Overcoming the phenomena of 'growing apart' is one of the biggest hurdles for a long and happy marriage. Often people express a certain amount of surprise and dismay when they realize that they no longer intimately understand their partner's feelings and motivations. Couples find that they have developed separate hobbies, tastes in movies, and even minor shifts in personal values over the years and many find the sensation of separation unsettling. Despite how it feels, this is a perfectly normal stage in a long-term adult relationship because people do change as they grow up and it takes a combination of effort and time to remain close during and after these changes.
The Early Relationship
When two people fall in love, they are driven to spending all their time together. A couple begins to find ways to steal time away from other tasks just to sit together and talk about anything. During the courting and honeymoon phase, you and your partner spent a massive amount of time together bonding and enjoying each other's company. When wondering how you lost track of your spouse's opinions and values, ask yourself when was the last time the two of you spent time together just talking.
Separation Caused by Work
In most households, both partners work a full-time job in order to pursue their careers and build up income for things like houses, children, and vacations. While this is a sound financial decision, it means that the two of you are spending most of your days in separate locations doing tasks that have nothing to do with each other. You could call this the opposite of bonding, and it takes up all of your time. With eight hours of work, commute time, chores, and eight hours of sleep, this leaves precious little time to spend with your spouse, and it won't happen unless you plan for something more than an old movie before bed.
Humans are Constantly Changing
A common misconception between couples that have grown apart is the sentiment that only the other partner has changed and you have stayed the same. However, this simply isn't true. What about you is different from who you were on your honeymoon? Have you had time to share that with your spouse? People change over the years, perhaps slowly, but they change. You have probably become more skilled at your job and more responsible, and most people have a few things like a new hobby, favorite food, or series of books. It's not unusual for you or your partner to have changed.
Getting to Know Each Other Again
When you've found that you have grown apart from your spouse, it's time to make time for each other again. Make plans for romantic weekends, have dinner together more often, and remember to talk. The more you talk to each other, the closer you will become. If the conversation doesn't come easily, this doesn't mean that you're no good for each other anymore, simply that you might need a little outside assistance to help you work through the changes. Couples therapy is a wonderful way to help yourself and your partner open back up and learn to accept each other again.
Growing apart is a natural part of a long marriage, and is nothing to be afraid of. If you have found yourself becoming distant or even contentious with your spouse, the love isn't gone, you just need to rekindle it. With a combination of couples therapy and renewed romance, you'll soon find that your spouse is still the person you fell in love with, just older and with more interesting things to say. If you'd like more advice on mending fences with your spouse or to schedule a couples therapy session, please contact me.