People connect in many and varied ways and it is always painful when we sense change and a loss of connection. It is hard enough with friends but it is very troubling with our intimate partner. Very complex motivations are at play in the process of people connecting and being attracted to one another, so it is not surprising that it is easy for disconnection to occur.
Sometimes people come together around a shared interest or activity but, more often, couples are attracted by their differences – different personalities, different family backgrounds or cultures. These differences can be exciting and interesting. Strangely, the very thing we found so interesting in the other person initially can become the thing that drives us mad. These changing experiences can be difficult to talk about and couples can find themselves caught in reactive conversations where either or both feels criticised and hence defends. These interactions can become stuck and painful, leaving partners distant and disconnected from each other.
Partners can also be very different in the ways they really like to be loved. Just because we feel loved when our partner does extra house work, we can’t assume practical gestures are necessarily going to work for him/her. They may feel most loved when the relationship is prioritised and time is set aside to talk or go out as a couple. Even the importance of affection and sex can be different within a couple. One partner may put a very high value on regular spontaneous sex, while the other may need emotional connection before sex can be considered. It is not hard to see how the best of intentions could lead to disappointment and disconnection if couples aren’t aware of these different preferences and aren’t able to talk them through. Some of these differences may never be fully resolved but it helps if they can be talked about with goodwill and humour.
Perhaps a main cause of disconnection in couples is the build up of unaddressed hurts. These can fester and build a wall of resentment. Underneath many angry interactions in couples are deep hurts and disappointment. As time goes on the hurt deepens, sometimes aggravated by conflict, and the distance grows. Help is probably needed.
Maintaining connection is not easy in the midst of our busy and ever-changing lives. The relationship can get what is left at the end of the day after the kids, job, friends, fitness, facebook etc. It can certainly become neglected. Maintaining connection does not take a lot of effort but it does take some – and the rewards are immeasurable.
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