All relationships go through a natural series of ebbs and flows. We all have periods where we feel connected—sometimes deeply so. And then there will be periods where the connection isn’t nearly as strong. Or may even feel absent.
Different people have different tolerances for closeness as well as for distance, physical and emotional. Again, this is normal. The ‘work’ is to lovingly identify your differences, without making either of you wrong. Then being mindful if your style is burdensome for your partner. For instance, if I’m someone who is comfortable with emotional distance, but my spouse isn’t, I can be mindful of those times and reach out with some form of written or verbal reassurance, Honey, I know I’ve been withdrawn and quiet lately. It has nothing to do with you or with us. I’m just needing space is all.
Similarly, every relationship goes through strain or crises. These crises can be personal—like a betrayal of trust, a serious illness or accident, or a shift in what one partner wants or values—or they can be global, like the Coronavirus pandemic that’s currently affecting us all.
It’s important to accept these cycles as a part of every relationship. But it’s equally as important to look at how we can gain some control over the ebbs and flows in our relationship, so that the ‘ebbs’ are less frightening or less damaging and the ‘flows’ more frequent.
Don’t panic during an ebb period. Here are a few suggestions. Ask yourself: Is this the result of a stressor? If so, contemplate where you have agency and where you don’t. Focus on the areas where you have some control or influence. Then have a conversation with your partner about your concerns and your ideas.
Is our disconnection feeling pretty deep and wide? Don’t let these periods go on and on – that can be damaging. Again, contemplate what you think is going on. Then approach your spouse using the ‘sandwich’ style approach: the ‘bread’ is love and appreciation, with the ‘meat’ of the issue being your concerns.
An example: Sweetheart, I’m feeling kind of scared. I know how delicious our connection can be and how much it means to me. And I know you’re under a ton of stress right now. And yet, it feels to me like we’ve grown really far apart in the past two months, and it scares me. All I really need is for you to hear my concerns. And I’d really like to know if there’s anything I can do to bridge this gap I’m feeling, please let me know. You mean the world to me.
You get the idea.
When in the flow, ride it! Enjoy it! And also take note of what supported that process. It could be you were more rested; you were taking care of your own needs and as a result, found you were more present and available for your partner when they reached out to you. Perhaps you’re reaping the benefit of the work you’ve done of owning your triggers, taking full responsibility for them, and as a result, your partner feels safer to be emotionally vulnerable with you.
Just note what made the flow happen – so you can do it more!