01 Jul What should I do when I feel disconnected from my spouse?

Marriage is a journey through ever-changing terrain. You can find yourself in the hills and valleys of the mountains, the hot desert, the thickness of the forest, or the flat land of the prairies. All of these terrains are beautiful and difficult in their own way. Just like marriage. Every marriage follows its own journey of beautiful and difficult.

I’ve been married to my wonderful husband for 13 years and 6 months. (And yes, in the world of marriage, I’m going to own those hard-won six months!) Our terrain has been both beautiful and difficult, and as I look back on the difficult moments, one major cause stands out: emotional disconnect.

Wait. Emotional disconnect? My tired and exhausted brain will read words like that and shut down. So what does that even mean? In marriage, emotional disconnect involves isolating yourself from your spouse, often through detachment or distance. This leads to a decrease in the sharing of emotions and an increase in withholding affection. Yikes. How many of us married folk can confess to being emotionally disconnected from our spouse at one time or another?

Then there are those of us that have an even harder time being emotionally connected to our spouse. Those of us whose spouse works longs hours or shift work or travels: police officers, firefighters, doctors, nurses, paramedics, linemen, deployed military, or those who are required to travel frequently for their job. The list goes on. My husband and I know the struggle of shift work and long hours. We go through seasons of no days off, 12-hour shifts, and a constantly changing schedule. We have been in the terrain of emotional disconnect, feeling as though we are two ships passing in the night, roommates who rarely connect on a deeper level, two people living two different lives, and the overwhelming feeling of just barely surviving.

Sound familiar? Who wants to have a marriage where you just barely survive and never connect on a deeper level? Plodding through the hot desert with no oasis in sight – not even a mirage – sounds a bit hopeless, right? Never fear, my friend. Hope is always on the horizon. 

If you are living in a marriage terrain like I described, you can always make your way through the difficult and into the beautiful. Emotional disconnect is normal, and you will most likely find yourself there off and on throughout the years. And when you learn to recognize what is happening, you can take action to become connected once more.

Here are a few action steps to help you walk through the journey.

Date Nights

Be diligent. Do not let this one slide. Schedule it, even if it is a month in advance. Take turns planning and finding childcare, if necessary. That way the responsibility isn’t solely on one person. And when you get to the date, PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY! Look into your spouse’s eyes and connect. My husband and I were going through an intense season of work and life, and I was feeling very disconnected. He got a babysitter, made reservations, and we had a wonderful evening of reconnecting. It breathed life back into our marriage. I literally felt a weight being lifted.

Seek Counsel

Do not be afraid or embarrassed to seek counsel, either from a trusted pastor or a professional counselor. Our marriage has grown tremendously thanks to the help of a counselor. He has taught us how to better communicate, how to fight fairly and objectively, and has helped to dig out the root causes of some of our disconnect. I strongly believe every marriage, even the “strong” ones, can benefit from outside wisdom and counsel. Would I rather spray Round-Up on my marriage weeds, where they just keep coming back? Or get the trowel out and dig ‘em up once and for all?

Fill Each Other’s ‘Love Bank’

I recently had an “ah-ha” moment in this area. We can feel emotionally disconnected when our ‘love banks’ are empty or in the deficit. How can you fill your spouses’ love bank? Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages is a great place to start. Does your spouse get filled through words of affirmation? Leave a note or send a card via snail mail! Gifts? Bring them their favorite candy bar or coffee. There are simple, small, but effective ways to make ‘deposits’ into your spouses’ love bank.

Read the Bible Together

My husband and I try to stay connected through a Bible app. When he is on 2nd or 3rd shift and we don’t even go to bed at the same time, this enables us to connect while being apart. We like to choose the same devotional plan and work through it together.

Worship Together

Find a great local church and GO. What better way is there to stay connected with your spouse than worshipping side by side? Now, that being said, I know those with shift work and long hours find it hard to worship on the weekends. Legacy has just started a Thursday night service for those who work on the weekends. Check it out!

This list is not exhaustive, by any means! These are just a few action steps to get you started toward a new and better terrain. Don’t stay in the difficult, get started and move your marriage journey toward a beautiful terrain one step at a time. 

Alyssa is a Jesus loving, proud LEO wife, and homeschooling Momma of four. In her spare time, this extroverted introvert loves to eat, sleep, and read.