I polled my Instagram audience about what their current relationship struggles were and the most common theme was that they wanted new ways to connect with their partners.
There are literally a million reasons for this and I'm not surprised! Society today is best at stealing our attention. We're overwhelmed, sucked into our phones, and always worried or thinking about the next thing. Disconnection in relationships is naturally a symptom of that. And if I'm being honest, feeling disconnected in your relationship is going to happen to you eventually. If we're pulled into a million different directions, it's easy to get pulled away from the everyday but still important aspects of our lives.
It's common to know you feel disconnected from your partner but haven't nailed down why or how you got there. That's what why you want to Reflect on the Disconnect.
Before we get started, I have some disclaimers:
1) When I talk about relationships I'm speaking generally. If you feel like your relationship is affected by unresolved trauma (especially after this exercise), that's great reason to schedule an appointment with a therapist to heal your hurt. Issues like past trauma, infidelity, addiction, etc. add complex layers into relationships, so take that into account when you're trying general relationship techniques you find online.
2) I can't address every possible relationship dynamic/circumstance/situation in a single exercise. You might go through this exercise and come up with your own answers and that's totally okay! Everything I include are just examples and my lists aren't exhaustive. Feel free to get creative with your own ideas!
How Reflect on the Disconnect works
This exercise is a primer for reconnecting with your partner. It'll give you the foundation and clarity of "the problem" so that you can more easily identify an effective "solution" that works for your unique relationship.
Long story short: if you want to know how to connect with your partner, you need to know why you're disconnected.
The one thing you need to do for this exercise
Can you imagine trying to talk to your partner about your relationship, but you start criticizing yourself or them, and then you totally miss the point of the whole conversation?
That's the only one requirement for this exercise: you have to approach it with curiosity about your relationship. Be nonjudgmental and leave your criticisms (of yourself and your partner) at the door. Not only does this make the exercise more effective, but it makes it more conducive to do with your partner as a team.
Step 1: Identify your reasons for disconnection
Here are some examples of reasons you might feel disconnected from your partner, or at least signs that there's room for improvement.
You're busy. "We don't have a lot of free time."
You're bored. "We do the same activities all the time."
Your mind is occupied. "I just don't think of scheduling time together."
You lack physical intimacy. "We don't have sex as much as I'd like."
You have different interests. "We don't like to do the same things."
Life has changed. "Life looks different so we're figuring that out."
You're tired. "The last thing I want to do is go out or have sex or talk."
You're emotionally disconnected. "I feel resentful, angry, and distant because of past hurts."
When you identify the source of the disconnection, you have a sense of a direction to go. Here are some examples:
If you don't have a lot of free time, prioritize time together and be intentional about it. This means putting time together first above everything else - which usually requires intention anyway. This usually requires a some type of mindset shift.
If your life has changed in big ways, explore how each of your roles has changed in the relationship/household dynamic and then adjust your expectations to those new roles. Have discussions about this, too. Regular check-ins can also be helpful.
If your mind is always occupied by something else, try mindfulness. Being more present in your everyday life could bring attention to your relationship more often and how you feel within it.
Step 2: Explore how those reasons affect your relationship
Here's a chance to dive even deeper into your relationship patterns. Now that you realize the reasons for your disconnection, what specifically needs improvement? Are there strengths you can draw on?
Answer the following journal prompts. You can do this yourself or with your partner. Remember: stay curious, not critical!
What is my relationship lacking?
What needs of mine aren't being met?
Identify voids & what's missing in your relationship.
What do I wish we were doing less of?
Pinpoint what you're doing now that isn't working in your relationship.
What do I wish we were doing more of?
Highlight you and your partner's strengths, and what is working in the relationship.
Are there underlying emotions I feel toward my partner?
Explore and bring awareness to deeper issues that may be present.
What patterns in the relationship contribute to/perpetuate the disconnection?
Explore communication styles and unhelpful behaviors that continue the disconnection.
As you gain clarity on what's created disconnection in your relationship, not only will the solution become more clear but you'll feel more confident tackling the problem. It's easy to feel like you're trying to find a needle in a haystack when it comes to relationships (which makes sense - they're complex!) but this will be a good foundation and starting point as you work on reconnecting with your partner.
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Greta Strickland, MS Licensed Professional Counselor
Greta has managed her own private practice in Blue Springs, MO since 2015 providing therapy to women who struggle with anxiety, perfectionism, and all of life's beautiful but complex stressors.
When she's not working, you can find Greta watching Big Brother with her husband, singing made up songs to her daughter, and sneaking "people food" to their golden retriever.