A relationship pattern that ends in heartbreak is founded on deception and lack of emotional connection. Deception is birthed from the scar that taught us that revealing our true needs only causes more unpleasant conflict.
When we cut out this part of ourselves, we do so under the belief that maintaining good feelings in the relationship will keep the relationship. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. When our goal is to make our relationship feel good, then the relationship will fail to make both partners feel good.
How Conflict Avoidance Creates Misery
At first, dismissing conflict seems to be a great idea. Problems are avoided and swept under the rug, and the couple seems to move on. But eventually, these problems start sticking together. Like a snowball rolling down a hill, the problems pick up speed, and the issues seem to be much bigger than they actually are.
One day your partner blows up at you for not folding the laundry, and you’re shocked at how upset they are. Are they really that pissed off about folding the laundry today? Fuck no.
Their reaction is a byproduct of being hurt by the hundreds of moments that conflict and hurt feelings were avoided by both of you.
The likelihood of loneliness in a relationship is directly proportional to the unaddressed issues in a relationship.
Our minds are designed to remember the unprocessed issues in our lives, and to let go of the things that have been processed. If you’ve ever laid awake at night thinking about an email you have to send, you are experiencing the Zeignarnik Effect.
This is why a constantly happy relationship is a doomed relationship, because the moments of disconnection and misunderstanding never get processed. The hurtful moments stay fresh in our mind, slowly eroding our relationship, and turning our Story of Us into a negative one.
Eventually, both partners start to emotionally disengage from each other, and start to live parallel lives. Over time they enter the advanced stages of what is called the Distance and Isolation Cascade. They act like everything is okay between them because they are trying to adapt to the current status of the relationship, but they feel empty, annoyed, and unwilling to connect with their partner.
Most of the time, partners are unaware that they are withdrawing emotionally. Many of us are unaware of the misery in our own relationship. Maybe we come from a family that had parents who were emotionally unpredictable so we became anxious. Maybe we have a history of relationships just like the emotionally disconnected one we currently have, so we ended up accepting that love is supposed to be this way. So it doesn’t actually feel miserable. It feels normal.
To assist you in becoming more aware of this pattern, here are some signs that have helped others recognize an emotional disconnection in your relationship.
6 Signs of Emotional Disconnection
- The Relationship is Emotionally Dead: Your partner and you are unresponsive to one another. You lack joy and affection, and don’t laugh about things together.
- Feel like Passing Ships at Night: Your partner and you don’t connect, and are emotionally unavailable to one another. Passion in the relationship is nonexistent.
- Lacking Friendship: Love, trust, and intimacy is built on the foundation of a couple’s friendship. When the friendship starts slipping away, emotional disconnection is sure to follow.
- Pretend Everything’s Okay: If your partner asks you what is going on, you say “nothing.” The truth is you do not feel entitled to your complaints about the relationship. This stems from the belief that there is something wrong with you feeling this way, so you don’t feel right about complaining.
- Lack of Soothing Each Other: When you are stressed, your partner makes little attempt to soothe you, and vice versa.
- Loneliness: You feel alone in your relationship.
These are important signs. In fact, the California Divorce Mediation Project reported that 80% of the time couples divorced were due to partners slowly growing apart and losing the sense of closeness that left them feeling unloved and unappreciated.
How To End Emotional Disengagement
Partners in this situation have to confront the emotional distance spanning between them in order to end their withdrawal from one another.