Do you think your marriage is affected by having a distant husband or wife?
Let me ask you, when you feel distant from your spouse, what do you do?
- Do you ask them to talk about the problem?
- Do you try to be the spouse they want you to be so you can please them?
- Do you continually find yourself telling them you love them and you want to work on the marriage?
- Do you ask them to go to marriage counseling?
You probably feel like you do some or all of these things over and over again. What happens when you do that? Do you see the results you want?
Probably not. You keep pursuing, but nothing happens. If anything, the distance gets worse.
The Detachment Spiral
You didn’t go into marriage expecting to feel more distant than when you went in. You thought you would feel even closer. But then the realities of marriage set in. Your expectations weren’t met, and you may have begun blaming your spouse for not living up to them.
“You’re too messy.”
“You work too much.”
“You don’t spend enough time with me.”
When you expect your spouse to be something they are not, these unmet expectations cause your spouse to distance themselves from you. They don’t want to feel like a failure.
Pretty soon, you find yourself pursuing them with constant requests to fix whatever is wrong. This pursuit can push them even further away because the pressure (either real or imagined) of judgment, your expectations, and disappointment in themselves is too much for them to take.
You see this distancing as detachment, anger, coldness, and disrespect on their part.
You then respond with criticism, contempt, defensiveness, or stonewalling, or what John Gottman calls the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Then the cycle reboots.
Without a new intervention, this will not end well.
Don’t pursue your distant husband or wife
If you think your spouse has moved away from you, don’t continue to do the same things you have always done to fix it. That is the very definition of insanity. It just keeps the detachment cycle going.
It’s time to try something new. Break the cycle by changing the rules the two of you have been playing by for so long.
If you change the rules, your spouse can no longer predict what you will do. Your pursuit is predictable, and your spouse’s brain sees it as familiar and safe. This change allows them to continue what they’ve been doing, keeping the Detachment cycle spiraling away!
So what do you do instead?
If you have been pursuing your distant husband or wife and trying to get them to work on your problems, it probably isn’t working. So, what should you do instead?
First, look at yourself. Understand what you have been doing to keep the detachment cycle going. Recognize your ineffective pursuit and prepare to get out of it.
Then, change your mindset. Your expectations of your spouse and marriage need to change. If you continue to force your rules on them concerning what they should think and how they should feel, you’ll just widen the gap between the two of you.
The death of many marriages comes from a need to be right all the time. This desire to win comes from a mindset of fear. God doesn’t want us to fear!
for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7
Actions to take
No longer pursuing your spouse doesn’t mean ignoring them.
It just means that you no longer nag your spouse to work on your marriage. You call off these pursuit tactics you’ve relied on for so long and stop the detachment spiral from dragging your marriage down.
Instead, when you have an emotionally distant husband or wife, try taking some of these actions.
- Change First. You’ve heard the saying, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” right? Apply this to your marriage. Although you can’t save your marriage entirely by yourself, you can get the ball rolling by controlling your thoughts and making better choices.
- Don’t take things personally. Everything your partner does is about their feelings for you. Assume the best of them whenever possible.
- Give them space. Sometimes we just don’t want people around. Some people need this more than others, especially when they are stressed.
- Pursue your goals. Instead of focusing on the issues in your marriage, try doing what you can to improve yourself. Spend more time in the Bible and prayer. Take up a hobby.
- Be kind to your spouse. Pay attention to your spouse’s needs and prioritize meeting them. Say nice things to them. Treat them like you would treat your best friend.
- Schedule time to talk. Whether it’s at the dinner table or in bed at night, make sure you have some conversation with your spouse each day. They don’t have to be long talks, but they should be consistent. (You can get a copy of our free PDF “Kitchen Table Connection Plan” to help you start a daily reconnection with your distant husband or wife.)
Don’t feel discouraged if you don’t get much of a response right away. It takes time to pull yourselves out of the detachment spiral because it is hard-wired into your brain. God calls us to renew our minds and gives us the ability to do so.
If you would like help taking your marriage from frustrating to fulfilling, sign up for a free 30-minute coaching call with us! We can help you change your mindset and encourage you in your marriage journey.