Surviving a Drought in Your Relationship

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You fall in love, you commit to your partner, the future is bright. All you need is love, right?

If I could insert the laughing emoji here, I'd insert loads. Anyone who's been in a long-term relationship knows that going the distance isn't easy. Sometimes, we can feel pretty isolated, even when we're partnered.

If your relationship has hit the "I don't feel connected to you" stage, you're not alone. But figuring out how to reconnect can be tough. Where do you even begin?

First of all, know that it's not unusual. "It's absolutely normal, and even expected, that couples will experience 'droughts' in their relationship," said Lindsey Zaskiewicz, LMSW, a psychotherapist with Mindful Counseling GR. She explained that changes in priorities, personal growth and daily stressors—like kids and work—can contribute to feelings of disconnection or distance from your partner.

Here are suggestions for navigating four areas in which couples commonly experience a disconnect or period of "drought."

1. Physical and sexual intimacy. When you're not rocking and rolling in the bedroom like the "old days," the culprit might be stress, changes in libido, health issues or trust barriers. What's an amorous spouse to do? "A willingness to be vulnerable and communicate openly are imperative," said Zaskiewicz.

She explained that prolonged periods without intimacy, or an unwillingness to discuss the issues at hand, can lead to an emotional disconnect from which it's more difficult to recover. "Seeking therapy can provide a great deal of support."

2. Communication. It's old news that men and women—and even different personality types within the same sex—communicate differently. Even though it's a familiar refrain, the differences still cause issues in marriages. "A commitment to open, honest and respectful conversation can help promote partners feeling seen and heard within a relationship," said Zaskiewicz.

She suggested scheduling a weekly check-in time, free from technology and other distractions, to focus on and talk to one another in a safe space. "We live in a hustle culture and it's easy for time to just slip by. As inorganic as it might feel to say we need to 'schedule' time for us, sometimes that's exactly what couples need to get the ball rolling," Zaskiewicz said.

3. Quality time. Quality time and having shared interests often, but not always, go hand in hand. Oftentimes, couples who've been together awhile cultivate separate interests. Again, this is normal.

"We're constantly evolving and you should have different interests as time goes on," explained Zaskiewicz. "It's not a bad thing. It's OK if your partner doesn't enjoy all the same things you do, as long as they respect that you enjoy it and create space for you to be able to do it."

Instead of doing everything together, it's important to be respectfully curious about our partner's interests. "At the same time, identifying opportunities for new activities, prioritizing consistent time for connection and having a willingness to find common hobbies can help alleviate some of the strain," Zaskiewicz said.

4. Emotional connection. There are many reasons couples who once stared at each other adoringly now feel a lack of emotional connection. Life gets busy, there are homes to manage, jobs to work and children to raise. Routines take over and feelings get left unsaid, which can lead to feeling distant.

"There are a variety of couples activities that can help foster increased emotional intimacy," Zaskiewicz said, suggesting regularly scheduled check-ins, relationship-building conversation card games and therapy. She particularly recommended therapy for couples experiencing persistent emotional detachment, prolonged unresolved conflicts, or who are avoiding authentic communication.

If you're feeling these types of disconnects, remember that periodic droughts are normal and don't necessarily signal the end of your relationship.

"Every relationship is unique and there's no one-size-fits-all solution," said Zaskiewicz. "The fate of a relationship is dependent upon each person's willingness to put in the necessary work, both as an individual and together as a couple."

On psychologytoday.com, you can filter local and online therapists by specialty, insurance, gender and more.

A quick google search of "relationship conversation cards" brings up dozens of results. "These give you the opportunity to deepen robust conversation without having to think of questions on your own," said Zaskiewicz.

Kirsetin Morello is a Michigan-based author, speaker, writer, travel-lover, wife and grateful mom of three boys. Read more about her at www.KirsetinMorello.com.

This article originally appeared in the Apr/May '24 issue of West Michigan Woman.


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