You know you are drifting apart in a relationship when the fairytale days seem like a thing of the past. The mushiness, the untimed phone calls, late-night ice cream sessions – all seem like a distant dream. If you are reminiscing about the good old days, or, worse, you aren’t, chances are you’re going through a rough phase in the relationship. And the memories of the fairytale first days, or the honeymoon phase, are all you’ve left to hang on to.
Something is definitely up. Living with a distant partner can leave you feeling truly unsettled. Losing the romance, feeling disconnected from each other, and being out with friends more than being with each other are just a few signs your relationship is falling apart. So, does that mean it’s the end of the road for you and your partner? Fortunately, no. You can turn things around even at this stage, and we’re here to tell you exactly how.
What Does It Mean To Be Drifting Apart In The Relationship?
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You know, how soda bottles fizzle out after the cap is opened? Consider that an analogy for growing apart. Think of your relationship as a bottle of Coke. While capped and unopened, the fizz is intact. The fizz is the wholesomeness of the relationship. If that bottle is left open and unattended for too long, the fizz slowly escapes, leaving behind a sugary liquid. That’s exactly what happens to relationships when you don’t consciously and actively nurture your bond. The spark begins to die out and you feel more and more detached from your partner.
Drifting apart in a relationship happens when you no longer:
- Connect with your partner
- Share details of your lives with each other
- Feel the need to hug or touch each other
- Make eye contact or carve out quality time together
You sort of just get into your jammies and hit the bed. Your conversations are limited to “What do you want for dinner?” or “Did you pay the bill/take out the trash/finish that errand?” These are some subtle signs you are growing apart in marriage.
If you’re a couple drifting apart, the key is to not let the ever-growing space between you get to you. Every relationship stalls at some point. It gets to a point when you do not text every day, don’t spend time with one another, or take weekend trips together anymore. You’re sort of just hanging there, taking the relationship for granted and not willing to bring the fizz back into the relationship. Let’s dive deeper into why that happens.
What causes couples to drift apart
Psychotherapist Dr. Aman Bhonsle puts it best when he says, “A bully is the most toxic person to be around. They never let you be your own person, and walk all over your authenticity.” As he puts it, not letting your partner be their own person is equivalent to bullying them.
So, maybe you’re growing apart in a marriage because one partner looks at the other as *someone who needs fixing*. Is one of you always trying to transform the other fundamentally? If yes, then it’s one of the signs your relationship is falling apart. Let’s look at the other possible reasons for the same:
1. Not being able to create a balance
Research points out that a flawed work-life balance adversely impacts personal relationships. People tend to overwork, get stressed, and then take it all out on their partners. So, one of the reasons for drifting apart could be not being able to find the right equilibrium.
A relationship gets messed up when there is an imbalance. Work and relationship, family and relationship, friends and relationship, me-time and relationship…the list goes. To find that balance, you have to consciously put effort into a relationship, it doesn’t just happen on its own.
I’ve seen many couples growing apart, owing to a lack of time management and bad organizational skills. Doing everything in the right amount is the secret to bliss in your romantic paradise. Spending way too much time with your partner as well as burying yourself in work to avoid facing the monotony of your relationship are both examples of common relationship mistakes that can eventually take their toll on your bond.
2. Not listening enough
Art Rios in his book, Let’s Talk: …About Making Your Life Exciting, Easier, And Exceptional, rightly points out, “When I consider the people I admire, a quality most of them share is that they’re very good listeners. For many of us, we always want to get in edgewise, what we feel is more important to say. Yet, if we would learn to listen more than we speak, we could have better conversations and forge deeper connections. Plus, there would be less misunderstandings in the world.”
Art Rios makes total sense. Lack of effective communication could be why your relationship is drifting apart. Are you expecting your partner to magically read your mind? Are you unable to communicate your needs, desires, and wants? These are signs you have serious communication issues in your relationship.
3. Expecting too much
Actor Jeff Bridges once said, “In life and in movies, it’s a similar challenge, where you have expectations, and you end up in situations that are not meeting your expectations.” So, maybe your relationship is drifting apart because you expect your partner to be your lover, your mother, your best friend, your mentor, all at the same time.
Setting expectations realistically is one of the relationship challenges almost everyone has to face. Every once in a while, remind yourself that your partner is just another human being and not some divine entity who can’t make errors. One of the most common reasons for drifting apart is partners being unforgiving of each other’s mistakes.
But how to stop drifting apart in a relationship? Are you looking for ways to build emotional intimacy and feel connected to your partner again? Don’t worry, we’ve got your back! Here are some ways to reconnect with your partner.
10 Things To Do When You Are Drifting Apart In Your Relationship
“My girlfriend is distant, we’ve grown apart.” “Help, my relationship is falling apart”. “My boyfriend seems emotionally withdrawn, is my relationship over?” “I feel like I no longer know my wife/husband. What do I do?” Chances are, you’re here today because you’re battling a similar concern. But, as mentioned earlier, it is totally natural for a relationship to plateau every once in a while. What seems like the end, may not actually be it. So, before you mistake this for one of the major relationship red flags and call it quits, give these tips on how to reconnect in a relationship a chance:
1. Start with the touch
If you were the kind of couple who held hands at the mall, the lack of physical touch arising as a result of being distant in a relationship can be scary because you thrived on it. So, start with the occasional touch, the passionate but non-sexual kind. Humans are built to feel a connection through touch and these are surefire ways for reconnecting with a partner after a rough patch:
- A simple pat on the arm/back/shoulder
- Short hugs/cheek kisses before leaving for work
- Resting your head on their shoulder
- Massaging their shoulders/hands
2. Take the first step
You know you’re outgrowing someone you love when you are there with each other but not really there. You might be busy with your phones and, except for the occasional exchange of information, you have nothing to talk about. So, take the first step. Instead of burying your heads in your phones or laptops, establish eye contact and start a conversation.
How to fix a relationship that’s drifting apart? Don’t use your phone as an escape. Put it aside immediately and address the problem with your partner. If your partner is emotionally still invested in the relationship, they would not avoid the conversation. Let your gadgets not pull you away from each other.
Related Reading: 25 Most Romantic Gestures For Him
3. Do not play the blame game
It’s easy to blame each other for the rut in the relationship. In fact, many people just resort to blame-shifting when they’re not able to figure out what is actually wrong with the relationship. It’s easy to say:
- “You work too much”
- “You spend more time with your friends”
- “You barely acknowledge me anymore”
Replace the ‘you’ with ‘us’. Instead of placing blame on each other, try talking about solutions. You are not there to figure out who is responsible for the distance that has crept into your relationship; doing so won’t serve any purpose. You are still with each other and working together to get yourselves out of the rut you are in. So, work toward it, not against each other. This is an important thing to remember for growing as a couple.
4. Bring back the spark
Bring back the mid-night ice cream outings or impromptu drives. Or anything equivalent that you both enjoy immensely. Here are some examples:
- If midnight movies were your thing once, try doing that once a month
- If you enjoyed role-playing, surprise her with a sub dom variation of cosplay
- If you used to shop together, make it a Sunday ritual that you can’t miss
Not all your efforts may be well-received, but at least you are putting in small efforts that make a big difference. If your partner, too, wants to reconnect, they will appreciate the effort and reciprocate. To stop drifting apart in a relationship, you must remind your partner of all that used to bring you together in the first place. It will also open up avenues to talk about what’s going wrong in the relationship.
5. Do not project your feelings
Knowing how to give space in a relationship without drifting apart is very important. In fact, time apart in a relationship can be extremely healthy if handled the right way. For instance, it’s natural to feel sad and angry sometimes. When that happens, lashing out at your partner can create an unnecessary rift that can not only add to your negative emotions but also adversely impact your relationship. Nothing good would come out of it. You have to find healthy ways to manage your anxiety. And allowing each other personal time and space can be a great way of processing your emotions, no matter where they’re stemming from.
When you’re done taking space, make sure you spend time together. The easiest way to reconnect your relationship is to spend quality time with your SO. The key is to identify the problem and work on it instead of fixating on the same. Think of the happy days and show your partner that the relationship can be better than ever before.
6. Start a conversation
If your partner used to text you during work hours (and you liked it) but doesn’t do it anymore, leave them a kind text to tell them how much you appreciated it. “I liked how we texted even while working. I miss it.” It’s possible that they miss it just as much but have stopped because they didn’t get the reciprocation they expected, and hence, assumed that you didn’t appreciate their texting you.
That’s why putting your thoughts out there and communicating honestly is so important. It might just turn out that you are both thinking about and yearning for the same thing. And that realization can be a great ice-breaker. However, do not be too clingy or demanding about it. Simply bring it up to see how your partner responds. The most important tip on how to stop drifting apart in a relationship is to express your desires, even if doing so feels uncomfortable.
Related Reading: How To Make Up After A Fight
7. Treat your relationship like its brand new
Remember the attention you paid to your partner when you first started going out? Treat your relationship like that right now. Instead of sitting at home and complaining, “My husband would rather watch TV than spend time with me” or “My wife loves her gang of girls more than me”, do something about it!
Set out to woo your partner again, flirt with them, seduce them, bring back the playfulness and banter. It might seem a little odd at first, but it might help. Bring that honeymoon phase back. Here are some ways to reconnect with your partner:
- Leave small sticky love notes on their phone/desk, saying “Thank you for being in my life”
- Give them a short call just to say, “Good morning. Have a great day ahead, Love”
- Flirt with them/say something like, “Working out again? No wonder you’ve got all that muscle”
8. Settle your priorities
One of our readers wrote to us, “I have nothing in common with my husband. Please help, my relationship is falling apart!”. In situations like this, spouses start looking for distractions elsewhere. That doesn’t necessarily mean your partner is sleeping with someone else. They might go out with friends too many nights in a row. Or bring work back home.
If you’re one of those couples growing apart, it’s time to bring in the big guns. Make each other your priority. You don’t have to have the same likes and interests to reconnect. You can work hard and look for new things that you both enjoy and bond over. You have two options, grow together or grow apart – the choice is yours. And if you value your relationship, it’s a fairly simple one, and one that will be worth all the hard work and effort.
9. Revisit old places
Are there specific places you visited at the start of the relationship? Probably the café across from your college where you both talked about your feelings for the first time? Suggest going there. Did you first make out in a cemetery? Try going there again and take a trip down memory lane. These seemingly simple actions can make a world of difference when you’re trying to stop drifting apart in a relationship and rekindle love and sexual intimacy.
When one spouse grows and the other doesn’t, it can be hard to find commonalities to connect over. This is when reminiscing about what got you together in the first place can give you clarity on why you’re still together. People change. It’s okay and happens all the time. The key to a happy marriage is to accommodate those changes. You can grow in your separate lives but still find ways to stay connected.
10. Make love, don’t just have sex
In a relationship stuck in reverse, or in a ditch, sex becomes more of stress relief or a momentary revival of connection. But that rarely lasts. Don’t just have sex. Make love to each other. Talk about what you liked during the lovemaking session and what else you’d like to do. Affection and passion play huge roles in bringing you closer in a relationship that’s drifting apart, so cuddle, communicate, and engage in some after-play.
- The little things play a part in building physical intimacy
- It takes time and you have to put in effort every single day
- If you want to feel loved, you have to pour in love
- Couples therapy and quality time are essential components to reviving a relationship that is fizzling out
- Treat date nights as a weekly ritual you can’t miss
Drifting apart in a relationship does not mean the end of the relationship. Know it’s temporary but treat it with a permanent solution. How to give space in a relationship without drifting apart is an important part of it. Also, don’t ever feel guilty for your growth. Stop feeling bad for outgrowing people who had the chance to grow with you.
Finally, Dr Bhonsle advises, “You should take couples therapy to know where you stand and why you are standing there. A therapist will give you objective advice and will maintain confidentiality (unlike your relatives/neighbors/friends). So many of my clients have gotten back together after taking couples therapy.” If you are looking for professional help, our counselors from Bonobology’s panel are just a click away.