How to Mend the Gap in a Disconnected Marriage Use these tools to help repair and strengthen your marriage, now. BY LISA BROOKES KIFT, MFT
If you feel a disconnect in your marriage, don't ignore it, you have to work to come back together.
“ Couples who adapt well to external and internal change—and make modifications where needed—are more likely to do well in the long haul.”
Has anyone ever told you or have you read somewhere that, "Marriages should be easy?" If you're like most married folks, the reaction to this statement will be one of raised eyebrows and guffaw. If you've been married for some time and you fall into the category of the "raised eyebrows" crowd, you likely know that marriages require work, time, attention and nurturing to continue to flourish. If you consider how much people change over the years, think about how a relationship would inevitably change as well—with two people growing individually within it!
Sometimes, partners stay intertwined together and don't experience difficult "growing pains." In my line of work, I've seen a lot of couples who have struggled with the ebb and flow of their marriages. The classic line, "He's changed..." may be an accurate statement. But I would bet that "She's changed..." and "We've changed..." all ring true as well. Why does there need to be something wrong with that, so long as the focus on the marriage itself isn't lost?
Couples who adapt well to external and internal change—and make modifications where needed—are more likely to do well in the long haul. Long time marriages (and even short time) can benefit from revisiting who they are as a couple, making a few changes and remembering how they ended up together in the first place. In other cases, if there's been more damage done (resentment, trust violations, etc.) more work to heal those wounds may be necessary.
In my work with married couples, almost at the end of the line, I wonder if they ever learned the basics of a strong relationship foundation, communication and other elements of successful long-term marriages. Premarital counseling can certainly provide the education for much of this, but many people don't do it as they honestly think they won't end up in the kind of trouble that so many do down the line.
Do you have the tools to get over marriage "bumps in the road," as well as other potential life storms? If your marriage feels deadened or dull and there's a growing gap between you and your spouse, perhaps you don't. This doesn't mean you both cannot learn them now. It's never too late to inject new life into your marriage as long as you both are onboard for a little work to get yourself off and running again.
Let's take a look at the "tools" I'm referring to:
1. How are your communication skills? Are you listening, validating and empathizing with each other?
2. How "emotionally safe" do you feel together? Do you still trust, respect and love each other, knowing that the other has your back?
3. How is your relationship balance? Is there adequate attention paid to the "you," "me" and "we" of the marriage?
4. Is your marriage negatively impacted by old childhood wounds suffered by either of you?
5. What are your individual, marriage and family goals? Have they changed and are you in sync?
6. Have other problems gone unattended in your marriage such as resentment, lack of sexual intimacy or infidelity? Burying issues such as these can create a mountain of resentment between you and your spouse, which is ultimately toxic to your marriage.
Try talking to your spouse about the above-mentioned ideas about how to close the gap in your marriage. Express how you feel being disconnected from each other and why it's important for you to change that. I have seen too many couples avoid these types of conversations and let years pass—each day the mountain of resentment builds.
If having a conversation alone isn't enough, couples counseling is a good option where a neutral third party trained in relationship dynamics can help you sift through it productively. If you both belong to a local church, you might ask for the assistance of your pastor. However you go about reconnecting with your spouse—if you're both committed to each other and the marriage—you're off to a great start. You can accomplish anything if you put your minds and hearts together to reach your common goal.
Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT is the creator of Love and Life Toolbox, one of the original therapist-created resources for marriage, relationship and emotional health available on the web.