Dealing With Disconnect

Since my husband’s first business trip, I have gotten a little more used to him leaving for work. He has gotten used to me taking trips, too. It is part of our job requirements. It is part of what we do. When we can afford to travel together, we make every effort to take the trip together. When it’s beyond reach, we try to make the best of the situation.

Being apart from each other isn’t fun, but I have discovered that it isn’t the end of the world either. It provides time to catch up with friends, work on projects, spend longer times praying and studying the Bible, and have some much-needed alone time.

The sense of disconnectedness hasn’t been as easy to handle. No matter how many times one of us travels for work, we still struggle with a sense of being disconnected after the trip. Sometimes, I struggle with it before he’s gone because quietly I’m upset that he’s leaving and my comfy little married world is getting shaken.

It’s not just business trips, though, that can lead to a sense of disconnectedness. It can happen to any couple, any time, when either spouse gets too busy to connect with the other. A bunch of extra meetings, a change in work schedule, an illness and even commitments with good intentions can lead to a feeling of disconnectedness.

Anna, a 27-year-old who recently celebrated her second anniversary, says a change in her work schedule caused a serious sense of disconnectedness in her relationship with her husband: “During February, we each were scheduled to work on opposite days. We didn’t have the same day off together for nearly a month and a half. During that time, we even took a ministry trip together with a youth group, but each of us was so busy ministering to others that we didn’t have more than 10 minutes together during the trip to talk. We went through a time of disconnectedness afterward. We just couldn’t communicate, and I found myself angry over the littlest things. It took time intentionally hanging out together and reconnecting to get us back to the healthy place that we were in the relationship before things got so busy. It’s awesome to want to serve God and build relationships with others, but we’ve really got to guard our time together.”

So even if you and your spouse don’t travel a lot, you may find yourself dealing with a sense of disconnectedness. Here are some ways to reconnect with your spouse:

Schedule time to spend together. If you’re going to reconnect with your spouse, you’re going to have to intentionally spend time together. That may mean saying “no” to meetings, dinners, parties and events to spend time one-on-one. Set aside an entire day, or as much of a day as you can, to hang out and do what you both enjoy doing together. Sometimes that’s watching a movie. Sometimes that’s sitting on the couch lazing around all day.

Leif and I have learned that when one of us travels, we mark off the day before and after the other person leaves to spend the entire day together. Hopefully, those days fall on a weekend, but if they don’t, then we schedule the next full day off work to be together. We turn down invitations and commit to giving each other the time needed to reconnect.

Do the activities that connected you to your spouse in the first place. Every couple has activities that naturally bring them closer together. You or your spouse may enjoy a sport like hiking, rock climbing, swimming or golfing together. You may like trying out a new restaurant, exploring back roads or shopping together. You may prefer watching a movie, visiting a library or playing a game together. Think back to when you were dating. What activities did you enjoy doing together? What activities do you enjoy doing now together? Part of reconnecting is sharing common experiences together, so carve out times to enjoy the activity and, more importantly, each other.

Take time to really listen. Miscommunication can quickly contribute to the sense of disconnectedness. You will find that your spouse will say one thing, and you will hear something completely different. When you are in a time of disconnectedness, go out of your way to really listen to your spouse. Be sensitive of your location to them when you’re talking. Repeat things back to them, if necessary, to make sure your understanding is complete. You may want to say, What I’m hearing you say is (fill in blank) .

Have sex. While sex should not become the basis or the only way you reconnect, it is definitely part of the package. Becoming vulnerable and intimate can help you to naturally feel closer to your spouse.

Nurture the sense of connection. Once you’ve retrieved the sense of connection with your spouse, don’t let it go. Intentionally do things that you know will bring a smile to your spouse’s face. Keep carving out time to spend together and communicate.

One of the biggest things we have learned to do is to curb times of disconnectedness by establishing boundaries for our marriage and relationship. My husband and I both struggle to say “no” to others. We both want to be everything to everyone, but we also know that isn’t possible and is not what God has called us to do. We are learning—step by step—to defend our time, carve out date nights and make sure that we have adequate time for each other before we get too involved in an event, outreach or ministry opportunity. We have also learned—the hard way—that working together isn’t always the same as being together. We may do a project together, but still fail to connect.

Depending on your schedule, you may need to set apart one day a week to be together. You may want to develop the habit of having a date night every week or schedule “getaway” weekends on a regular basis. Find out what works for you as a couple and make this time sacred. People, events and activities will try to take back the hours you’ve set aside to be together, but it’s worth the fight.

During those special times appointed for you two, practice being fully present with each other. In other words, turn off the cell phone, unplug the computer and turn off the ringer on the home phone. Talk face-to-face rather than filling your time with activities. If you’re distracted by a project or a to-do list, then make a note of what you need to do on a piece of paper and set it aside for later. Do whatever it takes to protect and guard your time together.

[Margaret Feinberg is the author of Twentysomething: Thriving & Surviving in the Real World and God Whispers: Learning to Hear His Voice. This article is adapted from Just Married: What Might Surprise You About the First Few Years (Harvest House Publishers) You can reach her atwww.margaretfeinberg.com]

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