Signs You Are Emotionally Detached From Your Relationship And How You Can Fix It
For people who have been in a relationship for months or years, it is common to experience a phase in the relationship when you don’t feel as close to your partner as you once did. Maybe your work schedules prevent you from spending enough quality time together, or perhaps one of you no longer enjoys activities the two of you used to partake in together. In other situations, every day may feel like Groundhog Day, in which you and your partner go through the same mundane routines and conversations.
Whatever your reason for feeling disconnected or detached from your relationships, know that you and your partner have the power within you to reconnect. Let’s explore the signs of emotional detachment within relationships, as well as different options for restoring it to a mutually fulfilling partnership.
What Is Emotional Detachment?
Emotional detachment, or emotional blunting, can be defined as the inability to form an emotional connection to others or to experience emotions. It can develop as a means of coping with anxiety by avoiding certain situations that trigger difficult emotions that a person cannot cope with psychologically.
Sometimes emotional detachment and emotional blunting is a symptom of an attachment disorder, such as reactive attachment disorder, which is a mental health condition caused by extreme neglect or abuse in childhood. Although it’s not classified or defined as mental health disorder, emotional detachment may result from other mental health disorders stemming from some form of emotional abuse.
Although emotional detachment might sound like a negative quality, it is not always something negatively affecting a person’s life. When people can detach themselves emotionally from stressful situations or circumstances, they can often react calmly and logically with a measured emotional response. Learning how to emotionally detach can actually serve as a positive coping mechanism, especially when other people’s emotions are extreme.
Emotional detachment can allow a person to look at the bigger picture, maintain boundaries, and take space to manage intense emotions. These are often great traits, especially in certain professions where being too emotionally attached can be detrimental, such as being a doctor, psychologist, police officer, or first responder.
However, when you are in a relationship or a marriage, emotional detachment and emotional blunting may not be a positive thing and may be a sign that something is off either with yourself or with your relationship. Experiencing emotional detachment and emotional distance may keep you from maintaining personal relationships in a healthy way, and it can hurt the other person’s feelings. An inability to feel emotional involvement can also affect friendships and relationships with extended family.
People often develop emotional detachment and emotional numbing due to painful life events or traumatic experiences, and it can be a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It can also come about due to less traumatic but unpleasant experiences. For example, let’s say a person was cheated on by a partner. The hurt and grief from the past relationship may lead the person to be emotionally unavailable or unwilling to commit in the same way within subsequent relationships. Unconsciously, the person may resist getting too close and forming new emotional connections out of fear of being hurt again.
Signs Of Emotional Detachment
Generally, a partner is the person someone would confide everything in: details about their day, work, problems with family or friends, etc. If you find yourself not emotionally invested and not wanting to do anything with an intimate partner, it could be a symptom of emotional detachment.
When someone is feeling disconnected from partner, they may have little no interest in their partner’s feelings and lack the self-awareness needed to recognize this issue. A person with emotional detachment may feel psychologically detached from the people around them, and the emotions of other people might not seem to make an impact. In addition, a person with this condition may have little interest in the intimacy of a sex life. The following comprise additional symptoms of emotional detachment:
Withdrawal from stressful or everyday situations
Inability to be emotionally vulnerable
Difficulty empathizing with others
Difficulty staying in the present moment or a tendency toward preoccupation around other people
Failure to prioritize other people’s needs in appropriate situations
Difficulty maintaining friendships and relationships
Reduced ability to have normal disagreements and fights with a partner
The emotional blunting characteristic of detachment can be a symptom of a physical or mental disorders or a side effect of certain medications, such as those used to treat major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder. Emotional blunting may also result from a mental health condition that can be effectively treated. For instance, emotional blunting can be a result of personality disorders, major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder from events like childhood abuse or interpersonal trauma, or other mental illnesses, as peer reviewed studies have shown.
If you or a loved one is experiencing or has experienced relationship abuse or domestic violence, help is readily available. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is free and offers support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The number is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). You can also text “START” to 88788 or use the live chat option on the website at TheHotline.org. The Hotline provides essential tools and support to help survivors of domestic violence so they can live their lives free of abuse.
Treatment Options For Emotional Detachment
Since emotional detachment is not a mental health diagnosis but a symptom of various other physical health and mental conditions, successful treatment depends on the underlying cause. If you or someone you love appears to psychologically detach from emotions, the first step is to see a healthcare professional and discuss the problem openly with them. Licensed physicians and similar wellness professionals are a good place to start the process. When you understand the underlying problem causing emotional detachment, you can then move forward with an appropriate treatment option.
If you are an individual who has emotional distance in relationships or you experience emotional blunting, there may be a chance you have some issues from your past or your personal life that you may need to work through. You can try doing so yourself by going over the events of your life and analyzing everything that’s happened to you, or you can find a therapist for talk therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often used to help people who have a hard time feeling or processing emotions due to traumatic life events. If the underlying cause of the detaching is due to a medication, your doctor might be able to make changes in your prescription to help with the problem.
If emotional detachment is one of the coping mechanisms you have developed due to poor background attachment in childhood, stressful working conditions, or as part of your cultural background, individual counseling sessions with the right therapist can help you build self-awareness and explore the cause, giving you a better understanding of yourself and helping you reconnect with normal emotions.
As you work on yourself, therapy can also benefit your marriage or relationship with friends and family. You may want to consider couple’s therapy if emotional detachment is affecting your marriage or relationship; especially if you notice your partner being distance most of the time and it's already starting to get out of hand. In some cases, emotional detachment happens gradually over time, and a person may not even realize how distanced they have become from their partner. Sometimes life takes over, and it does not mean you care or love your partner any less.
In those situations, it’s important to come to that realization and take a pause from everything else going on in life to work on the emotional connections in your marriage or relationship. In case you found out that your wife or husband emotionally disconnected in a relationship, we can help you. Online couples counseling at Regain can be an invaluable service because it puts the focus on the relationship and both people’s feelings in a safe and supportive environment. In addition, therapy sessions are provide through video chat, phone, or text messaging, so it’s highly convenient for couples with restrictive work schedules.
Couples therapy sessions can help both people express how the emotional detachment has affected them and find new, healthy ways of feeling and expressing emotions. In one study involving 30 couples, researchers implemented an online videoconferencing intervention with the aim to analyze its efficacy in promoting self-change and improving relationship satisfaction. After the six sessions and follow-up visits were concluded, study leaders ascertained that the online therapy intervention was a viable alternative to face-to-face therapy, being that couples overwhelming experienced improvements in relationship satisfaction and overall mental health quality.
When you recognize emotional detachment in your relationship, it is normal to experience a range of emotions. It is always best to acknowledge these feelings and communicate with your partner, rather than allowing them to fester. If you find that you encounter obstacles in your communication, know that a licensed therapist at Regain can work with you both in a nonjudgmental manner and help you explore your options. Take the first step in moving toward – versus away from or against – your partner by reaching out to a compassionate Regain therapist today.
Frequently Asked Questions
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