotional reconnection. But here begs another question, "How do you intentionally reconnect emotionally?"
Being intentional with emotional reconnection involves setting aside a time where both partners feel safe to talk honestly about their feelings and the state of their relationship. Many times the couples that come in my office are already at a point of frustration because they feel like they have tried talking and connecting but just keep hitting a wall. Discouragement and anger is often prevalent in one of the spouse's while hurt and sadness is occurring in the other. Sue Johnson, founder of Emotionally Focused Therapy, describes the three components that help in the process of emotionally connecting. These components are accessibility, responsiveness and engagement, easily known with the use of the acronym A.R.E.
Can be defined as "I can find you and I can approach you. You are available to me" This requires regular physical proximity and emotional availability. A lack of accessibility prevents connection. Common threats to accessibility are work, hobbies, kids, travel and distractions such as TV, computers, video games and cell phones.
Can be defined as "When I approach you, you will respond with emotional attentiveness." We emotionally respond by showing our partner that we are present with them and sensing them on all levels. Responding with support and compassion communicates "I am here with you." Non responsiveness dissolves trust and connection.
Can be defined as "You value me and want to stay close to me." Being accessible by giving our full attention and being responsive by making eye contact and engaging verbally foster our connection. Creating this environment in your relationship will cultivate a secure and strong foundation. The threat to engagement aside from accessibility and responsiveness is the partners' inability to execute skills successfully. Consistently failing to engage creates a lonely and disconnected relationship.
Initiating an A.R.E conversation to begin the steps of accessibility, responsiveness and engagement can be prompted by taking this quiz. It is a good first step. However, sometimes, like the couples I often see, people are so emotionally disconnected and stuck in such a negative cycle that discussing emotions is very difficult or can even feel unsafe. So contacting a professional might be a more appropriate step you need to take.
Relationships are hard and they are messy but as the authors Paul David Tripp and Timothy S. Lane conveyed in the title of their book, Relationships are a mess worth making! I agree!
If you feel emotionally disconnected from your partner and want to reconnect with them, see if you’re ready by taking this quiz.