How To Recognize Emotional Disconnect In Your Relationship And What To Do To Reconnect

By: Tanisha Herrin

Updated August 03, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Laura Angers

“Relationships go through stages where you feel really connected for a period and then not as connected for another period; it’s during the disconnect when it takes extra effort to reconnect. It’s important to remember that if your relationship is in a disconnect stage it does not necessarily mean that your relationship is over, it may just mean that the relationship is in need of a tune-up. Take time to listen to the needs of your partner and be prepared to put in the effort.” – Dr. Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPCC

Emotional disconnect in a relationship occurs when a partner doesn’t feel the closeness they admired earlier in their relationship. When partners are close, they share their feelings and emotions. The closeness experienced between partners is essential to building the relationship through commitment, communication, and meeting needs of each other. When this element is missing, a partner may feel lonely and disconnected or detached. The feeling is apparent when a partner seems distracted more often, or they don’t gaze into your eyes with interest like they used to do.

Emotional Disconnect Defined

Emotionally Disconnection in A Relationship Can Be Painful And Confusing
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It is a devastating feeling to grow apart and feel your partner pull further away from you. When you feel good about your relationship, you feel happy and content. The emotions you feel are mutual with your partner. When emotional detachment occurs one or both partners are not on the same page emotionally. It may lead to conflict, feeling neglected, or wondering if you did something wrong. Some wonder if their partner is no longer in love with them or wants to end the relationship. Others may suspect betrayal in the form of cheating.

The emotional disconnect among partners usually occurs slowly over time. It may not be as obvious why it happened, but it is common in relationships. When communication and engaging in fun activities decreases, these are potential signs something isn’t right in the relationship. The reasons why may have something to do with either partner’s actions. Why have these feelings of disconnect occurred? What causes a partner to pull away? Does it seem like you’re the only one trying to keep things alive? Understanding what is going on in your relationship can help determine what to do.

What Does Emotional Disconnect Look Like?

Partners experiencing emotional disconnect may not recognize their relationship is suffering. A partner may overlook this aspect for a while, thinking things will change, but they haven’t. You may wonder if it is possible to achieve the closeness you once had. A partner may experience pain from their past they have yet to confront. Maybe anxiety or depression is a concern. Some partners are too afraid of emotional intimacy and to open up and reveal their inner thoughts.

There are several reasons why partners detach. Someone may be emotionally unavailable. They could be unable to establish a deeper connection with you. Whatever the reason for the disconnect, it is important to recognize the issue to determine your options. Here are signs to look for when suspecting emotional disconnect.

  • Your partner doesn’t want to talk about or share their feelings. At one point, they would talk to you about a problem or something on their mind. If you try to speak to them or ask them what is wrong, they turn the other cheek or clam up.
  • Your partner seems distracted when you talk to them. As you have a conversation with them about your personal feelings or whatever is bothering you, they don’t seem interested. You feel like the closeness is not there that you once had while having a discussion.
  • Your partner is blind to your emotions. If you express anger or sadness with tears, it is not enough to get your partner’s attention. They seem unmoved and careless that you’re hurting.
  • Your partner doesn’t want to work out conflicts. You are willing to work things out so you can move forward, but your partner lacks interest. They don’t care the problem is left unresolved because they are indifferent. They express little emotion. They may walk away from you or roll their eyes during an argument.
  • Your partner doesn’t spend time with you. They withdraw themselves from plans or say they have something else to do if you suggest an activity with them like dinner. If you try to talk to them while they are sitting in a room, they get up and go to another room or pretend to be busy doing something else.
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  • Your partner doesn’t want to sleep with you. Your sex life is almost nonexistent. Your partner gets passive or irritated when you try to bring a hint of romance into the picture. Your partner may blame you for their lack of sexual interest even if you’re not at fault.
  • Your partner doesn’t make an effort to please you. Your partner used to do things that made you happy and loved. They used to make sweet gestures like give you a gift. A massage, or make dinner for you. You feel like your existence is an annoyance.
  • Your partner puts their needs first. Your partner doesn’t show interest in wanting to do activities you like. They rarely think about your needs before theirs. Your partner has stopped considering your feelings when they choose to do something that benefits them. They may not do actions that show they care about you. They would rather hang out with friends or make decisions that don’t involve you, even if it creates an inconvenience for you.
  • Your partner doesn’t tell you they love you. You notice it has been a while since they said three words to you, “I love you.” Many see this as a big red flag of emotional disconnect. They may also lack showing affection or pull away if you try to show them affection.
  • Your partner shuts down. When you try to talk to them about your relationship, they don’t want to hear it. Things are not well in the relationship, and you want to work things out. Your partner seems uninterested in participating in efforts to make things better.
  • Your partner prefers to be silent. They give you the silent treatment, and it makes you feel uncomfortable. They may give a short response if you ask a question or act indifferent. They don’t want to engage in discussion or conversation.

There are other actions worth noting when a relationship experiences an emotional disconnect. A partner may get angry when you try to encourage them to talk. A partner may purposely create conflict to increase their distance away from you and build a wall. A partner doesn’t talk about their future with you anymore. Maybe you had plans to do things together, but they no longer exist. It can be challenging to understand what caused the detachment. You may feel alone and confused wondering why this happened and what your options are for dealing with it.

How to Reconnect

Emotionally Disconnection in A Relationship Can Be Painful And Confusing
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Efforts to reconnect may require patience and persistence. You engage in efforts to try and reconnect only for them to backfire. A partner may feel overwhelmed or guilty and realize they are emotionally disconnected. Reconnecting will require effort from both partners. Ask them about their concerns and what they are willing to do. Learn if they are willing to explore options that can work on emotions related to their detachment, such as anxiety and fear. Here are some suggestions on how to reconnect:

  • If you sense your partner is dealing with depression or anxiety, encourage them to talk to someone such as a mental health specialist or relationship counselor. Let them know it is a productive way to manage stress and their emotions. Offer to go with them or consider talking to a counselor if you are experiencing the same feelings.
  • Talk to your partner. Let them know you want to listen to them. Share your thoughts and feelings. Work toward having a detailed conversation about your relationship. Ask them if they are happy in the relationship and what changes they want to see. Listen to each other and process their feelings to understand them before you respond.
  • When your partner wants to be alone, talk to them about it. It is common for a partner to distract themselves on purpose when they want alone time with music, games, or with other people. Talk to them about setting time aside to be alone. You can set time aside for yourself too. Setting aside time to be alone helps with collecting thoughts or clearing your mind.
  • Assess your communication and how you do it. Sometimes how you respond to your partner shows resentment or being too critical. Such a response may hurt your partner’s feelings, and you don’t realize it. As a result, they withdraw from you because they don’t want to upset you or be criticized again. Try being more positive, neutral, or directional when communicating with them.
  • Give your partner space if they avoid you. Some partners feel overwhelmed if the person they are with is needy. Step back a bit and conduct activities as usual without pursuing them as much. Your partner may become more engaged and warm up to you.

Many couples deal with emotional issues in relationships. Emotional disconnect in a relationship is a warning sign something needs to be addressed. Discussing the problem is significant to the health of the relationship. When the disconnect goes unaddressed the relationship status becomes questionable. You deserve a loving relationship that is emotionally fulfilling with the closeness and intimacy you want.

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