Tangential relationships are those interactions where one partner repeatedly fails to fully connect with the other.
For instance, a man can’t take his eyes off CNN even though his girlfriend is trying to talk to him about summer vacation plans.
Tangential relationships occur for a number of reasons. One person might be inherently aloof or scattered and have difficulty making personal connections. Another might have trouble disengaging from the demands of their job. A third could be so heavily involved in texting, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat that they tune out everyone else in the room.
Such distracted behavior is disastrous for relationships. Loved ones feel shut out and ignored. They can’t compete with the barrage of stimuli vying for the attentions of their mate.
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It not-so-subtly says to partners, “I don’t care about what you’re doing. You’re not important to me.”
The qualities of a good relationship — time together, shared interests, emotional connectedness — fade into the background. Attraction dries up. Intimacy goes AWOL. Partners turn to other people and activities in search of the emotional support they crave.
No one intends to shun those closest to them. Few offenders are even aware that their lack of attention is harming their love lives. And it’s not always one member’s wrongdoing; sometimes both partners are equally at fault.
Of course, life sometimes gets busy. There are periods when our plates are full and there’s little left over for our mates. But those instances should be the exception. It’s imperative to regain balance ASAP. Relationships are too important to ignore.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit lindalewisgriffith.com.
How to emotionally connect with your partner:
- Set a designated phone-free time in your household. Silence electronics and set them out of sight.
- Give full attention to the speaker. Turn away from all screens. Look your partner in the eye. Paraphrase what they’re saying. Ask relevant follow-up questions.
- Schedule a time to talk. Choose an hour when you’re both fresh and able to focus. It might be best in the morning during coffee or after the kids have gone to bed.
- Take frequent getaways. It’s a challenge to separate from the chronic hubbub of home. Go for a walk, out to dinner or away for a weekend to ensure the closeness you both need.
- Care about your partner. Inquire about their days, activities, friends and opinions. You’ll learn what makes them tick. And your attention will say, “I love you.”