If you’re in a long distance relationship or your partner travels frequently, you might feel like it’s hard to maintain connection with your partner when you’re apart. I’ve heard this from a lot of couples and I’m also experiencing it myself. Absence does not always make the heart grow fonder. In fact, sometimes it can create more disruption.
My partner Daren co-parents his 12 year old child who lives with him every other week. On the off weeks, Daren and I live together at my home and it’s beyond joyous. I feel totally loved, cherished, and cared for.
But damn, those Dad weeks can be really hard for me. When we have conflicts, it’s almost always during the weeks we’re not together. Feeling special and a priority is one of my core relationship needs. So it’s challenging on the weeks when, completely understandably, someone else is his priority.
Feeling out of connection with Daren during the Dad weeks also gives me the opportunity to create some sort of crazy story in my head. And this so easily feeds into my childhood and relationship abandonment wounds. Sometimes it gets the best of me, and my seven-year-old inner child can start acting out and become passive aggressive. (Which I assure you is not a pretty sight!)
Disconnection Happens With Live-In Partners Too
Feeling disconnected with your partner is not just limited to absences. Ninety percent of my retreat clients report feeling emotionally disconnected from their full-time live in husbands or wives. Let’s not forget that you can also feel as lonely in a relationship than if you were single.
Over the last few months we’ve been trying different things to maintain our connection. (I readily admit this is more of my issue than his, given his more secure attachment style.) Those of us who skew more on the anxious attachment side have a much greater need for daily connection. It reassures us that we are important to our partner and are not being abandoned.
Here are five ways that you can create connection:
- Communicate Your Needs: This is not always easy for those who are already anxiously attached but don’t want to seem too needy. (I know it’s a fine line…) But there’s nothing more important than sitting down with your partner and explaining how you feel when you’re disconnected and why it’s important that together you figure out ways to remedy that.
- Create Meaningful Daily Communication: I’ve come to realize that a daily good morning text, while lovely, is not enough for me to feel connected. We’ve started having daily short phone check ins or sending each other a quick picture of what we’re doing during the day, or a funny meme or video, etc. It makes me feel that we’re still in each other’s lives on a daily basis.
- Find time for a Video Chat: As someone who is very visual, I find that I feel more connected to my partner when we jump on a face time chat than a phone call. We don’t even need to talk. Sometimes just looking into each other’s eyes for a few minutes in silence makes me feel loved and truly in his presence.
- Plan a virtual activity together: If time allows during the absence, plan to spend some virtual quality time together. Have a virtual meal with each other. One of my friends in a long distance relationship has morning coffee with her partner every day on Zoom. Another friend, who is musical and dating a musician, writes songs with her partner on Zoom. Daren and I will sometimes co-watch an episode of Sex and the City before we go to bed. Video sex also works really well for us!
- Create a Transition Ritual: Transitioning from one state to another (absence to presence and presence to absence) is also very important. At the beginning of our week together we engage in a sacred space ritual that allows us to drop in deeply. We also try to ensure that we have a lot of spaciousness in the first 12 hours for physical connection, cuddling, and a check in. Similarly, at the end our week we also create space for physical connection and try to prevent abrupt departures.
Even if you’re living full time with your partner, making space for transitions between work and home is equally important. I always recommend to my clients that when their work day is over and they are back at home (or out of “work” mode), that they spend a few minutes in a warm embrace just to reconnect and signal the beginning of the home transition.
While it’s true that absence can make the heart grow fonder, it can also create the opposite effect. If you’re struggling with staying in connection with your partner, try some of these tips out and let me know how they work for you.