I hear you. I see you. I am here for you. Do you long to hear those words from your partner? Maybe you haven’t truly heard them in a long time. Maybe they have gotten covered up by all the stuff that couples have to juggle these days – children, household tasks, jobs, aging parents, you name it. Maybe a health crisis has come up. Maybe you and your partner are both maxed out with everything going on. And on top of all of that, there may be some negative communication patterns going on. Maybe you’ve been stuffing your needs to keep the peace and are secretly harboring resentments. Maybe you’re the one who organizes and keeps the family on track, and you’ve taken on the role of drill master (because if you don’t, nothing will get done), and your partner hates being told what to do. Maybe you’re just so tired that you don’t have the energy to devote to your relationship right now. Or maybe anytime you try to bring something up, things escalate and nothing gets resolved. There are so many things that can interfere with these words being said or heard.
Yet we want to know that our partner is there for us, that they have our back, that they understand us, that they get whatever it is we’re going through, especially when we are going through difficult stressful days. We really need that. If we don’t feel at our core that this is true, then we can feel alone and adrift. We can feel unloved and abandoned even. We can question our relationship. We can even leave it in total frustration.
And of course you feel frustrated when this happens. Of course you feel disconnected when you don’t feel understood by your partner, when you don’t feel like you’re a team or that they have your back, when it seems to you that they just don’t seem to care very much.
I have something to tell you that you may not believe, and it is this – your partner most likely has almost identical feelings. I see it time and time again in my practice – one partner’s feelings of not being seen or valued are mirrored by the other’s. It makes sense – if you’re feeling disconnected and that your partner doesn’t have your back, you are most likely not feeling very connecting yourself. I totally get that. So the more you feel disconnected, the less connecting you are, and then your partner probably feels like you don’t want to connect, and so feels disconnected, and is less connecting. And then around and around you go.
I wonder if you recognize yourself and your partner in this scenario… If you do, you are absolutely not alone. We all feel disconnected from our partners sometimes. The problem arises when this disconnection is chronic.
I am here to say that there is hope and help for reconnection and mutual understanding. There are some things you can do right now to reconnect with your partner and to get the feedback loop moving in a positive direction.*
The first step is to set aside some one-on-one time with your partner. This is so important! This time does not just magically appear on its own – it has to be forged with intention. Carve out fifteen minutes when the two of you are not distracted or disturbed.
At the designated time, find a quiet place where you can hold hands and make eye contact.
Tell the other, “It’s so nice to spend some time connecting with you.” Then just sit in silence for a moment. Embrace each other and see if you can synchronize your breathing. Just be with each other for a short time.
Then, take turns in putting your hand on the other’s heart and asking what words they would like to hear to make them feel loved. The words might be, “I’m here for you,” or “I love you,” or “I appreciate you.” Then, say those words if they are authentic to you.
Say those words, and hear those words.
These important, even vital!, words so often get lost in the busy-ness of our lives, but it doesn’t mean that they’re not there. Sometimes, all that’s needed to find them again is a little space. Sometimes, all that’s needed is a little intention. Sometimes, all that’s needed is your partner’s hand on your heart.
And, these words can make all the difference.
*For some couples who have felt disconnected for a while, this exercise may feel too risky. If this is the case for you, I encourage you to see a couples counselor for support.