Think You Are Falling Out of Love? It May Be a Disconnect

by: Sharon O'Neill, Ed.S, LMFT

All too often in my marriage and family therapy practice I hear couples talking about how they havelost connection; and how, along with all the confusing feelings that accompany that loss, they also no longer have their best friend to lean on in the marriage.So I ask, “What have you done lately to connect with your partner?”


Even in a thirty year marriage connection doesn’t just happen.A relationship needs to be tended to over and over again.And the sad reality is that many partners equate loosing connection to falling out of love, and then believing that the marriage is over.In this kind of marriage therapy it helps to start connecting immediately, to see how it feels again, while working on the issues that allowed for the disconnect.

Here are a few of the ‘connecting behaviors,’ some small, some a substantial commitment that my clients have taken on.

  • Long walks or hikes, while leaving all the technology behind or turned off, and using the time to reminisce about happy occasions spent together, and about new dreams for the future.
  • Sending a partner the surprise of a "snail mail" note or card inviting them to an evening out.Maybe to a favorite low-key Italian place they haven't been to in ages, a night at a local music event, or something they’ve never done together such as a train ride into NYC for some ice-skating at Rockefeller Center.
  • Taking what I call a ‘marriage day’ from work and the world.Spending a little longer in bed, heading to a diner or coffee shop for hot drinks and a morning treat, reading the paper from cover to cover and chatting about the news together.Then maybe a workout at the gym or a late afternoon movie and finally a simple dinner with some more talk (If you have kids you’ll need to get them ‘placed’ for the whole day!)
  • Cooking a nice meal together at home with a special bottle of wine, maybe even champagne, and shutting down all the technology.Lighting a candle or two, and sharing info and interesting stories that there just hasn’t been time to discuss.(Leave the scheduling stuff or kid concerns out of the talk during this kind of evening, and get the kids to bed or settled into their rooms for the night.Explain to them that mommy and daddy need their special time and no one is to interrupt -- if you make this a periodic routine they will come to understand.)
  • Agreeing to join each other in bed, naked.As I say in A Short Guide to a Happy Marriage: "... sleeping naked is a much underrated necessity in marriage. It absolutely keeps you connected over the long haul." And it absolutely sparks a little romance!

So contemplate further about your marriage and consider that you might not be falling out of love with your partner.Initiate a couple of ‘connecting behaviors.’See where it goes.It won’t feel easy at first, but stay with it for a dedicated period of time.You canget your best friend back.

And if you haven’t yet done any marriage therapy, this would be a perfect time.Ask your physician, or possibly a close friend or family member for a referral.You can also find an appropriately trained marriage therapist at www.therapistlocator.net, part of the resources offered by AAMFT (American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists).

Sharon Gilchrest O’Neill, Ed.S., LMFT, is a licensed marriage and family therapist and the author of A Short Guide to a Happy Marriage. She has worked for over 30 years, both in private practice and the corporate setting, helping her clients to examine assumptions, think creatively, and build upon strengths. O'Neill holds three degrees in psychology, is a Clinical Fellow of AAMFT, and maintains a private practice in Westchester County, New York. She is often called on as an expert by a variety of print/online publications, including the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and the Wall Street Journal.


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