“Finding out along the way, what it takes to keep love living, you should know how it feels my friend…” Paul Rogers
The most powerful truth I can give you is that you can choose to change the dynamics of your marriage! It can be different.
People tend to grow apart when they don’t work to grow together. Maybe they aren’t pulling away, but growing away. Maybe you are growing away.
Okay, to our question, Why are they pulling away from me?
The short or long answer to this question is found in your relational dynamics. Dynamics are the cause-and-effect system of your style of relating. The answers lie in what you are doing to each other. This is the folder that holds all the reasons.
Remember, there are no bad marriages, just bad dynamics. Or cold, disinterested ones. You two create your dynamics, only you can modify them. We want it to “Just Happen,” but life doesn’t work that way. The world is filled with the ashes of “We’ll just let it happen.” The Devil just happens. Connection is warfare and must be fought for. Growth is intentional, initiated, and sustained. There is no other way to truth and happiness. There is no other way out of painful merry-go-round cycles. You know what I mean. The turmoil stuff that disconnects you and never seems to get resolved. We have the power to change that.
The Smoke & Mirrors of Connection
Connection is often an intangible. This means,
“Unable to be touched or grasped; Not having physical presence.”
I may not be able to touch or see it, but I know when I feel connected to my wife Linda and when I don’t. If I want or need more connection, I do something about it with her. I create it by Initiating, talking, engaging, and pursuing; Whatever is needed, and that’s often unclear and needs some exploring. We talk and become vulnerable.
I won’t say, “Oh well,” and look somewhere else for it, taking the lazy way out. I stare shame down and risk vulnerability. The worst thing you can do is go outside the marriage for a connection you should be getting from inside. If you open outside doors, you create damaging false intimacy and addiction eroding the connection you have at home, even if you don’t feel it. You see it all the time. The well-worn trail to disaster and dissipation.
We all feel the need to be connected to someone. Most of us do anyway. If we are married before God, we need to surrender to His ways to find that connection with Him and our spouse and grow into the people He’s called us to be. Love does this.
I escaped to the golf course yesterday before Linda’s arts and crafts party at the house for the ladies. It was a perfect day. They paired me with a guy in his mid-40s. Approaching the green on the first hole, I asked if he was married. He started out saying it was his second marriage. (He needed me to know he wasn’t perfect and needed grace.) I told him I knew the feeling, this was my second as well after a short one a long time ago. He asked,
“How long the second time?” I said,
“For 36 years.”
“That’s a long run.”
“Yes, it’s wonderful.”
While we golfed and talked, I found his present wife had 3 girls, and he had two of his own. It was a blend of five young ladies thirteen years in. I said,
“Wow, a blend. Is it permanent?”
“I don’t know!”
I wasn’t sure if hadn’t thought about it or didn’t know if he had what it took to make it last a lifetime. I wondered about the concept of covenant and certainty. I thought later it was because of fear she would abandon him like the last one did. Doesn’t love always involve that risk? Are there any guarantees about what another person might do? Or who they might become? While we sat on a bench waiting for the third hole to clear I asked,
“What happened to the first one?”
He gave the answers I usually hear to describe a disconnected relationship that is dying.
“We were living separate lives, we grew apart just living life…”
Then he said something that caught my attention,
“I was inattentive to her needs.”
He was taking responsibility for his part. The sound of growth.
In essence, he said that if he had loved her better he might have been able to keep her. There is some merit to that, but it’s often more complicated. I listened. She said she wanted a divorce, and he tried to get her to try and work on it, but she wanted out. I asked him,
“Did she have an affair?” and he looked at me in the eyes and said,
“Yes, and that’s pretty hard to overcome.”
I agreed that it was. He said it had probably been going on for some time, then,
“No wonder she didn’t want to work on it. I looked at her and realized, she was out, she’d chosen him. She doesn’t love me or want to be with me.”
“That’s tough.” I offered, with empathy.
I told him about Willard Harley’s book His Needs, Her Needs and the subtitle,
“Building an Affair-Proof Marriage.”
We talked and he said he learned a lot from the first marriage. I handed him my card and invited him to check out my blog on marriage and how to connect with your spouse.
At that time a third golfer joined up with us, God was done with therapy, and we focused on reducing our strokes, or increasing them in my case.
Joining or Judging?
One of the answers to why they are pulling away could be they feel our judgment and not our love. Our spouses can pull away when they feel us judging them. It’s hard to want to connect to someone who’s judging you. You can feel it.
What if I don’t know how to access their heart or feelings and I need to learn to close the distance instead of blaming them for how I feel, or demanding they change?
“If they loved me they would…”
They may have no idea what that is or what it looks like, and you think they should know. It’s more helpful to communicate an unmet need than blame another for not meeting it.
It’s an easy default to think and believe they are the problem.
“If they would just change this or that it would be different.”
It’s easier to judge and demand change than to dig into the struggles and reasons and explore with a listening ear their need and cry for help or connection. Self-focus and manipulation for what I want are always easier but block the path for the connection I long for. They likely want the connection too but don’t know how to find it. You can help.
You can intentionally change the focus on what you are pressuring to get from them.
You can risk change and let them reflect to you any pressure they feel from you.
You can choose to focus on their wants or needs, and then hang out there. This makes them feel cared for and they will want to connect.
This is how the connection is made. You remove the negative energy, (your demands,) that are in the way, and choose to love and accept them. There is no other way to learn their love language and start filling their love tank. When you do this, your tank gets filled too. Without this, you will try to stay in control and be self-serving, (baby love,) while the distance grows between you.
A law of love: Anything you try to control cannot feel your love because you are not loving them. You are degrading them by trying to take away their freedom for what you need.
You may think they are pulling away when in reality you are pushing them away by being demanding and rigid. You have gone underground to gain what you want instead of risking truthful talk and strategizing how to get it together. Choose vulnerability instead. Then they can give it freely without you trying to manipulate it out of them. They are freed to love because you have removed the barriers of your broken dynamics.
“At least I’m stealing it fair and square and not trying to romance it out of her!” Romancing the Stone.
You have the power to choose tenderness and close the distance anytime you want. You also know how to do it. (Adult love,) The alternative is to wait for a change that will never come without Your yielding first. We always possess the power to change the steps of the dance with our choice of love’s demands. The price is never as high as the reward. We are only asked to give up our chains for freedom. Remember Marley in Scrooge.
Who you both are and how you treat each other forms your dynamics. Emotional withholding never works and sustains a disconnect. Think of your resistant attitude as a padlock over your dynamics. They are unable to change without your transformation. It always takes two to find mutuality. There is a mystery to this. That’s what love is. I dare you to be the first to initiate change and lay down the power struggle and repair.
As always, I pray for all who read these words. Grace and peace. Dan Lillyblad XO