Dirty Laundry

Have you ever had a time where you’re not necessarily upset or arguing with your partner. However, distance and disconnection can feel palpable. How do you get to that place of intimacy and connection again? 

Take this scenario for example:

“I feel like my relationship is slowly dissolving right in front of me. How can that happen when my life with someone is so intertwined? Maybe it isn’t really at all. Sure, we talk daily, sleep in the same bed and don’t generally fight. But, I feel lonely. I feel like I never truly know how we are doing or what he’s thinking. We used to be so in tune. Now, more often than not, the little time we have together alone is him sitting on one couch on his phone and me on another. There’s no deep discussion. There’s no intention to try and make the time to connect. Sex happens but it lacks the intimacy that once was there where it wasn’t an exchange but driven by desire for the other person after connecting in some personal or intimate way. I love this person. I really, really love them. But, there’s more space between us.”

Does this sound like you? I’ll be honest, I’ve been there in my own relationship before.

The scenario described above is the result of not taking intentional steps towards connection by having the vulnerable conversations and instead, allowing complacency to get in the way of progress. Remember, you have to take an active and intentional role in working to uplift your relationship. Allowing space for the vulnerability that goes with the sadness, disconnect, or loneliness you feel is the first step.

As you can see, it starts with VULNERABILITY. Talk to your partner about what you miss about them and how you feel less connected. Maybe it’s catching up on your day as you ride in the car. Maybe it’s conversations that don’t include talking about your children. Maybe it’s foreplay or simple physical touch. Maybe it’s missing the times that you missed your partner by the end of the day. 

Did you have a reaction when I mentioned some things you might say to your partner? Fear? Discomfort? Yes, I know. Vulnerability is hard. It connects to insecurity, rejection sensitivity, and attachment styles that go all the way back to childhood and adolescence (I’ll save you from the boredom of my nerdy psychology research). It’s never easy to say the thing that we truly need to say in our relationship. Often, it gets hidden under anger, distance, or passive aggressiveness. We lean away from the discomfort of our vulnerability.

I’ll give you an example that I just experienced in my own relationship this morning. My partner was in the bathroom and I yelled at him for not picking up his clothes off the floor, something that he has been guilty of doing since the day that I first met him. It was much easier to yell at my partner for not picking up his clothes off the floor than saying what the underlying emotion is beneath my anger. For me, what I needed to say at that point in time was  “I’m hurt that you don’t see that I am overwhelmed and you not doing your part by picking up your clothes makes me feel under-appreciated and devalued in our relationship.” Wow. That’s a hard thing to say. I’ll admit that I am more of the passive aggressive type that will often leave my partner confused by my snippy behavior. The second statement is much more vulnerable but true to how I was actually feeling.  

But how does this all contribute to distance and disconnection? By not saying the more vulnerable statement, my partner is simply viewing me as moody that day, not knowing that there is anything more to my dramatic reaction to seeing clothes on the floor (even if it is for the millionth time in our relationship). Cue then more distance. As a result, I’m misunderstood and in turn, more alone than before. 

So, work to show your strength by having the vulnerable conversation. Use the questions listed below to get you started. You and your partner deserve it. 

  • Is there something you miss about your relationship with your partner that you once had? 
  • How has your relationship evolved or changed over time?
  • Have those changes benefited your relationship and your connection to your partner?
  • Do you feel alone at times in your relationship? When?
  • When feeling angry towards your partner, is there a deeper, underlying emotion that you have not explored or talked about before? Sadness? Rejection? Hurt?
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