Here, why it happens and how to reconnect.
Do you and your partner increasingly seem to do things on your own? He goes fishing while you work in the garden. You travel with girlfriends to San Francisco and he goes on a golfing trip with his buddies.
While it’s healthy – and necessary – to have a certain amount of autonomy in any relationship, increasingly engaging in separate activities can undermine your connection.
In professional circles it’s what’s known as ‘insidious disconnection’.
“The word ‘insidious’ is important here,” says Dr. Guy Grenier, a London, Ont.-based clinical psychologist and author whose practice includes couples counselling. “It’s not like somebody is unhappy, or decides to strike off on their own, it just evolves that way. It isn’t really anybody’s fault.”
And it usually has an innocent – and unavoidable – beginning, says Grenier.
“This group ends up asking, ‘Where are we? We weren’t knowingly sabotaging our relationship, but we wake up, do our separate things and wonder what we’re even in a relationship for’,” says Grenier.
“This is particularly common once the kids are launched and parents are home alone. Sometimes people think just doing all those necessary things over the years would keep the relationship together. But just doing the work isn’t enough.”
This kind of disconnection can become especially toxic, Grenier adds, “if one or both people become caught up in their own activities and develop a resentment of their partner for not ‘keeping up’ with their interest, their increasing expertise, their evolving world view, or whatever. When one partner has stayed at home to raise the kids, for example, while the other increasingly travels and deals with high achieving professionals, the pattern can lead to affairs and divorce.”
“Insidious disconnection isn’t what brings people to me, it’s what causes people to have affairs and divorce and that’s what brings them to me,” says Grenier.
So what’s the solution for insidious disconnection? It’s called purposeful reconnection.
“When your ID becomes a problem, you need better PR,” says Grenier, explaining that purposeful reconnection is all about intentionally engaging in activities that are all about being together – and that means more than a simple ‘date night’ once and a while.