What To Do When You’re Feeling Disconnected From Your Partner

Why do I feel detached from my partner?
on August 08, 2023
Read time: 10 mins
by Moraya Seeger DeGeare

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. 

What does feeling disconnected in a relationship mean? 

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. 

Is feeling disconnected in a relationship normal? 

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?” 

What causes disconnection in relationships? 

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.” 

Emotional distance In a healthy relationship, both partners should feel emotionally connected — sharing their innermost thoughts and feelings with each other and constantly working on their connection. However, when life gets in the way, it’s easy to lose sight of this emotional connection and start to grow distant from your partner. As deep conversations turn to small talk, it’s easy for a greater distance to grow between you.
Lack of communication If you aren’t communicating with your loved one, it’s natural for you to feel disconnected. What happened during their work week? Where did they head out for dinner last Friday? What does your partner want for dinner? Even those these may seem like little things when you’re not sharing the small details with your partner — it’s far too easy to grow apart.
Incompatible values Romantic connection is founded on many different things and while opposites attract, there are some things you can’t compromise on. If you have incompatible core values, it’s easy to feel disconnected from your partner’s everyday life. For example, if your partner lives by a different moral code or has different beliefs, it can feel more difficult in everyday interactions or issues.
Busy lifestyles Life gets busy. “Are you in a chapter of life that requires a lot of your energy to go to another priority?” says Seeger DeGeare. “Such as parenting, illness, major mental health diagnosis, new job, or school?” From work commitments to family responsibilities, sometimes all you can do is keep your head above water. When your day-to-day life gets hectic, your priorities naturally shift to accommodate these changes — often leaving your significant other in the dust.
Unresolved conflict Even if you’re not disconnected, arguments in a relationship are healthy and normal. In fact, it’s often better to get both perspectives out on the table, so you can move forward with a clean slate. However, if you let things lie without resolution, it’s natural to feel disconnected from your partner as you take time away to heal.
Lack of excitement Even though it doesn’t always feel like it, relationships aren’t meant to always be so serious. Without any fun or excitement, it’s easier to lose sight of why you’re together in the first place. Excitement and giggles don’t have to be confined to the honeymoon phase. In a long-term relationship, spending time together should involve fun date nights and laughing together until your belly hurts — or else what’s the point of it all?
External stressors Disconnection often comes from outside of the relationship altogether, with factors outside of either partner’s control. Whether it’s work stress, mental health issues, or family problems, these external stressors can take a toll on the relationship. However, even though it’s natural to take a step back to try and juggle everything, married couples should be equipped to deal with whatever life throws at them. However, when it feels like everything has fallen on your shoulders, it’s easier to disregard their point of view as you try to cope.
Emotional baggage Everyone has a past, and that is nothing to be ashamed of. While our past experiences shape who we are, emotional baggage and unresolved issues from previous relationships can damage future loving relationships. If your partner struggles with intimacy, due to their past experiences, it’s easy to feel out of sync or disconnected.

7 signs of disconnection in a relationship

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. 

1. Dwindling intimacy

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. 

2. Lack of quality time 

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!  

3. Feeling unheard 

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. 

4. Conflict 

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. 

5. Resentment 

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. 

6. Eye contact

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. 

7. Defensiveness 

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. 

How do I tell my partner that I don’t feel connected?

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.”

How do you fix a relationship that is disconnected

Seek professional advice: Depending on your situation, your relationship problems may feel too great to deal with alone. Therefore, seeking help from a professional may make this process smoother, with a relationship counselor or psychotherapist unearthing the root of your issues and paving a clear path for healthy progression.
Prioritize quality time: Disconnect starts when a couple starts to live separate lives. Even though individual growth and self-care are important, making time for your partner should never fall off the agenda. As you approach fixing your relationship, take the time to adjust your priorities and put your partner at the top of your list.
Rekindle intimacy: Find the flame of your relationship and rekindle that spark! Take the time to understand your partner’s love language and unlock this intimacy with personalized gestures and actions. Express your affection and appreciation for your partner daily, even if it’s just taking the time to say “I love you” before you leave for work in the morning.
Active listening: If you’re in a disconnected relationship, it can be like your partner is speaking a different language — with disconnect making communication impossible. As you work on your relationship, try and engage in active listening. Take the time to reflect on what your partner is saying, responding to their perspective with enthusiasm and encouragement.
Focus on the positive: As a team, you have chosen to work together to reconnect. Take this as a positive indicator of the love that you share, and try not to get weighed down by the rough patch. Even though it may not always be easy, see it as an opportunity for a fresh start and as a positive step toward a healthier future together.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What does it mean when your partner feels disconnected from you?

    If your partner feels disconnected from you, it means that they are experiencing a sense of emotional distance or disengagement in the relationship. In this case, they may not feel as close to you as they did at the start of the relationship, leading to feelings of loneliness, and frustration. When your partner communicates these feelings of disconnect, it’s important not to take it to heart but focus on working towards reconnecting. “Be open to hearing what this is like for your partner and when they feel like this changed,” says Seeger DeGeare. “Sometimes it will be a shift around an obvious event and at other times it can happen slowly and feel rather hard to trace. Just because your partner feels disconnected and you don’t doesn’t mean you have done anything wrong. It could be that you two need to get on the same page over what a satisfying relationship is.”
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