Marital Drift: What it is and How to Reconnect

Marital Drift: What it is and How to Reconnect
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Find therapists best matched to your needs. Always free and confidential.

When was the last time you and your partner had a real conversation? Are you concerned that you are drifting apart? Life is hectic, and the demands of career and family can intrude so much on the two of you that your ability to be emotionally intimate just atrophies. Don’t let inertia and drift get between you and threaten your marriage! If you meet the criteria for “marital drift”, couples therapy can help you reverse the trend and regain intimacy.

Growing apart is not uncommon, but it needs to be addressed intentionally

It’s not surprising that couples tend to drift apart as they attend to busy careers and children. Work invades our time together at home and puts us in a headspace where we aren’t focused on each other, even at home! Children are amazing, and they add so much to our lives, but parenting can also be all-consuming. We need to find the balance between professional success and giving our kids the attention that they need while also nurturing our marriages. Part of being a successful parent is taking time out to work on our marriage!

Assess your relationship for telltale signs of “marital drift”

Getting past the heady romantic flush of courtship is normal and even healthy. Drifting apart is not. Check your relationship for telltale signs of “marital drift”.

  • Conversation. You and your spouse don’t really want to sit and talk about everything and anything. You feel, or she feels, that you won’t be understood or supported. Conversations can slide into arguments. Or, worse, you feel that he just doesn’t care that much.
  • Disconnect. You aren’t connecting over the responsibilities (and joys!) of parenting or other parts of your joint life.
  • Sex is infrequent or unsatisfying. If you don’t feel a real connection during sex, don’t feel satisfied, or even dread sex, you are more likely to continue drifting apart.
  • They are so irritating! If you prefer to spend as much time apart as possible, your relationship is in trouble.
  • You stop doing fun activities together. Playing board games, eating together, or taking a walk together help you connect. If you stopped – you need to get help.

You might not be able to pinpoint when you and your partner started growing apart, but you do know that this drift is not good for you, for your marriage, or your children. If you feel that it is almost painful to “be together but separate at the same time”, it is time to break the cycle and start talking to each other again, really talking.

Why rebuilding intimacy can be so hard

As a couple grows apart, they tend to look for opportunities to avoid being together. This distance, unfortunately, only makes it harder when you are together. Not talking becomes a vicious cycle where it becomes progressively more difficult to communicate and feel emotionally intimate.

If you and your partner have been slipping towards ever more limited conversations about technical details of running your household – who is picking up the kids or the milk – you are not alone. Reaching out for help can help you rebuild communication skills, restore fun to your relationship, and enable real intimacy.

How couples therapy helps you move from marital drift to intimacy

Marriage counseling can feel intimidating to couples who have been growing apart and are losing the skills to communicate with each other. In therapy, you are actually going to have to talk to each other!

In therapy, you will learn, or relearn, how to communicate with your partner. You will be able to better express your needs and really hear your partner’s needs. Therapy is a safe, supportive environment where you can open up to your partner. For many of us, articulating our feelings can be difficult at first. As you build communication skills, you will find it more and more rewarding. In therapy, we will proceed step by step to the point where you can talk to each other, and listen to each other, from the heart.

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