We all know what it’s like to have someone sitting right next to us, but whose mind and heart is miles and miles away. There are times at work when we’ll be in a meeting and someone will completely zone out though they’re sitting in the conference room with us. Their thoughts are well beyond the conversation right in front of them.
Similarly, there are times in marriage when your spouse may be physically close, but emotionally distant. Sure they’re at the dinner table eating with you, but their mind is focused on anything other than you. Or maybe you’re driving somewhere together and you can’t seem to keep a conversation going because of how closed off your spouse is. What can you do? Here are 3 steps to take when your spouse is close, but distant:
1. Recognize it.
The first step in bridging the gap between you and a distant spouse is recognizing the distance. Don’t be so focused on your own issues and “to-do” list that you’re unable to see distance in your spouse’s behavior toward you.
2. Assess it.
Next, it’s important to spend some time reflecting on the root cause of this distance. Ask yourself questions like, “Is my spouse overwhelmed by a situation beyond me at work or home?” Or, “Have I done something to offend my husband/wife?”
Just today, Susan and I were in the Los Angeles airport. Susan asked me to do something really simple…grab her water that she left on the counter at the restaurant we were in. Instead of a “Sure, honey, I’ll go get it,” I gave her a frustrated and condemning look. Well, immediately I saw Susan’s spirit start to close. Fortunately, I quickly assessed it and apologized to her.
Care enough about your marriage to take time thinking over what you could have said or done wrong, or how you could have better loved your spouse.
3. Ask about it.
It’s up to you to pursue your spouse if the distance is still growing. Intentionally ask your spouse, “What’s going on? I feel disconnected.” It can be difficult Getting Your Spouse to Talk. But often, when they do, they will respond in one of two ways:
- “I’ve just been preoccupied with the kids/work/stress lately.” If this is the case, then work through this with your spouse and offer to help relieve them of some stress in whatever ways you can.
- “Nothing’s wrong.” If your spouse remains shut down and you are unable to figure out why they are unresponsive, then it may be wise to ask your teenage kids. If they are mature and old enough, they can be a great source to turn to. There have been many times in my own marriage where I have asked my daughters, “Do you know what’s going on with mom? I really can’t figure out why she’s upset and distant with me.” More often than not, my girls knew what was going on and responded with something like, “Well maybe it’s the way you talked to her in that tone of voice during dinner,” or “It’s probably because you didn’t notice or thank her for cleaning the house.” Kids can often help open your eyes to things you missed or didn’t think would cause hurt feelings.
If getting thoughts from your kids is not an option, then you might want to spend more time thinking over where things could have gone wrong. Tell your spouse, “I care about you, I love you, and I want to work this out. I know there’s a reason for this distance between us, but I am going to spend as much time as I can thinking things over and try and recognize the problem and find a solution.” You may also want to read 10 Things Husbands Want to Hear from Their Wives and 10 Things Wives Want to Hear from Their Husbands.
Ever feel like your spouse is close, but distant? Please share your thoughts in a comment.