If you’re feeling emotionally disconnected, here’s how to fix it.
Drifting apart or feeling distanced from your spouse is not an abnormal occurrence. Many, if not most marriages, experience this phenomenon.
Early in a relationship, you have a strong attraction to your significant other and want to be together as much as possible. It doesn’t take work or feel like a lot of effort to want to be together.
The desire to be together is powerful and you feel like it will never go away. Over time, after marriage, life begins to take over.
It’s always just normal stuff like jobs, household responsibility, parenting children, helping with homework and driving everyone to practice, games and other activities.
The thing you thought would never happen … has. You don’t feel a close bond anymore. Life is so busy that you aren’t even sure how to get back on track as a couple.
You may even feel like there is little or no energy left to try to get the spark back.
Here are 14 steps you can take to reconnect with your spouse and fix your broken marriage or relationship:
1. Accept the truth
Come to terms with the truth about your marriage. Don’t get overwhelmed with disappointment — it’s time to face the fact that something you never thought would happen has occurred.
You don’t like that things are this way, but accepting it as the truth is the first step.
2. Have an open discussion about it
This is not the time for placing blame. Agree to have a discussion about the state of your marriage.
Talk about what you know is missing and how you feel about it. You may experience feelings of sadness, disappointment, and even shock that the closeness has deteriorated.
It’s normal and expected that you’d both feel bad about losing something so important.
3. Make the decision to rebuild your relationship together
In your initial discussion, you may not have any idea related to how to regain what’s been lost. Both of your lives may be so full of activities and responsibilities it seems there is no way, no time, no chance of rebuilding.
Don’t be surprised at all if the task at first seems overwhelming or impossible. You don’t have to have any of the answers regarding how to fix it — but do make a joint decision to turn it around.
4. Find time to sit down and really talk
If you’re fresh out of ideas about what to do next, do this: Find the time to have further talks about it.
Set a date for your next talk. Hire a sitter, go on a dinner date, and take along a notepad and pen so you can start planning.
If this is too hard, plan for a stay-date night after the kids are in bed. Shut off the TV and take some time to talk about your future.
If children are not an issue for you, but being busy is, place a priority on finding the time to talk. If something really is important to you, you can find a way to make it happen. It is important to find a way to make this happen now.
5. Schedule meetings in the future for ongoing discussions
As busy as your life may be, the survival of your marriage may be at stake. You know you don’t want it to continue the way it has. It’ll take ongoing effort to turn it around.
While a good long talk is helpful and will help you to feel closer, it won’t fix things long-term.
6. Determine when things started to change
It’s not absolutely necessary to be able to pinpoint when things began to change, but it could be helpful.
If you both remember when you noticed the relationship was different, discuss what happened. What was going on at that time?
Was there a job change, a traumatic event, a move, a birth, the beginning of a child’s sports, activities, etc.?
If you know when it started to change, what lessons are there to learn to help you now.
7. Ask yourselves “What do we want now?”
Think through and clearly articulate to your spouse what you really want. How would things be different if your relationship were working the way you want it to be?
Don’t worry at this point about being too idealistic. Put to words the way you would like for things to be. Both of you need to describe what you want.
Both of you should withhold judgment or comment about what each wants. Even if your spouse’s description seems too idealistic and impractical, this is a time to dream a little and regain some hope for your marriage.
The worst thing you can do at this point is to shoot down your spouse’s hopes, dreams, and wishes for your marriage.
8. Figure out what a realistic goal for you both is
Now that you have had a chance to dream a little, it is time to think through what you can do now to change things. If you both want and need more time together, but your lives are so full of activities, work and other responsibilities, it will take time to make some of the changes that need to happen.
Both of you need to come to terms that it may take time to affect some of the changes you want. Stand together; be firm in your commitment, and be consistent in your efforts at change.
You may both have to make a decision to live with a less than perfect scenario of togetherness while working on changes to the structure of your lives.
If your lives are extremely structured and planned out ahead of time, be prepared to take time to make the necessary changes to allow for more time together.
9. Plan and implement your strategy on how to move forward
Once you have both made the choice to turn things around, it’s now time to do the work of making the changes.
Guard yourself from getting too disappointed as you begin living out your strategy.
Changing life patterns takes time, and it will be easy to fall back into old patterns. Remind each other kindly if you see some backsliding. Encourage each other purposefully when you see progress.
Don’t expect feelings to be turned on again right away. It will happen as each of you invests in the other. Quickly repair any damage done when old patterns emerge.
There is a payoff for investing in and working on your marriage. It will happen by consistently keeping at it.
10. Spend time together as a couple
As part of your strategy, make plans regularly to spend time alone as a couple. Family activities are great and build memories, and it’s often a blast to share time with friends.
It’s critical that you also have time to do things when it is just the two of you. It can be as simple as regular walks together, a stay date playing board games or cuddling while watching a movie, or a date night out doing something fun.
You should also make room in the budget for an occasional weekend away, an escape for just the two of you. Spend time getting to know each other and having fun together again.
11. Be intentional with your affection
Can you still remember the early days of your relationship? What did it feel like to hold hands, to stroke him or her across the back, to brush up against each other, to sit close with an arm wrapped around you or to have those long, passionate kisses?
Has it been a while since you have experienced or initiated any of these sign of affection? If the most recent pattern is a lack of affection and touch, and you miss it, change it.
It may take a conscious effort to remind yourself to brush up against him while walking, or to rub your hand affectionately across her back and shoulders as you walk by in the kitchen.
Try throwing in a “six-second kiss.”
12. Express gratitude to one another
If you are not doing so already, be mindful of expressing gratitude daily. Thank your spouse for their contributions to provide for and benefit your family and marriage.
If this is not your practice, begin now by giving attention to all the things you can express gratitude for and the different ways you can do it.
Most of the time, a simple “Thanks for helping me,” is enough, and it will pay big dividends in helping you grow closer.
13. Make time for intimacy
How would you rate your love life? If you have been slowly drifting apart, it is likely sex is happening less and less. A healthy sex life is good for relationships and for our individual well being.
Some recent studies suggest it’s not just the sex act itself that benefits a relationship but also the affection, touching and kissing that accompanies it.
When this is a regular part of a marriage, it contributes significantly to a sense of well being and bonding as a couple.
14. Make corrections as required
The two of you are the best judges of your relationship.
As you begin making progress, tweak things as you learn what is working, what is not working, and what needs more effort.
Give yourselves some time to make the changes you have determined are necessary. Allow yourselves time to let the relationship breathe and adjust to the changes that have been made.
After about six months, it’s time to have an honest evaluation of your relationship. Are you both experiencing positive movement and feeling closer? If so, celebrate your progress.
If one is unsatisfied or both of you are unsatisfied, it’s time to go back to a new discussion of what you want and to work on a new strategy to get there.
Drifting apart as a couple is an all too often occurrence in marriage. Arresting the drift and rebuilding a positive atmosphere is doable with continued effort by both of you.
If you have determined that you have both worked hard but haven’t progressed based on your investment, it’s time to seek outside intervention.
Keep at it. It’s worth your time and effort to turn things around.
Doctors David and Debbie McFadden are a husband-and-wife team of marriage counselors who help struggling couples have a smoother, more fulfilling relationship. For more information on how they can help you in a tense or argumentative relationship, contact them through their website for a 15- to 20-minute phone or Skype conversation.