During the initial stages of a relationship each person is normally putting their best foot forward, you are getting to know each other’s values, beliefs, likes and dislikes, you are connecting with each other physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, you are basking in and excited to be in each other’s company and spending time together, things are generally flowing beautifully. It is at this time that each person in the relationship is generally treating each other with love and respect, you are learning about how to communicate your need’s, wants and desires with each other, you are making a commitment to choose each other every day, you begin creating solid foundations for the relationship as you understand how you connect and fit together intimately as a team.
All relationships are living, changing entities and as you move further forward into your relationship the dynamics will inevitable begin to change. As you become more comfortable with each other you may begin to see more of each other’s true self, fears, beliefs and insecurities around relationships may begin to present themselves, stories around past relationships may come to the surface, you may begin to experience differences of opinions and even conflict and feelings of upset, hurt, anger, frustration and sadness may arise. It is at this time within any relationship where one or more people within the relationship may ‘check-out’, in other words they are no longer present, which creates distance, whether physical, mental or emotional.
So, how do you know if your partner has started to distance themselves or check-out of the relationship? There are three main areas within relationships where you can be present to the signs, firstly where your partner is physically present yet mentally or intellectually distant. When you are connected with and engaging with your partner mentally, you are able to openly communicate with each other through words, discussions, the sharing of fears and beliefs or talking about dreams, goals and desires in life. If you begin to notice your partner has stopped sharing or talking to you about what is happening in their world, how their day has been, is no longer engaging in discussions, they are holding back or hiding information from you, then these are pretty good signs that there is a distance mentally within your relationship.
Secondly, in healthy relationships both partners are able to be fully present with each other emotionally, can hold space for the other to dig deep and explore feelings such as anger, frustration, sadness and hurt, are able to take full responsibility for their own emotions, are able to ask their partner for what they need, want and desire in order to feel emotionally balanced and space. However, where your partner is physically present yet emotionally distant, you may feel like they just are not ‘there’ somehow, they don’t have your back, they are not able to hold space for you emotionally, you feel like you are talking to and sharing your honest feelings with a brick wall, or their response to you is unapproachable, guarded and lacks intimacy (respect, trust, communication & honour) or they engage you in a game of ‘blame/shame’. Please be aware that if your partner becomes emotionally distant there may be a sign that they are protecting feelings or themselves from pain or hurt, they may be about to ‘check-out’ of the relationship or they may be fearful that you are going to leave them and the relationship.
Finally, an essential component of a healthy fulfilling relationship with your partner is physical connection and intimacy whether through hugs, kisses, holding hands, soft tender touches, foreplay and sex, as this allows you to thrive in all areas of your life. If within your relationship you and your partner have been extremely affectionate with great physical connection and intimacy and you begin to notice your partner distancing themselves physically, this does not always mean that they are having an affair or cheating on you or that you are not attractive or that they do not love you anymore. The key to maintaining a healthy successful relationship is trust, if you are not receiving the hugs, kisses or the physical contact you need in your relationship and you begin to wonder if your partner is giving this to someone else, then you do not trust your partner not cheat, this in itself is a sign that there is a distance within the relationship which requires addressing.
So, what steps can you take to begin closing the gap if you are noticing distance within your relationship? The key to success here is:
Presence: Take some time to become aware of what is really happening in your relationship and be present to any of your own values, needs, thoughts, beliefs, emotions, fears and insecurities.
Communication: Have an open honest conversation with your partner where you identify your values, needs, wants and desires, truthful give voice to what is working and what is not, accept where things are at in the moment, without judgement or blame, take responsibility for the part you are each playing and the choices you have made to this point, explore possible solutions, establish where you are both committed to working towards the same goals within the relationship
Willingness: Once you have identified where the distance is between you in the present and where you want the relationship to be, check-in about whether you are both committed to and willing to take the actions necessary to bridge the gap. If one or both of you are unwilling or unable to take the steps necessary to bridge the gap, this is where you have an opportunity to make a choice to consciously check-out of the relationship and move on so that both of your needs can be successfully fulfilled and you can thrive in life.
Action: Put together an action plan that you both agree on around the area(s) where more connection and intimacy is needed, whether physically, mentally or emotionally. For example, you might agree to talk on the phone, text each or email each other daily, spend 20 minutes each day talking and sharing what happened throughout your day, create a space to identify and focus on your deeper hopes and dreams with each other.
Re-evaluate: If you have put an action plan in place, set a date for when you will come back together to re-evaluate the health of the relationship and whether your individual needs, wants and desires are being satisfied. At this point if things are progressing well, continue moving through the process, communicating and taking action. However, if things are not progressing as planned, you have an opportunity to seek help and support from a third party to move you through it or you may choose at this point to wrap up the relationship if the connection is no longer allowing you both to thrive in life.
Once again, there is an amazing opportunity here for you both to bridge the emotional gap by being willing to have an open and honest discussion where you are both able to give voice to your feelings and ask for what you need in order to feel valued, loved and fulfilled in a safe and respectful way. If you are able to agree on actions you can both take to bridge the emotional gap fantastic, practice being emotionally present with each other, sharing how you feel and showing your love to your partner each day, this may eventually break down the barriers and bridge the gap. However, if you then it may be time to let go and re-evaluate your relationship.
Please remember that relationships require time, energy and action in order for a strong foundation and connection to be present, if you begin to notice your partner is becoming distant have the strength and courage to take action be communicating with them about what it is you are noticing in the moment. When you are present with each other in your relationship you will take the time to communicate and connect with each other so that you ensure both of your needs, wants and desires for love, nurturing and affection are being successfully fulfilled.
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