7 Steps to Fixing a Lonely Marriage

Feeling distant from one another in marriage is such a common problem. You may feel like your spouse is not interested in you anymore. Your spouse may feel miles apart from you. You may even be wondering if you are still in love.

If you have tried to reach out to your spouse but feel like he or she has shut down on you, you might be dealing with emotional abandonment. That means your partner has chosen to physically stay in the relationship but is emotionally gone. Things may look great on the outside, but you and your spouse know better. Your marriage is in trouble.

Or perhaps you don’t feel totally cut off, but you have different communication styles that present problems. You like to open up and talk about things, and your spouse holds things in. This is a huge issue, and you’ll need to address it if you want your marriage to thrive. If you don’t know what’s going on with your spouse emotionally (and visa versa), your marriage could be dying a slow and quiet death. After all, how would you know until it got really bad? Yikes.

Whatever the issues, a marriage reaches a crisis point gradually. It can be due to complacency or because of an event (like having children, for example). If your marriage trouble has felt gradual, you both have probably let a lot of issues go unresolved that have taken a toll. There could be a harbored resentment, lack of respect, lack of effort, lack of time, fear of addressing issues, or general denial wrecking your relationship. All of these things cause couples to grow apart and make marriages deteriorate.

Many times, spouses shut down or choose not to talk because they feel like they will be criticized or rejected. Other times, they don’t feel like they will be listened to very well. This means listening without judgment or interruption.

If you’re feeling distant for any reason, address things now before things get worse.
The first thing to deal with emotional distance is to find out what’s causing it so that you can find fix it effectively. Here’s how:

1. Set a meeting to talk. Yes, a formal meeting where you and your spouse set aside a slot of time that is free of distractions. No phone calls. No children. No interruptions. If you are going to resolve this, you need to both commit to talking about it. Speak with respect, and allow each to state their points. Don’t make the mistake of going round and round about your feelings without looking for solutions. Behaviors cause changes, not intentions. You can get specific help here on how to start making changes now.

2. Prepare. Before you meet, take time separately to think about what you want to present. What are your unresolved issues and what steps are you willing to take to move change in a more positive direction? THEN, and only then, what do you need your spouse to help you with? Take responsibility for your stuff first. It’ll bring down the defensiveness and set a tone of teamwork rather than a grudge match.

3. Listen. Be sure that you both give one another uninterrupted time to share your thoughts and feelings. Listen without judgment, and don’t jump in (no matter how badly you disagree). Let your spouse finish completely before responding.

4. Be Honest and Respectful. You won’t do your marriage any favors by holding back how you feel, but you will do some damage if you let your anger run the show. Treat your spouse as respectful as you would treat any stranger. Be honest about everything, but don’t lash out. Remember that you want this meeting to be productive.

5. Take Responsibility. After you have each have had an opportunity to speak. Each take a turn to answer this question – “How have I contributed to this problem?” Trust me, we all contribute to every problem in a relationship (even if it is miniscule). Relationships don’t happen in a vacuum, after all. When one person acts, the other reacts. If you feel abandoned by your spouse, for example, what have you done to you’re your spouse away? There is always some responsibility. Always. So swallow your pride, and answer the question. Only then will you truly be working together.

6. Bond Intentionally. Your emotional connection won’t magically be fixed just by one meeting so continue to move towards each other with intent. Agree that you will spend quality time together. Plan some dates and fun events to get to know each other again as people. Chances are, you probably missed a lot in all this time of emotional distance.

7. Assess Progress. You’ll know you are making good strides in your marriage when you both set goals to start with. What would progress look like in your marriage? Before you answer that question, make sure that you can measure those results. “We’ll feel closer to one another” isn’t something you can measure. “We talk once a week about how our relationship is doing, and we have date night once a week” are both measureable. Stick to behaviors, not feelings when you assess your progress. Assess after a month and each month after. Set new goals after each month’s assessment.

Finally, get help if you feel like you need extra guidance. In the end, all marriages have their issues. You can tackle them together or grow apart. The choice is really up to you. Isn’t that empowering?

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