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If your marriage feels disconnected, why do you think this is so? Are you working on it - and how?

Being that lasting, happy marriages require effort - and that it's not uncommon for them to develop a disconnect - I'm curious to hear people's thoughts on what has led to this? 

 

I'm a couples therapist - and some of the common issues that causes emotional separation include poor communication, busy schedules with families and careers and sometimes resentment building up around a whole slew of things.

 

My husband and I have a very active three year old - and we need to make sure to carve out "marriage time."  This means date nights and sometimes having late meals at home on the weekends after our son (finally) falls asleep to be able to have adult talk.  This is how we work on staying connected.

 

How do you stay connected with your spouse?  If you're disconnected, what has led to this, are you working on it and how?

 

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT

Wife, mom, therapist.

Author, The Marriage Refresher Course Workbook for Couples

 

 

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My husband and I are disconnected so bad that we no longer kiss or say "I Love You".

 

I have been married for 9 years too long.  When we first got married, my husband's home was in foreclosure and he was three months behind on his other bills.  I refinanced his house and got his bills caught up.  I told him that I would be responsible for getting the bills paid from here on out.  Little did I know that he would take that as though he didn't have to help financially at all.  He made $500 a week and wouldn't help until I discussed it with him six months later after I could no longer take it.  He gave me money for one or two weeks then quit.  Another six months and we would discuss it again.  It was a never ending cycle.

 

We are a blended family.  He has two children, I have one (from previous relationships) and we adopted one.  I would allow him to handle the discipline with his two and expected to handle the discipline with mine.  His children would jump on the couch, run through the house and leave their clothes, dishes and toys lying around everywhere.  I talked to him about it but he never said a word to them.  One day, his son was bouncing a basketball in the house and nothing was said.  A few days later, my son was doing the same, and my husband got onto him.  I had a problem with it because he didn't get onto his own son and he also tends to cuss when he is mad.  There were other occasions throughout our relationship that occurred like this (i.e. his son leaving his bike in the living room for two weeks with nothing said and my son not getting away with it for one day).  I was always under the impression that “he and his can, but me and mine can't”.  My husband agreed to purchase a piece of property for hunting without consulting me first and then wanted me to pay for it, which I did.  Years later, my dad needed help and I helped him (with my money).  My husband blew up at me when he found out.  Go figure.

 

My husband was diagnosed with MS four years ago and hasn’t worked since.  He can go camping in the woods, ride a four wheeler all day, take the heat of summer and climb trees with a tree climber to hunt, but says he can’t work.  I work long hours and come home to a dirty house and have to cook.  The only thing he does is take out the kitchen trash (after it is over flowing), the dishes every other day, and his and our adopted son’s laundry.  Oh, and watches TV or is glued to his computer.  He views pornography, too, but denies it.

 

The economy has put an added strain on our relationship.  My income is less than before and I have been struggling financially, but still, no help from him.  We moved out of our house to list the property as a short sale, and again, no help from him in moving because he didn’t want to move.

 

I use to voice my opinions with stuff outside of our marriage, however, I stopped after I commented on a commercial I saw on TV and we ended up in an argument.  Now, we hardly talk at all except for the snide remarks he makes.  It seems like no matter what the conversation is about that his opinion has to be opposite of mine just to get under my skin.

 

We haven’t had sex in over two years.  There use to be times when I would think “tonight is the night”, but then, he would upset me by yelling at my son that I was no longer interested.  The resentment I have towards him is so great.  Plus, he stinks because he doesn’t shower too often.

 

I have come to the conclusion that I am sacrificing my son’s future by staying in this relationship.  My husband and his kids don’t believe in God and my son is influenced by them.  My son has anger issues because of the way he is being treated and he is not learning how to love by witnessing my marriage.  I regret getting married but I have always tried to make the best of it because I believe in God and therefore don’t believe in divorce.  However, the weight I am carrying is getting heavy.

 

I am not concentrating on how to resolve our marriage because we have tried counseling before and it didn’t work.  Instead, I am contemplating divorce to end this misery.

God's Child - ouch!  That's miserable.  I wonder if your not believing in divorce is his sign that he can get away with all of that.  The truth is, though, that that's not a marriage. 

 

Lisa, to answer your question, my wife and I were really disconnected a year ago and now we're doing pretty well!  Date nights are a must, but it's possible to have them and still not connect, as we did.  Most things we went out and did, we did like roommates. That's different now, of course, and the dates are helpful in putting us in husband/wife mode and having new experiences together.

 

I made the first move to close the gap, because I thought we were headed for some really dark times and I think we were both pretty miserable.  I had to open up, acknowledge the distance between us, state that I loved her and wanted to close the gap.  She did, too.  We just hadn't reached out to each other because of a lot of quiet resentments and because we both thought the other wouldn't want to reconnect.  We started talking about things going on in our lives and in our minds that we hadn't before.  We made a new ritual of talking for a while at night time while in bed, holding hands.  We do better at bringing up uncomfortable topics that we'd normally avoid for the sake of peace, like sex.  We're also more playful just in our every day interactions.  We make an effort to be more encouraging to each other (in private and public), which has helped us in other areas like our fitness.  I made a more deliberate effort to help around the house and she made a more deliberate effort to resurrect our love life. I think we could have been guilted into those things a year ago, but they were easy once the connection was in place. 

 

So, yeah, this marriage business can be the greatest source of happiness or the greatest source of misery in your life.  I've seen both.  We still have a ways to go in some areas, and I've been pretty unhappy over one of those issues for the last few days, but just writing out the improvements we've seen helps me put things in perspective!

God's Child,

 

That all sounds really hard.  I can understand how you'd be frustrated and at the place you are.  Your husband was fortunate that you dug him out of his financial hole, it's a shame he didn't feel it was important to help you out financially in the way the family needed moving ahead.  It's unclear to me how much the MS does/does not play a role in his ability to work.  At the end of the day it sounds like you don't feel like you really have a partner.

As difficult as issues can be - and your certainly sound challenging - they can be worked through with good intention by both parties.  There are a few schools of thought on this but from my position, it requires two people willing to acknowledge the problems, ownership of their roles and desire for change to make significant positive movement.  Even if there's only one onboard in the beginning, it's pretty important to eventually get both on the same page of supporting the marriage.

 

As hard as divorce is, for some people it ends up being the best choice for their circumstances.  I always hope there's some willingness to try before throwing in the towel - but it doesn' always pan out that way.

 

Best of luck to you,

 

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT

The Toolbox at LisaKiftTherapy.com

Tools for Marriage, Relationship and Emotional Health

Rob,

 

Great story of how a disconnected marriage can indeed reconnect.  It takes work and it sounds like you and your partner have done it!  I work with couples around doing much of the things you did - increasing time spent together, getting an emotional read on each other (checking in) even if topics are difficult, brooming out the resentment in a productive way...etc.

 

I like how you said it was helpful to just write out what the strengths are - it's easy to forget.  I would continue to do that together, to celebrate the positive steps you've taken.  It's easy to put the dark glasses on and forget.

 

Well done!

 

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT

The Toolbox at LisaKiftTherapy.com

Tools for Marriage, Relationship and Emotional Health

 

Thanks for sharing your uplifting story.

 

This has come up in my couples therapy practice a few times - where one spouse is embarking on a journey of transformation and change to fulfill themselves as individuals and the other spouse is sort of remaining the same.  I get how this brings up distress for you - but would challenge you to allow each other to "be" who you'd like to "be."  If he's interested in joining you on your journey then great - but it sounds as though he's not. 

 

I think people can get caught in a trap of expecting their partner to look through the same lens on life they are.  It's understandable if you're enthusiastic and want so badly to enjoy this with your partner!  But consider how it might be unfair to put an expectation for change on him.

 

At the end of the day, if it's intolerable for you to be on such different paths - then it is.  You need to figure out if you can make a paradigm shift to allow for your change - and his desire to remain the same.

 

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT

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That is so awesome that you make a date night!  That is the advice I always give to couples.  Always pursue each other :)

www.theheartbandits.com

Yes!  Date nights are always helpful.  I also encourage couples to check in with each other consistently.  This is the single most important thing couples can do to stay connected.  It doesn't need to take a long time if you know how to do it right. 

 

Many couples seem to fear that it will be too time consuming and turn out negative.  It really doesn't have to.  In both of my workbooks, The Premarital Counseling Workbook for Couples and The Marriage Refresher Course Workbook for Couples I encourage a relationship check-in and provide basic communication skills to be able to do that - as well as help couples understand what can block this kind of intimacy.

 

As long as there is effort, connection can be maintained.  And yes, date nights are a great time to have some of those conversations!

 

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT

The Toolbox at LisaKiftTherapy.com

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