‘We used to be close, but we’ve grown apart,” the wife explained in my office. She sadly glanced at her husband, and added, “Now, he wants a divorce.”
Couples drift in different directions for many reasons. They may stop participating in activities they once both enjoyed together. One partner may take a job in another area and be gone for long stretches of time. A mate might become passionate about a political cause and devote countless hours to campaigning and making phone calls.
The distancing occurs at variable rates. For instance, a woman may become obsessed with a new hobby and suddenly want little to do with her boyfriend. Or a couple may grow increasingly sedentary over the years and spend more time watching television in separate bedrooms.
Whatever the cause or the rate of evolution, the end result is the same. Once connected partners discover they have little in common with each other. Their energies are directed outward, away from the relationship and often toward vastly divergent pursuits. They no longer share mutual friends. Their emotional bond has shriveled and died.
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No twosome is immune from this process. Every relationship struggles to stay vibrant and psychologically linked. Marriages inevitably pass through distinct phases, such as pregnancy, moving to a new neighborhood or a financial downturn, that require both parties to fine-tune their beliefs and behaviors. The ultimate success of the relationship depends on the partners’ abilities to make adjustments and keep in tune along the way.
When spouses are consistently able to focus on what the other person needs and define areas of mutual interest, their relationship weathers life’s inevitable storms and is able to stay afloat. If, however, partners are perennially distracted or stop placing the others’ needs first, their marital ship won’t be seaworthy. It will break apart during one of the emotional tempests, and sink to the bottom in ruins.
This doesn’t mean couples must be joined at their marital hips. My husband and I have many separate pastimes. He’s not inherently drawn to yoga or my book group. I don’t share his keen passion for wines, sports cars or camping equipment.
What duos must have, though, are enough common interests to be healthy and vital. They must have activities they enjoy together, subjects they can discuss or goals they can mutually pursue. They must have friends they both like to be around and ample time to be together and have fun.
This all comes naturally to some couples. They have oodles of shared interests. They seem to be each other’s best friend. Good times and laughter abound. They’re one unit, like Torvill and Dean.
For others, the relationship is torturous. They can’t think of one thing they like doing together. They don’t even want to be in the same room. They may have shared common interests when they were younger. But they’ve lost the knack of acting in unison.
If you fall into this category, don’t despair. Although your marriage may be on life support, there’s still plenty you can do to keep it alive. Hopefully your partner will agree with your assessment. It will take two of you to nurse it back to health.
Tips for reconnecting
Have you and your partner grown apart?
Try these tactics to get your relationship back on track:
Recommit to your relationship. Place your marriage front and center where it belongs. If it’s slipped to a lower priority, it will show in everything that you do.
Spend time together. The amount of time couples spend together indicates the overall health of their relationship. Look for fun and novel ways to be together during the day.
Find mutual friends. Seek emotionally healthy, high-functioning couples to infuse positive energy into your relationship.
Define common interests. Take advantage of current hobbies or rekindle activities long since laid aside. You might even consider something new to kick-start your marital engine.
Be patient. Drawing two wayward folks back together requires effort and lots of time. Hang in there. Your undying willingness to make things better can pay big dividends in the long run.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her visit lindalewisgriffith.com