Unhappy Marriage: Warning Signals & How to Reconnect
"We Don't know how we got to this point. Our relationship was the one our friends envied."
These are not-uncommon complaints of couples who have found they've drifted further and further apart, when they've grown more disconnected and discontent.
When couples are less close, neither is happy or fulfilled, both may feel they are walking on eggshells with each other and, for many, they begin to lose hope they can regain the tight connection they once shared.
In this article, I'll help you understand that becoming disconnected is more common than you might think. We'll look at some of the symptoms of growing distance that comes between even the most loving couples. And, then I'll let you know some of the ways you can narrow that distance and disconnection.
What Happened to Us?
Signs of disconnection and growing distance between you can include:
--One or both partners has become afraid to bring up issues that could lead to conflict
--Less time is spent talking, and more time is spent with the computer or television
--The couple lets issues slide -- important discussions and decisions are avoided
--There is less intimacy, both sexual and emotional
--Less time is devoted to each other, more is spent on careers and kids. You've gradually started avoiding each other for fear of an argument that might not go well.
--One or both feel angry more frequently and more irritable
Disconnection often occurs gradually, the distance growing greater over time. The couple notices the change, but its slow-growing nature accumulates and suddenly one or both partners are having feelings of sudden alarm. Arguing is often a symptom of deeper emotions resulting from the hurt and sadness about the disconnection.
Sometimes the cycle of disconnection begins with a hurt felt by one (or both) partners. It's impossible not to hurt our partner's feelings on occasion, and we may not even be aware we have done so. If not addressed, the hurt can fester; many couples often fear talking about difficult issues, afraid the conversation will become heated and create further tension.
Then, the unresolved hurts can quietly build resentment, and arguing may increase, even about small issues. For some, a lack of sexual intimacy becomes a central focus, which often obscures the greater and deeper need to feel safe and secure in the relationship by resolving that earlier hurt.
Reversing Course: From Unhappy Marriage Back to Happy
This is difficult. If you're feeling overwhelmed or not knowing where to begin, know you are not alone. Disconnection happens in many marriages and relationships. And, repair can be challenging.
Actually, there are only two types of change: 1. More of the same or 2. something different.
At a deep, unspoken level you both are most likely aware you've drifted to a place of less connection and unhappiness. Some couples even become "uncomfortably comfortable" with the way things have become, even though you're not in a good place at all. Having a discussion about the relationship can seem scary -- and there's often a great fear that trying to talk will make things worse.
In a previous post, I've outlined how couples can work to recapture emotional intimacy, with several specific steps to begin those important conversations.
We're Not Sure We Can Do This . . .
However, some couples may need help in moving toward reconnection. We know couples often wait years before seeking help with their relationship. So, if you've put off making the step of finding a therapist, you certainly are not alone.
You may wish to check out another article on this site, "Three Steps to Choosing a Marriage Counselor" to help guide you.
The counseling process focuses on the entire dilemma of disconnection, bringing gently to the surface the feelings of loss shared by both partners. Arguing is a symptom of deeper emotions resulting from hurt and disconnection.
Blame of either partner is not part of the counseling approach, however. Disconnection is part of a negative cycle that keeps pushing the couple apart when not addressed. This cycle is the core problem, and also the opening door to learning to reconnect.
Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy, the most successful model for helping couples, is a gentle, yet powerful format for helping couples get close again. This approach offers couples an opportunity to deepen their understanding of themselves and each other, while learning to express needs and wants in an approachable way.
You can learn to resolve differences in a calm manner, to revitalize your relationship and to put measures into place to stay close and connected into your future together.
Linda Schwartz is a Licensed Professional Counselor who works exclusively with couples and individuals on relationship issues. She uses Emotionally Focused Couple therapy, the most effective approach to helping couples recapture their close connection, to learn to resolve issues through deepening their understanding of each other's needs and to heal infidelity and any past hurts in the relationship. Linda offers a free, 15-minute phone consultation to answer your questions about the counseling process. She can be reached at 602-882-0533 or Linda@awarecounseling.com.