Relationships are forged on connection, both emotional and physical. Disconnection is normal in a long-term relationship, but should only be a transitory experience rather than a fact of life.
If you’re feeling disconnected from your partner, it’s important to not retreat into yourself or into the arms of another, rather than deal with the issue head-on.
"The temptation to go somewhere where you feel connected is high during moments of disconnection,” says Moraya Seeger DeGeare, a licensed marriage and family therapist and In-House Expert at Paired.
“Working on stabilizing yourself around the painful feeling of disconnection can help ensure that the places you go for comfort are healthy.”
Once you recognize signs of disconnection in your relationship, it’s important to take steps to reignite your spark before it’s too late.
Feeling disconnected in a relationship refers to a state where one or both partners experience a lack of emotional, physical, or psychological connection.
When you first meet and sparks fly, it’s difficult to imagine feeling disconnected from your partner. However, as a relationship goes through different stages, the underlying causes of disconnection start to take center stage. These feelings can manifest as a lack of communication, unresolved conflict, or external stressors impacting your relationship.
According to a study of recently divorced individuals, 55% of couples cited growing apart as the primary reason for their separation. However, while these figures and feelings can be overwhelming, it doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed.
In the journey of love, couples often experience ups and downs, and it’s completely normal to feel disconnected in a relationship at some point. As emotions fluctuate and priorities change, life’s challenges can take a toll on your connection.
While a disconnected relationship is normal, even though it’s a common issue, this should only be temporary if both partners want to work through it.
“You want to be curious about what is happening to make you feel disconnected and not ignore it,” says Seeger DeGeare.
“Your loneliness that comes with disconnection is important, think about these questions. What is it like for you to be disconnected, is this normal for you? Is this new for you?”
When you’re in a disconnected relationship, there are a number of underlying causes that could be forcing you and your partner apart.
If you’re experiencing emotional disconnection in a relationship, you have to decide whether you want to work hard toward reconnecting or whether it’s time to move on.
“There is a block to connection and oftentimes that is going to be found at the point of communication between you and your partner or partners,” says Seeger DeGeare.
“That block could be a combination of those in the relationship, or it could be something you are working out internally. Either way no matter the severity of the block feeling like you have a wall between you and your love is important.”
While there is an abundance of different causes behind disconnection, what matters most is how you move forward as a couple. Ignoring this disconnect is not the answer — with distance only growing over time.
Spotting the warning signs of disconnection is intrinsic to remedying your relationship before the distance is too great.
Sexual intimacy is an important part of any romantic relationship.
If your sex life is dwindling, this lack of intimacy could indicate greater issues in the relationship. However, it’s not just about sex — cuddling is also an important factor in intimacy.
Research shows that physical contact is actually good for our health, with studies showing that being touched by your partner helps with connection — making you feel validated and understood even in the midst of a disagreement. Without these moments of intimacy, it’s a sign that your relationship is becoming disconnected.
Quality time is a key factor in forming a deep connection with your loved one.
If you can’t remember the last time that you spend one-on-one time with your partner, this is a pretty big indicator that you’re growing apart. It isn’t all about extravagant date nights, but about spending time together to work on your connection — even if it’s just having your morning coffee together!
Feeling unheard is a common symptom of disconnection in a relationship, with a breakdown in communication making even the simple things impossible.
If you feel constantly disregarded or unheard by your partner, it’s natural to seek this validation somewhere else. This contributes to the disconnection, as one or both partners are now having these deep conversations with someone outside of the relationship — which does not bode well for the future.
While unresolved conflict contributes to feelings of disconnection, the conflict itself is an indicator that disconnect has entered your relationship.
Conversations turn to conflict, little tiffs transform into screaming arguments. As things escalate, it’s more and more difficult to recognize your partner’s perspective — as you're both approaching it from a place of disconnect.
This lack of empathy or understanding comes from the disconnect itself, as you feel less aware or responsible for how your partner feels.
Feeling resentful of your partner is a very powerful emotion, which indicates how disconnected your relationship has become.
Resentment builds slowly over time, as you grow further and further apart from your partner. Once resentment has taken root, it becomes more and more difficult to shake it, even with the help of couples therapy.
It’s best to take heed of this red flag early on, in order for reconnection to be within reach.
Even though it sounds cheesy, the eyes are the window to the soul.
Research shows that eye contact communicates closeness and improves trust in a relationship. If your partner constantly avoids your gaze, it becomes more difficult to renew this connection.
If you’re trying to communicate with your partner, and they take everything as critique, this defensiveness can indicate greater issues.
Communication that is viewed as an attack on character is not a healthy experience. If this defensiveness turns to silent treatment or other toxic indicators, it’s a sign that your relationship has moved to a place of dangerous disconnect.
Opening up a conversation about disconnection is a very sensitive terrain, and if approached in the wrong way, it can only serve to make things worse.
However, no matter how difficult it may feel, it’s essential for the health and growth of your relationship to confront the issue in order to move forward.
Approach the conversation with tenderness and sensitivity, not as an attack on the strength of your relationship. It’s likely that your partner has also become aware of the disconnect, and hopefully will want to work through these issues as a team.
“Open the conversation by sharing what it is like for you to feel disconnected,” says Seeger DeGeare.
“So be curious about yourself to feel sure about what disconnection is for you. Is it about a feeling of loneliness, or a like you are having more fights due to misunderstanding?”
“Additionally opening up about longing for closeness with your partner is a very loving goal to have, and can create such openness in the conversation over it feeling like you’re nagging them.”
Once you have identified the causes of your disconnect, it’s important to allow both partners to share their perspectives and if they want to move forward or see hope for the future of the relationship. If you both express a desire for reconnection, this is a good place to start.
"If you feel that something or someone significant is causing the disconnection, be direct,” says Seeger DeGeare.
“Examples of such causes include addiction or addictive behaviors, a person or affair, or a major unattended mental health concern.”