Are you and your partner living like roommates? Do you have love for your spouse, but you’re not IN love with him? Do all of your interactions revolve around logistics – kids, running a household, work, etc.?
Like anything worth having, marriages will suffer from disrepair over time if we neglect them. And if we don’t make quick moves to change things, we could lose our chance to restore the connection we once had.
In this episode, I explore what a disconnected marriage is, how we get there, and whether or not change is possible. Best of all, you’ll get a special tool you use right away to start alleviating resentment and closing the gap between you and your partner.
Listen to the Full Episode:
What You’ll Learn In This Episode:
- What constitutes a “disconnected marriage”
- A common warning sign that you’re growing apart from your spouse
- How & why we become disconnected over the years
- How to determine whether change is possible for your marriage
- The very first thing you should do if you want to reconnect with your spouse (no, it’s not gazing into his eyes for 20 seconds every day… in fact, it doesn’t require his involvement at all!)
Featured On The Show:
Want more help rekindling the “spark” in your marriage – or determining
whether it’s possible at all?
Sign up for my free on-demand training, Living Like Roommates, where we’ll dive deep into what’s caused the distance in your relationship so you can understand how to move forward in a new direction.
“Welcome to The Loving Truth Podcast, where it's all about finding clarity, confidence, and peace in the face of marriage challenges. And now your host, relationship expert and certified master life coach: Sharon Pope.
“Hi, loves. This is Sharon Pope, and this is The Loving Truth. We are talking today about the disconnected marriage, and I talk about the disconnected marriage a lot because I think it is the most universally descriptive way to describe what's happening when a marriage is struggling.
“You know, sometimes I'll hear more descriptive words like ‘empty’ or ‘lonely,’ ‘living like roommates,’ or ‘I love him, but I'm not in love with him.’ I might also hear ‘I'm in a loveless marriage’ or ‘I'm in a sexless marriage.’ Those are also common phrases, but ‘disconnected marriage’ I think is universally applicable when a marriage is struggling, because when you're connected as a couple, the marriage isn't really struggling. Even though you might have hardships - life is gonna throw you things - but the marriage itself isn't struggling.
“And so today what I wanna be able to address is, what is a disconnected marriage? How do we get there and is change possible?
“Alright, so first I wanna start off with just a quick story about a client of mine. I'm gonna refer to her as Renee, even though that is not her real name, to protect her anonymity. But honestly, this story could be almost any one of my clients. While some of the details may differ, the feelings behind them and how we got here are very much the same.
“So when Renee and her husband got married, you know, she was a high-powered type, a smart, driven corporate executive, and she was super successful in her career. Her husband was a journalist and also a part-time professor at a local university. And so they were both smart, driven people, and one of the things that helped them connect was the passion that they had for the work that they did in the world.
“Now, they had been married about fifteen years at the time that I had begun working with Renee. And at this point, they had two kids. And when I started to ask her, ‘When do you think things started to get disconnected between you and your spouse?’ she told me about how several years ago he had lost his job as a journalist. And while he taught a little bit for a little while, eventually that trailed off as well. He was home more; he was taking on more of the responsibility in terms of the kids and what they needed. And he took up sailing. And so he kept himself busy between the kids and the home and sailing, and she just kept driving and driving in her corporate career.
“Now, they made some of those decisions very consciously, but the problem was that now their lives had gone in such different directions that there weren't a lot of connection points that they had had previously. Between the two of them, the only point of connection became ‘What's going on with the kids? Where do the kids need to be? What do they need? What do we need to do around the house?’
“It was all around logistics and kids. And that, my friends, is a warning sign that you're headed into sort of a danger zone when you don't have anything else to really talk about between the two of you, besides the weather, kids, and logistics of your life, right?
“So this happens all the time. Now like I said, it might look different, right? Your situation might be slightly different. But the reason this happens is because we lose sight of placing our marriages as a priority, especially once we start having kids, right? Because then it becomes all about taking care of the kids, and we assume that the marriage isn't broken, so we don't really need to pay attention to it too much.
“But nothing thrives when you turn your back to it. And marriages are no different. And so over time that disconnection that's happening, it happens so gradually, it's like this subtle thing that's happening so gradually that you don't even really notice it. And for a while you tell yourself like, this is just how it is. It's gonna be this way because now we have kids, or because the kids are at a certain age, or because we're so busy, or what's going on with my job. We talk ourselves into the belief that this is all it's ever gonna be and that this is completely normal, that we are so disconnected from our spouse.
“Now, what happens when you don't pay attention to that disconnection as it's happening and you just sort of talk yourself out of it and say it's normal? The problem is that it doesn't magically get better. It just keeps getting further and further and further apart. And what I mean is the two of you get further and further and further apart, and eventually, that distance between you and your spouse becomes so apparent it is palpable. And now it's not gonna be ignored. Now it's not gonna be just pushed aside. And it’s not, ‘Oh, it's okay for now that we're this disconnected.’ Now it's like a big deal.
“And that's what I'm talking about when I'm talking about the disconnected marriage. I'm not talking about ‘Oh, we just haven't felt connected for a few weeks.’ It’s ‘We haven't felt connected for years or even maybe a decade.’ That, to me, is a disconnected marriage.
“And it means that the marriage is in trouble. And if we don't pay attention to that struggle right now, we're not gonna be in a better place a few years from now. It's only going to continue to worsen because that disconnect means we're not gonna be as patient with one another. We're not going to be as responsive to one another. We're not gonna give each other more grace or assume the best in our partners, right? Some of the basic things, when you do [them], can make a good marriage feel pretty good for a long time, but when a marriage is struggling, we don't show up with those basics, and that means that the resentments get worse and worse over time. And that means that the disconnection between you gets worse and worse over time.
“So what do we gotta do? We gotta figure out [if we can] recreate the connection or can we create new points of connection so that we can feel really good in our marriages again? And the place where I see most people fall down on this is that they say, ‘Okay, we're disconnected. The goal now is to reconnect,’ but they reach too far in that reconnection strategy.
“And the problem is then they're reaching too far, they don't have success, and then they assume that reconnection isn't possible, or creating a new connection with my partner just isn't possible. So I guess the only answer then is to leave. And so what I wanna tell you is - I want you to think about this - what are some of the baby steps that I can do to see if connection can be created in a new way or recreate a connection that was there at one point?
“So let me give you a few ideas or tools that you can use, and this is not gonna look the way you think it's gonna look, right? You're probably thinking, ‘Oh, she's gonna tell me I'm supposed to hold his hand or stare in his eyes for twenty seconds or any of that crap.’ I'm not going to tell you that. But what I am going to tell you is that it begins within you.
“It begins within your mind. And this, my friends, is good news because you have complete control over your mind and your experience. No one can think for you. Only you can do that. And if you do it very consciously, you're in complete control of that situation. Okay? So the very first tool that I wanna give to you is what I call the buffet.
“And so I want you to imagine that you and I are going to a buffet, and this is not like a buffet where, you know, there's like hot dogs and hamburgers and chicken tenders and stuff on it. No, no, no. This is like the Ritz Carlton of Buffets on like an Easter Sunday or something. Okay? So you walk into the buffet and there are amazing meats and fish and cheeses and salads and vegetables and fruits, and then there's a whole section of amazing desserts, all your favorites, right? There are a ton of things on the buffet, probably a hundred different items on the buffet right now. My very favorite food is king crab legs, hands down king crab legs. If that's on the buffet, I'm gonna go get it. Probably my least favorite food is lima beans.
“Okay? Now think about it. Would I ever walk over and grab an empty plate and walk up to the buffet, bypass all the meats and seafood and crab legs and vegetables and desserts and salads and all that stuff, and would I go to the section where Lima beans are and fill up my plate with lima beans so full that nothing else could fit on my plate?
“Would I ever do that? No. And neither would you, right? If you hate beets or you hate king crab legs, you would never go fill up your plate with all the things that either make you sick or just don't taste good to you. And I want you to use that analogy now in your marriage.
“Your partner has a hundred different variables that make up the man or woman that they are, okay? And there are some things that you really value and appreciate and respect and admire, and then there are some things that drive you crazy. But what do we focus on? What do we fill our plates with? What do we fill our mental plate with? It's not most often the stuff that we really respect and admire about our partners. It's all the things that drive us crazy, right
“So whatever you focus on is going to get bigger in your experience. So when we focus on all the things that you don't like in your partner, then that is going to get bigger, and it's gonna take up that whole plate so that you don't even have any mental head space to notice all the good stuff, to notice the things that he's doing well, or the things that he's always done really well, the things that you've now overlooked or come to just take for granted, right? So think about it, we spend more time thinking about what food we're going to eat for lunch than we do consciously thinking about how we think about our partners, whether we're with them or not in that moment, right?
“When I think about my husband, I really genuinely reach for, ‘What are the things that I really like and respect and love and admire about him?’ And yes, there are things, because everyone's got things, right? We all have things. I'm sure he has a whole list for me as well, but we just try to focus on what is really good in our partners. Okay?
“Now, I want you to do that for you, just like out of the gate, just do it for you. If you feel the need to think about it, like ‘Oh, I need to create a good things list and a bad things list.’ Like I know people like lists; okay, you can do that. I just like to think of it as a buffet.
“And when I get focused on the things that drive me crazy in someone else, I just remind myself like, ‘Oh, I'm just filling my plate with lima beans. That's all that's happening here.’ And in that moment when I remind myself I'm just filling my plate with lima beans, now I can choose different thoughts. I can choose to think about the wonderful things about my husband.
“Right? Now, I told you, I want you to do this for you because I want you to feel better, right? If you are just so focused on all the things that are driving you crazy, there's no path to existing in that and feeling good about your marriage. I just want you to feel better about the person that you chose. Because my guess is you probably have a pretty good judge of character, right? That he's probably a really good guy, and there are probably several, maybe many amazing things about him. I just want you to get focused on that so that you can feel better.
“The second step would then be, as you notice it and it becomes more frequent, the good things; then I want you to be able to communicate that to your partner right out of the gate. I just want you to keep it for yourself so you can feel a little better. But the second step is communicate that to your partner. You know, like when you see, let's say that he makes a great joke and it just makes you laugh. Like say something, acknowledge it - like, ‘You've always been so funny. It's one of the things I love about you. It's one of the things that drew me to you.’ Something like that, right? Notice it and acknowledge it. That acknowledgment is going to go a long way.
“Now, we're not doing that to get your partner to change, but inevitably, when you acknowledge something in someone else, it doesn't matter who it is. This is just basic human behavior. When you really genuinely appreciate that something in someone else, they're gonna show you more of that, right? If someone is super patient and kind with you and you say, ‘Thank you so much for being so generous and patient and kind with me while I'm coming up to speed,’ they're not going to then become short and impatient with you, are they? No.
“They're gonna be like, ‘Oh, let me give you more of that.’ It's the same way with kids. It's the same way in all human behavior, right? So you're not doing it for that purpose. Like, ‘Oh, Sharon, teach me the tricks so my husband will change.’ That is not the point. It begins with you and it begins in your mind, and it has to feel genuine, and then it can extend outward, and you can communicate that to your partner. And what you will probably get in return, particularly if you are consistent, is you'll get some more of that good stuff coming to you, because whatever you focus on does get bigger in your experience. Okay? So that's the first tool that I wanted to share with you.
“There are two others though that also deal with our thoughts and the mind and how it shows up in relationships and in many ways destroys our relationships. And this next one is around the idea of - and everybody does this to some degree, okay? - one of my favorite quotes from Abraham Hicks, which is, ‘If you would be different, I would feel better, right?’
“We do this with everybody. If you would clean up your room, I would feel like a more successful mom. If you wouldn't load the dishwasher this way, I would feel more organized. If you would initiate sex with me more frequently, I would feel more desired. Like we have all of these conditions, which all sum up to ‘I need you to change so that I can feel some version of better, better than I do now.’
“But the problem with that is that then we are handing over our power for how we feel to someone else, and then we're requiring them to stay steady enough pointing their love in our direction consistently enough so that we get to feel the way that we want to feel. And my friends, that is never going to work because they can't necessarily do it for themselves.
“And by the way, it's not their job. How we feel as we move through our lives, move through our days, how we feel about ourselves, how we feel in our relationships - my friends, that is our work. That's our stuff to do. We don't get to just hand that off and give it as a task list to anyone else because no one else is here to make us feel the way we want to feel.
“That's our stuff. So that's the second tool. And you can tell yourself, ‘Oh, this is me needing him to be different so that I can feel better there.’ I do it. There it goes again. Notice how many places you do this. Don't beat yourself up for it, but just notice it. I need the driver in front of me to be different so that I can feel better. I need him to go faster. I need him to go slower. I need him to be safer. We do it with our kids. We do it in every relationship we have. We do it all the time, and I just want you to become more conscious of it, because it's one of those cancerous things that, if you're not paying attention to it, will show up over and over and over again and will continue to chip away at your most important and most intimate relationship until the point where you're feeling really disconnected.
“Now, the last thing is, we have to disbelieve this idea that ‘I'm going to love you when I think you are deserving of my love,’ right? Which ultimately means ‘I need you to do the things that I think you should be doing so that then I can point my love in your direction.’ That's not a winning strategy, particularly in marriage, right? Because we're not that consistent inside of our relationships, particularly our close relationships where we are up close and personal for thirty, forty, fifty years together, right? So this idea that I'm gonna be loving towards you when you're doing the things that I like, and I'm going to then turn that love away from you when you're doing the things I don't like or not doing the things that I think you should be doing… love is not about deservability, okay?
“I think if you are a human being on this planet, I think you are deserving of love. And so let's just start there. Now, if I think that you are deserving of love, then I'm not going to be nasty to you. I'm not gonna be short with you. I'm not gonna give you the silent treatment. I'm not gonna stonewall you. I'm not gonna walk away from you. I'm not gonna yell at you, right? I can treat you respectfully. Even if we disagree, we can have those kinds of conversations when the nature of our relationship isn't one where contempt and judgment and hatefulness show up, right? I can. I can love you and still be angry with you, right? And so that's the idea. We've gotta unlearn some of that stuff. Alright?
“So if you are in a disconnected marriage, I hope that this was helpful for you, just to give you a few easy tools. Really, they're not complicated, right? Like these are pretty easy tools, but they begin with you and they begin with you thinking more consciously about how you think about your marriage. Now, do we need to get better at communicating? Yes. Do we need to know how to argue more productively? Yes. Do we need to have to talk about sex when we are super disconnected from one another? Yes. Do we need to talk about affairs? Of course, we have to talk about all of these things. But let's begin where it's easy and let's just start here with a few little tools that you can be in complete control of. Because what I know about relationships is that when you feel empowered within yourself, you show up differently in your relationships.
“All right, I will see you next week.
“Has the spark gone out of your relationship? Are you concerned by the growing distance between you and your spouse? While you may feel lonely, you are certainly not alone. Fifty to seventy-three percent of marriages today suffer from disconnection. I'm exploring exactly why that is and how to know whether your marriage can feel good again in my free on-demand training, ‘Living Like Roommates.’ We'll dive deep into what's caused the distance in your relationship so you can understand how to move forward in a new direction. Sign up for the training now at livinglikeroommates.com. Again, that's livinglikeroommates.com. I look forward to seeing you there.”