3 Warning Signs That You are Drifting Apart and How to Stop It!
These three warning signs are ones that many of the couples I have worked with, over the years, have brought up as concerns and topics they fight about.
The main point of all three is that connection, that crucial part of any love relationship, is impaired if these topics aren’t brought up and resolved.
There may not even be a disagreement, but even if there is, ignoring the issues is not the answer. In a successful relationship, these issues are brought into the light of day and figured out together.
Warning Sign #1: At home, you spend more time with your electronic devices than you do with your partner.
Warning Sign #2: You don’t know what your partner worries about.
Warning Sign #3: You spend more time at work or with friends than you spend with your partner.
Warning Sign #1: Electronic devices
Our electronic devices “call” to us, nearly constantly. There is often something juicy, novel or interesting coming up, announced by the distinctive beeps, that seem impossible to ignore. Even if we don’t rush to read or see the latest, we are now distracted.
Then there’s TV. That item alone can suck time as effectively than any other device. There are programs to watch, sports that take 3 or more hours to watch (I love sports; don’t get me wrong) reality TV about singing, dancing or just appealing and often appalling behavior.
Our computers, tablets and smart phones enable us to work at home rather than have “home” be our sanctuary from business concerns.
All of these electronics are wonderful innovations and make certain aspects of our lives much easier. However, with each innovation there can be a huge price. Devices are just devices. How we use them is the potential problem.
We pay dearly in disconnection from our partners and families. Time spent on Facebook looking at and reading about other people’s lives interferes with us living our own life.
If you’re not careful to balance the competing attention-grabbers with people who are actually present, you can find yourself emotionally disconnected. And that is a slippery slope in a relationship.
Do you ever find yourself in bed looking at your tablet or phone rather than talking with your partner? Do you both do this?
“I’m just catching up on Facebook”, you might say to yourself or your partner. Nothing wrong with that, except if that’s what you do instead of talking to your loved one, who is right there with you.
Solution #1: Here’s a solution to consider: For two evenings, note how much time you spend on your devices and also how much time you spend talking with your loved one(s).
Write this somewhere so you remember. By the way, having a conversation while checking messages or social media counts as device time.
We now know that we are definitely not built for multitasking.
Now, if the balance is out of whack, decide that you will have some device-free time—maybe dinner, in bed, whatever you decide.
Then, see if you feel more connected, updated, closer to your partner. It just might amaze you.
Warning Sign #2: What’s really going on with your partner
Many couples avoid talking about sadness, frustration, anger, failure, fear—any negative emotion. Either one or both might be conflict-avoidant.
Or, they may have had poor outcomes in the past when they brought up difficult issues.
Or, one of them is exhausted and doesn’t want to discuss problems.
Despite the reasons not to talk about problems, the outcome will likely be worse than you anticipate—disconnection that gets worse over time.
If you or your spouse are unable or unwilling to discuss difficult topics, it impacts how connected you feel toward each other. If you can’t disclose the bad things, it feels like you’re alone in your worries.
This creates disconnection between the partners and impairs the trust that you have in each other.
We need to be able to accept our partner’s problems if we want to be counted on and if we want to create an atmosphere of safety.
It doesn’t feel safe if you can only discuss easy and positive topics, leaving the others to fester in the dark.
Solution #2: Together, set a certain time that you will devote to talking about difficult things in your own life or in your couple life.
Enter that time on the calendar with a beginning and an ending time. At first, the time should be 30 minutes. Stick to it—start on time and END on time—no marathon sessions!
When one of you introduces the subject, avoid blaming the other. Do talk about how you feel. The listener must LISTEN carefully. The point is to understand better your partner’s experience. Don’t solve the problem at this point. Just understand ((not necessarily agree).
Warning Sign #3: Too much time with friends?
When we first fall in love, we tend to spend nearly all of our time together. Our brains produce chemicals—oxytocin and dopamine, which drives us to long to spend that time together. After several months, those chemicals are produced less and we tend to start arguing more.
These two elements can create a desire to spend more time with friends. Time with friends is beneficial, in moderation. It creates life balance.
It’s up to you to decide what is the right amount of time with friends and with your partner.
For example, if you play soccer in an adult league and have beers after the game, you’re probably out two nights of the week with friends and without your partner. Is that the right amount? Too little? Too much?
Your job is to decide, with your partner, how to balance your wishes with those of your partner and your children (if you have them).
Solution #3: Together with your spouse/partner, talk about the amount of time that you each are comfortable with being away from each other.
If it is different, then figure out a balance you’re both satisfied with (not perfectly satisfied but a good compromise).
It is important to not avoid talking about this. And be careful not to make the other person “wrong”.
There is bound to be a compromise that you can both live with and that makes you both happy.
Importantly, you haven’t avoided a difficult conversation, and you listened to one another. That’s goodness!
Summary of ACTIONS to Avoid Drifting Apart and Moving Toward Connection
Devices: Have some device-free time together daily.
Difficult conversations: Spend time sharing and listening to thoughts and feelingsrather than avoiding. You will understand each other better and feel
safer and more loved.
Friends: Figure out together how much time you’re going to spend with friends vs. together.
PICK one of these areas to focus on for now. Do the Action. Let me know how it went.
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