If you're currently having problems in your relationship, it might feel like the issues came out of nowhere. But if you take a look at how you have been interacting, you may notice several habits that led to you and your partner
drifting apart in your relationship. And that may explain why there's a lack of connection today.
"Look for the small things — the small disconnections, the small arguments, the lack of intimate moments. It's habits like these that ultimately drive a relationship into the ground," clinical psychologist and The Web Radio Show host
Dr. Josh Klapow tells Bustle. "The good news is that the behaviors themselves are small." So most of the time, changing them doesn't take a monumental effort. It just takes awareness, and a willingness (on both your parts) to do better.
So, how can you start to
rebuild a connection that's been seemingly lost? "You have a buffet of ways to connect with your partner," Klapow says. "And if you do some or all of them every day, your connection will last and grow." Experts say these things include spending more time together, connecting physically, listening to each other, and being present when you're together — all things that are pretty much the opposite of the connection-ruining habits listed below.
Criticizing Every Little Thing
You and your partner may be criticizing each other without even realizing it, perhaps by picking on how the other person washed the dishes, or how they decided to make the bed. It may not seem like a big deal, but these little comments can take a toll.
"Criticism is a surefire way to erode connection in relationships,"
couples therapist Theresa Herring, LMFT tells Bustle. "For one thing, it makes both of you feel less loving towards one another. And, secondly, it almost always ends in your partner becoming defensive or shutting down."
Instead, focus on what you're both doing right, as well as what you'd like to see each other do instead, "and share that with your partner," Herring says. That's a far better way of handling your critiques.
Going Days Without Hugging Or Kissing
When was the last time you kissed your partner, or cuddled with them on the couch? "
Physical touching is as important, if not more so than sex," says Klapow. "When it goes away so does your intimate connection." So make a point of touching more often, maybe by kissing goodbye in the morning, or hugging for a few moments when you get home from work. It really can make all the difference.
Not Being Fully Present When You're Together
"Not making eye contact with someone and giving them your full attention when they are trying to communicate with you creates an emotional gap in a relationship,"
counselor Monte Drenner tells Bustle. "This practice makes others feel they are unimportant and they will pull away emotionally over time." That's why it's important to slow down and really be present with each other, whenever possible.
Being A Little Too Honest
"Mutual trust is the foundation of a healthy relationship and is built on honesty," says Drenner. "Brutal honesty, however, can cause others to shrink back and therefore cause the relationship to erode. Honesty can also be delivered with kindness, which will foster a stronger healthier relationship." So if you have something to say, make an effort to do so
kindly, with your partner's feelings in mind.
Turning Everything Into A Competition
Keeping score in your relationship is
never a good idea. "When we start to count the number of arguments, disagreements, hurt feelings and we start trying to 'win' in our interactions, we erode our relationship," Klapow says. "If you feel like your interactions with your partner are about staying on top of your game, making sure they don’t win the conversation, your relationship is likely to disintegrate."
Again, a busy schedule can get in the way here. But if you want your relationship to stay healthy, you'll need to
make the time to see each other. "Even if you live together, you want to make sure to spend quality time — not just any old time — together," Erika Ettin, a dating coach and founder of A Little Nudge, tells Bustle. Whether that means having a movie night at home, or getting all fancied up and going out to dinner, keeping date nights a part of your lives will keep you feeling connected.
Not Appreciating Each Other
Once you've been together for a while, it can be tough to remember what brought you together in the first place. And it can be even easier to stop trying, and fall into an unhealthy pattern of neglect.
If this sounds familiar, try to up your game and bring that initial level of appreciation back to your relationship. "If your partner does something nice, make sure to show your appreciation," Ettin says. And do something sweet for them, in return.
Being Passive When You Ask For Things
If you're passive when approaching your partner, and they don't hear you or listen as a result, it can lead to hurt feelings. "Over time, couples stop reaching out for fear of being rejected," Herring says. Which is why it can help to be more assertive when asking for what you want.
"When I work with couples I encourage them to be more assertive in asking for the things that are important to them," Herring says. "For example, ... 'I've been dying to see this movie. Will you watch it with me?' is much different than 'Do you wanna see this flick?'" In other words, tell your partner what you want and what you need, and you'll be much more likely to get it.
Not Sleeping In The Same Bed
not sleeping in the same bed can't always be helped, especially if you have opposite work schedules, or need space in order to get a good night's rest. But if you're in the habit of going to bed at different times, or your significant other is sleeping on the couch, this habit may start to knock your intimacy levels down a few pegs.
relationship therapist Brittany Fagan-Barber, LCSW, EAS-C, CAMS-II tells Bustle, "When couples sleep together, their bodies realign with each other. There is a vulnerability in sleep, so each couple is also building more trust with each other." If you can do it, go ahead and give it a try.
Forgetting To Greet Each Other
Take an assessment of how you act in the morning. Do you brush by each other, and leave for work without saying hello? If you're not living together, do you not go out of your way to let them know you're thinking about them with a text or call? If so, that could be one of the issues that's causing a feeling of disconnect.
"Greeting each other is an illustration of the partner's value, and appreciation of their existence," says Fagan-Barber. So if you want to reconnect, start there.
Eating Dinner Separately
This is another issue that's largely dependent on your work schedules, and whether or not you live together (or even nearby). If you two can't eat dinner together, that's OK. But there's a big difference between not being able to, and choosing not to.
Eating dinner together offers a moment to catch up and connect after a long day, which can lead to the all-important moments of communication, Fagan-Barber tells me. If you miss out on that regularly, you won't be doing your relationship any favors.
So make a point of reconnecting. Take a second to appreciate your partner. Make time for them. And ask that they do the same for you, too. If you can keep it up, your relationship can repair itself, and you'll feel as connected as ever.