What's Your Conflict Style?

What Does Emotional Distance In A Marriage or Relationship Look Like?

communication relationships toxic Aug 25, 2022

When Does 'Needing Space' In A Relationship Become Dysfunctional?

If you didn't see our Relationship Red Flag video or are curious about learning more about how relationships can become dysfunctional - start there or on this video about family dynamics. 

Make sure you read to the end of this blog post to find out about our FREE COUPLES ACTIVITY, designed to deepen your connection and decrease any emotional distance you might be feeling. 

Read more on Bowen & Differentiation of Self here

What Is Emotional Distance?

Emotional distancing in a relationship is a feeling of being distant or disconnected from your partner. Feeling some distancing in a relationship to some degree is healthy, but it can turn toxic if taken to an extreme. This drifting apart may not be immediately noticed by either partner, especially if busy with kids, career, or travel. However, when they start recognizing the signs of this emotional distancing, they must quickly work towards reducing this gap. Murray Bowen, one of the founding fathers of Family Systems Therapy talked about cut-off as being one of his eight core principles - emotional distancing leads to and is a form of cut-off.

How Do You Know If There's Emotional Distance? 

Emotional distance in a relationship is often an experience or feeling as if we've lost the passion or connection you once had or felt for each other. It can also be experienced as apathy or ambivalence towards your partner. It can make two people feel as if they don’t really have much to say to each other other than the day-to-day updates regarding their general activity.

Healthy Distance

There's a difference between healthy time apart from someone you're dating or in a relationship with and emotional distance. I would argue that healthy time apart can lead to emotional closeness rather than distance, but that's often hard for some couples I work with to see. 

Extreme Emotional Distance

Murray Bowen, one of the founding fathers of Family Systems Therapy, talked about cut-off as one of his eight core principles. In his decades of work with families, he saw that at an extreme end of a spectrum of emotional distancing, we can see people 'cut-off' relationships out of anxiety or tension. At an extreme end, cut-off will lead to break-ups or divorce.

How to Fix Emotional Distance in Marriage

My People Patterns has an activity that you might want to consider using if you want to reconnect with your partner. The ten questions will guide you into a deeper understanding of each other, and should result in some increased feelings of connection. Click here to access it.

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