Emotional distance in our relationships often leaves us feeling alone. Whether your boyfriend is acting distant, your wife is giving you the cold shoulder, or your husband seems disconnected, it often all boils down to the one factor driving you apart.
So, let’s talk about pain.
Pain Creates Emotional Distance Between You and Your Loved Ones
We all get wounded by the people we love. This is part of being human. The hard part though, when we are in a relationship, is putting the pain between you and your partner.
And we do this almost instinctively. We get our feelings hurt and boom the wall comes up or we tell them incredibly strongly how much they hurt us.
This pattern is pervasive with couples. I see it in my therapy practice. I live it in my own life. When I am hurt I am unable to ask for what I need. My instincts are to fight. I don’t raise my fists or anything, but my insides look for someone to blame. I usually become angry on the inside after I feel hurt and I express it, sometimes loudly.
Emotional Distance Also Arises When We Shut Down and Bottle Our Feelings Up Inside
My husband, though, keeps his feelings on the inside. He suffers in silence as they say, but if I were to observe him I would be able to tell something happened to him. I would feel his withdrawal of energy and I would see him shut down and close off the world. That’s what some of us do.
I was working with a couple recently. The boyfriend feels uncomfortable when his girlfriend expresses her emotions. She is like me. She has to say to who ever will hear (her boyfriend) what happened to her when her feelings got hurt. She says it loudly. He doesn’t know what to do. I am helping them figure this thing out.
Pain Is Inevitable; Letting It Drive You Apart Isn’t
It is clear though, that we as humans get hurt. It is also pretty clear that when we are in relationship with another person we probably get our feelings hurt more often. That’s because we are living in close quarters with them and we have become vulnerable in other ways around them. We are more open to them and that’s one of the reasons things feel so sharp.
So if we know that getting our feelings hurt is to be expected, maybe we could ease up on the other person a bit. This concept takes some work though. I know in my own way, I stay angry for a shorter amount of time and my strong resentment to the one who hurt me has decreased. I am sure he can tell my feelings are hurt. But instead of making a scene, I usually walk away, quiet myself until I figure out what I am feeling and then talk to him about what happened to me.
Fight Emotional Distance with Self-Awareness and By Taking Responsibility
Notice that I say, “happened to me.” Oh I could write volumes of what he did to me. But I also know when I am speaking from a place of hurt and blaming or accusing him for what he did to me I never feel better. I usually just start a point-counterpoint argument and no one wins that.
What works for me is realizing my part. When I get quiet I can usually figure it out. I can’t know anything about what happened inside me when my feelings are hot. When I am calmed down though, I start to feel detached from my person. I want to reconnect and I look for a way in. That’s usually the start of understanding what happened to me when I got my feelings hurt.
Separating Pain From Blame Can Help Bring You Closer Together
And if I were to write down all the things that happened to me in the many years we have been together I can probably fit them into a pretty short list. I always hear myself saying these pretty much the same things.
I felt dismissed. I felt like you didn’t care. I felt left out. I felt hurt by your comment.
Yeah, that would be about it. There might be some variations, but those are the themes. Notice I am talking about what I felt. NOT what he did to me.
And guess what else, when I say these things to him, just the way they are written, something like, “Hey, here’s what happened to me. When you said that thing, it made me feel like you weren’t listening to me.”
Share Your Feelings Instead of Blaming Your Loved One
This may sound wimpy, but I can assure you it’s way better then me telling him how horrible he is.
It’s hard to get to this place to speak about what happened to you. But here’s the best part. If you can, your mate will understand you. Your partner will get why you got mad. They will want to help you feel better, to feel “listened to, or understood, or cared for.” It is instinctive. And that too is the way humans are wired.
Get a Helping Hand in Dealing with Conflict
Listen to Linda, Pastor Trevor, and Pastor Cedric break issues just like these down on Two Wise Men and a Smart Chick, airing Fridays at 11:00AM PST.