Over time, people – and relationships – change. But what happens when, little by little, it feels like you’ve lost your sense of togetherness? Try these questions to encourage emotional intimacy and break the bedroom silence
How do you know when you’re no longer in love with your spouse? It seems like something you should just know, doesn’t it? But… what if it isn’t? What if, slowly, over time, you find yourself losing little bits of the bond that created your togetherness?
For some couples, there is no big fallout. You may not be able to pinpoint when it happened, but over the weeks, months, or even years, you may have reached a state of ‘silent divorce’.
What is a silent divorce?
The phrase ‘silent divorce’ refers to a relationship where you are still together, but have drifted apart. There may be no obvious conflict, but there’s also nothing else clearly happening in your relationship: no passion, no excitement, no overly strong feelings towards your partner either way. For some couples, this can make the breakdown in your relationship feel that much more frustrating, as there’s no clear issue to tackle or big change to be made.
To find out more about the importance of communication and emotional intimacy in our relationships, we turned to integrative counsellor and psychotherapist Julie Howard.
“Relationships don’t just happen, they take effort in maintaining them. It’s all too easy to just settle into a routine, it can evolve without either person becoming aware,” Julie says. “I feel relationships rarely break down for no reason. Usually, there are warning signs, it just depends whether we recognise them. Sometimes, we put off facing up to unsettling feelings through fear of the unknown. However, on occasion, a person is completely blindsided by the sudden announcement that their loved one isn’t happy anymore.”
What are the warning signs?
Being able to enjoy comfortable silence can signify intimacy and connection. But when the silence comes from a lack of things to say, or lasts for a long period, it can be a sign that you are growing apart – you exist in the same space, but are not sharing the same ‘togetherness’ in a meaningful way.
Julie explains that there can be many early warning signs that something may be wrong in your relationship – you just need to know what to watch for. “Some things to look out for could be small, intimate gestures that were once normal are now becoming infrequent, such as kissing and cuddling, or holding hands while out. Little communication at mealtimes, or even silence. More time spent on devices – it’s easy to zone out on social media – or choosing to spend more time away from the home.”
One big warning sign that many of us can overlook, Julie shares, is a feeling of something being wrong. “Sometimes we can just ‘feel’ that something is wrong in a relationship. Often that uneasy feeling can be brushed off during a busy day, but can be more prevalent at bedtime when you don’t have any distractions.”
Making a conscious effort
For many of us, we have grown up with this idea that love (and relationships) should be easy. Isn’t that what our happily ever afters are meant to be? But the reality of life, and love, is that things are busy. They take time – and effort – to maintain.
On this topic, Julie says: “Relationships don’t just happen, they take effort and maintenance to keep alive. Relationships can be taken for granted, like a shiny new car. Initially, it’s gleaming and perfect, however, if neglected, over time shows signs of wear and tear. Without upkeep, things start to go wrong, and in the end would probably break down.”
How to reconnect with your partner
Spending quality time together talking, having fun, listening, and supporting each other is key to rekindling the intimacy you once had, and even improving on it.
Julie says: “Being heard is different from listening. Anyone can listen, but being heard allows us to feel understood. It helps the natural flow of communication without fear of judgement. Emotional intimacy creates a peaceful and constructive communication to explore how you both feel.”
Here, we share 25 counsellor-approved questions to help you get started on your journey towards emotional intimacy and being heard.
2. What do you think your perfect day would involve?
3. How are you really doing right now?
4. What would your ideal work-life balance look like?
5. What was the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself?
6. When have you felt most confident?
7. Do you think that your values have changed?
8. What do you most want to get out of life?
9. Is there anything you are worried about? (At home, work, with friends, family, healthwise.)
10. Has our relationship taught you anything about yourself?
11. How do you like to show/be shown love?
12. Is there anything you would like to change in your life/day-to-day-routine?
13. What is your favourite memory of us spending time together?
14. Do you have a memory that makes you feel most loved?
15. If you could go back and recreate one experience together, what would it be?
16. Is there anything you would love to try together for the first time?
17. Do you feel able to talk to me when you’re upset?
18. What’s the best give you’ve ever received?
19. What three things do you most admire about yourself?
20. Is there anything you miss. that we used to do together?
21. Is there a smell or sound that always makes you smile?
22. Do you have a bucket list? What would you put on it?
23. Which fictional couple do you think has the perfect relationship and why?
24. Is there anything you wish you had more time for?
25. What does family mean to you?
No matter what their answers are, ensure you are listening and reflecting on them. Avoid interrupting or talking over each other, give yourselves space to talk about how you are feeling without distractions. Really listening to each other shows that you value your partner’s experiences and feelings, that you care and are invested in their wellbeing. Showing empathy, understanding, willingness, and interest in them, can all be important factors in creating a new, stronger sense of emotional intimacy.
For more relationship support, visit the Counselling Directory or speak to a qualified counsellor.