All marriages and long term relationship go through different changes and phases, including ebbs and flows in the intensity of couple’s sense of connection and energy in their partnership.
Sometimes a period of reduced connection is easily understood, such as having unusually high outside demands on the couple or one partner’s time and energy. This could occur from sources like their jobs, needs of aging to parents, or even anticipated busy times like holidays.
The causes for these temporary phases of reduced connection in a marriage are usually fairly easy to identify. They can certainly create a challenging period for the couple, but they’re usually understood and expected to be time limited and it’s expected the connection will re-balance once the outside demand subsides.
Marriage counseling may be useful in these times for helping a couple to anticipate and manage the added stress on their marriage. It can help them make adjustments so they can continue to be mutually supportive, assure they adequately nurture their connection during the stressful period, and that they are focused and intentional about restoring their connection afterwards.
A Gradual Disconnection and Loss of Closeness
Sometime in marriage, couples will experience the intensity, attraction, or energy of the interaction between them has gone flat, but without any obvious or specific cause. Very often the couple clearly still love each other, but there just isn’t much pizazz, intimacy, or excitement happening between them… leading to dissatisfaction with the relationship.
This kind of low energy connection can also have many different causes, but they’re usually more difficult to identify; especially for the couple themselves. My clients who face short term demands can almost always tell me exactly what they are even before I ask. But those dealing with this general lack of connection are more likely to describe the symptoms, such as “We don’t talk anymore”…. “We’ve been drifting apart”… or “I just don’t feel like he understands me anymore”.
Unfortunately, that’s usually because it isn’t a short term external factor causing their disconnection, but rather a series of small shifts and accommodations they’ve made in their habits and patterns with each other. Typically these occur without any intention – or even awareness that it could have a long term impact on their closeness and connection. In fact, many times these changes were initially made for good reasons.
Often for couples in this situation it’s not until they’ve had a prolonged period of feeling disconnected – and realize the hoped for ‘turn-around’ isn’t arriving – that they come to think of it as a problem needing attention.
It’s unusual that a couple would suddenly find themselves in this situation. In hindsight, they usually recognize their connection has been gradually decreasing over some time. When I ask them to estimate how long, they’re often dismayed to realize they’re calculating in terms of years, rather than months.
But for those reasons, it’s also important to address the concern directly and promptly once it’s recognized. Patterns in relationships tend to perpetuate themselves. If you’ve unintentionally adopted some patterns that compromise your couple connection, you don’t want to let them persist and continue their damage. Once you’re aware your connection is lacking, the more quickly you address it the more readily you’ll be able to correct course.
Re-energizing your Relationship
Some couples do become aware of this drift in the quality of their interactions and take steps to correct it. Quite often couples will first try to resurrect the things that gave their relationships vitality in the past. Sometimes that can work or at least help to make temporary improvement. But relationships continually evolve, so what worked in a past stage may no longer fit or even be possible within the current circumstances.
When a couple is committed to their relationship, but feeling adrift or dissatisfied with their level of connection and intimacy, counseling can be very helpful for restoring your connection in the shortest possible time. The counselor can help point out habits or patterns that deplete your connection or contribute to separation… and also help you to identify the small actions that can be taken to nurture and enhance connection. A counselor can provide support and guidance for a implementing plan of re-connection, which can sometimes feel awkward or contrived at first.
Perhaps most important, using counseling to address this type of challenge provides a clear STARTING POINT for taking action to reclaim your intimacy. The greatest risk when the energy and connection of a relationship is going flat – is doing nothing about it and just hoping something will happen to make it better.
Usually, it’s that kind of hoping without action that’s resulted in the current lack of connection and dissatisfaction. Allowing those patterns to keep being repeated without interruption will most likely result in more of the same. Counseling is generally the quickest and most efficient way for both understanding what’s causing your loss of connection and what practical steps you can take to revitalize your relationship.