My husband Kyle and I are drifting apart. We’ve been married sixteen years and are in our early forties. This situation makes me feel increasingly alone and it feels like we are roommates rather than loving spouses. It feels like Kyle ignores me and I’m not sure what to do about it.
Even though we are sharing the same spaces and are together a lot due to working at home, Kyle and I rarely spend meaningful time together. One of my pet peeves is that he’s on his phone too much but he says he needs to check his messages and texts due to his sales job.
When I ask him what we can do to get back to feeling more connected, he looks at me with a puzzled expression and says something like, “I have no idea what you’re talking about, we’ve together a lot.”
What can I do to convince Kyle that my feeling of loneliness and lack of connection with him is not “all in my head,” as he implies? I love Kyle but I also worry that we’re setting a bad example for our two teenage daughters, ages thirteen and fifteen, who are observing us being disconnected.
I’m sorry that you feel that Kyle ignores you and that you are drifting apart. This is a common theme for couples and I can offer you some suggestions that can help you reconnect. First, it’s important not to criticize Kyle (or point out his faults) and to offer suggestions in a specific and positive manner that he can hear and respond to without getting defensive.
For instance, saying what you need in a positive way and why it’s important to you, may encourage Kyle to “Turn Towards” you rather than “Turning Away.” Couples who “Turn Towards” one another more often show interest, listen, and do their best to make their partner a priority. They use eye contact, put their electronic devices down, and ask questions to show they’re listening.
An example of a positive message that has a strong likelihood of lessening Kyle’s defensiveness might be, “I miss spending time with you and would love devoting more time to connect. Can we discuss how we can do this?”
Next, establishing some rituals of connection that will allow you to unplug, spend time together, and connect emotionally is a great way to improve your communication and sense of attunement. When these become habits, they ensure that couples stay connected rather drifting apart.
In The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg explains that habits are crucial to success in all realms of our life. Overall, they make us more productive and healthier. In a relationship, Dr. John Gottman calls these habits rituals of connection.
Here are five rituals to help your relationship thrive:
- Eat meals together without screens
It may not be possible to do this for every meal, but whenever possible, turn off the TV and put away your cell phone. Your emails and Facebook feed can wait.
- Have a stress-reducing conversation
Spend 30 minutes each day having a “how was your day, dear?” talk. Kyle Benson explains that the purpose of this conversation is to discuss external stress. It’s not a time to bring up issues about your relationship. Couples who actively listen, take turns sharing how they feel, and show compassion to each other will reap the rewards of more emotional connection in their marriage.
- Take a vacation
Take an annual vacation without the kids to somewhere you both agree upon. If your budget doesn’t allow you to take a costly vacation, you might try camping or look for moderately priced accommodations nearby for a long weekend.
- Exercise together
Go biking together every Saturday morning or take a daily post-dinner walk with your partner. Add a little novelty and excitement by trying kayaking in the summer or snow shoeing in the winter months. Studies show that sharing an exciting experience can bring couples closer together.
- Commit to six hours a week
Dr. John Gottman suggests that couples commit to a magic six hours a week together, which includes rituals for saying goodbye in the morning and reuniting at the end of the day. Sticking to these rituals will help you to reconnect when life gets in the way.
Never underestimate the power of intentional time with your partner. Doing fun things together like singing in the shower or riding a bike can bring joy and laughter. Telling jokes, watching funny movies, or anything else that brings you both pleasure can keep you connected.
Find Terry on Twitter, Facebook, and, movingpastdivorce.com. Terry’s award-winning book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website. Her new book The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around was published by Sounds True on February 18, 2020.
I’d love to hear from you and answer your questions about relationships, divorce, marriage, and remarriage. Please ask a question here. Thanks! Terry