You can reconnect after growing apart from your partner by paying attention to the little things, having difficult conversations, and following through on your commitments. But that’s just the beginning.
Routine, responsibilities, unresolved conflict, and not spending quality time together are just a few reasons couples grow apart.
“Long-term relationships require ongoing intentionality and commitment,” explains Elyssa Helfer, a licensed marriage and family therapist and certified sexologist in Los Angeles. “We cannot expect to maintain connection when we are no longer creating new contexts for emotional and sexual intimacy.”
Growing apart in a relationship may come soon or a long time after the honeymoon period. It’s also possible to grow apart even if you love each other much, which often adds a sense of confusion and frustration.
“Isn’t love enough?” you may ask. It might not be.
“Relationships are living things which means that they need care and attention,” explains Angela Amias, a couples therapist and co-founder of Alchemy of Love in Cheyenne, Wyoming. “Life gets busy, and as time goes on in a relationship, it’s easy to let life responsibilities and daily tasks get in the way.”
But reconnecting and rekindling the relationship is possible. However, it requires both of you to be intentional.
“It’s never too early or too late to seek help,” advises Marcus Hunt, an associate marriage and family therapist in Spanish Fork, Utah. “If you are willing to make your relationship better and look at yourself individually and what you need to change — rather than just what your partner needs to change — you can make strides in having a healthier relationship.”
If you’ve grown apart but feel ready to start bridging that gap between you and your partner, these tips for reconnecting may help.
It’s natural to avoid some conversations. You may think this might help reduce the chance of conflict. Or perhaps you’ve tried it enough times, and nothing came out of it except an endless argument.
“Many couples find certain topics extremely difficult to open up about,” says Joe Ricciardi, a licensed clinical social worker in Los Angeles. “People will say, ‘well, I didn’t want to hurt their feelings,’ or ‘I didn’t know how they would respond.’”
But what you don’t say may show somewhere else, or it may fuel the distance in the relationship.
“If we hold these things inside, without sharing our feelings with our partner, this choice can set us on a path that leads away from intimacy,” says Ricciardi. “Even the act of being curious about your partner’s feelings can help nourish a stronger bond.”
If you find it difficult to say aloud, consider writing a letter and asking your partner to respond similarly. This way, you can know what the other person feels and thinks and have time to process and respond assertively.
But experts agree on the importance of talking about the difficult stuff.
“It’s your best chance at not growing apart over time,” adds Amias. “Even bringing up the feeling that you’re growing apart as a couple is a step in the right direction. Couples actually feel closer after talking about how they feel disconnected.”
How you reconnect through open conversation may be unique to your relationship. But you can start by saving some time each week to intentionally talk about a given topic.
“Set aside a power hour each week to talk about 3 things your partner did well, 2 things your partner could have done better, and 1 thing you plan to do differently this week,” suggests Renetta Weaver, a licensed clinical social worker, and certified neuroscience coach. “Communication is the gas that will drive your relationship in the right direction and keep it on track.”
Time together equals more opportunities to reconnect after growing apart.
“It’s not important exactly what you do during this time, as long as you’re tuned into each other,” advises Amias.
Try to identify possible distractions and interruptions and be intentional about getting rid of them while spending time with your partner.
“Aim for at least an hour a week, though if you can spend 2 hours together each week, that’s even better,” adds Amias.
If you want to reconnect with your partner, you may think a grand gesture could help. And it can. However, relationship experts suggest the little things in the relationship count the most.
“People think of grand gestures like second honeymoons and big vacations as essential to avoid growing apart,” says Larissa House, a licensed clinical social worker in Los Angeles. “It’s how couples treat each other in the day-to-day that will help keep them connected.”
Some little things that may help you reconnect include:
- expressing gratitude verbally or otherwise
- helping with chores
- showing interest in current events in your partner’s life
- holding hands
- kissing hello and goodbye
- doing something for your partner that helps them rest and reset
“Simple gestures such as responding gently and openly when your partner tries to interact with you […] instead of ignoring them or arguing with them can help you avoid growing apart,” adds House. “That gesture sets the foundation for intimacy, trust, and connection.”
True intimacy in a relationship may help you stay connected with your partner, despite conflict or life challenges.
Nurturing all types of intimacy in the relationship requires being intentional about the time you spend getting close.
These tips may help you get closer to your partner:
- physical intimacy: physical intimacy includes sexual intimacy but also involves other physical closeness. Try to touch each other casually but purposefully. For example, holding hands or cuddling while watching TV
- emotional intimacy: consider expressing your emotions and thoughts about what matters to you both
- spiritual intimacy: talking about your beliefs and values as individuals and a couple may help you connect deeper
- mental intimacy: try to respectfully discuss life events, literature, career, movies, politics, and other aspects of your life
“Make it a point to have real conversations, the kind that have no particular destination,” advises Amias. “If most of your conversations tend to stay on the surface or follow a predictable pattern, this is a sign that putting in more effort with conversations will be valuable for your relationship.”
You may feel you know your partner well, particularly if you’ve been together for a long time. But things and people change.
“Learn about each other in the present,” says Ricciardi. “Too often in relationships, we make choices and decisions based around our partner as we knew them originally. But who stays the same, year after year? We all go through enormous changes as we move along in life, marked by experience and maturity.”
Assuming you know everything about your partner may take away the opportunity to share new dreams, aspirations, lessons, or life perspectives.
“Learning about your partner regularly will reduce the chance of surprises,” adds Ricciardi.
To stay up to date on what’s happening with your loved one, you may need to be intentional.
“What might you not know about your partner? Are there areas of growth that even they aren’t aware of yet, unrealized dreams or aspirations, unaccomplished goals?” says Ricciardi. “Getting curious about another person, taking a true interest in their thoughts or desires, even after decades together, can unlock some powerful opportunities to connect (or reconnect), and even create new ways to love one another.”
Helfer says that seeing your partner in new contexts may help you reconnect if you’ve grown apart. This may require you to plan adventures and activities you may not have done together until now.
“Learning something new together creates a sense of connection, vulnerability, and teamwork,” says House. “As you work together on something new, you will be faced with opportunities to laugh, problem solve, and practice treating each other kindly.”
A new activity can include:
- a road trip to a new destination
- home projects
- a yard sale
- taking a class
- trying a new restaurant
- volunteering at the same organization
“The sense of accomplishment that comes with knowing you did something new together can help you reconnect with your partner,” she adds.
Feeding a sense of trust and reliability may help you reconnect if you feel you’re growing apart from your partner.
“Commitment is the regular maintenance that prevents the engine of your relationship from locking up,” says Weaver. “If you say you are going to do something, try your best to keep your word. This includes things like making reservations for date night, acknowledging and celebrating special occasions, or simply putting the dishes away.”
When you work on strengthening your partnership, your romantic bond may also benefit.
“Couples can even benefit from seeking help prior to problems occurring,” says Helfer. “Engaging in therapy allows for the clinician to see the blind spots in someone’s relationship and can not only help couples work through previously existing problems but can prevent future emotional injuries from occurring.”
Therapy may help to reconnect, especially if you’re having difficulty having difficult conversations or talking about past hurts.
“Often just the opportunity to explore sensitive topics, in a safe and contained forum, can allow couples to speak and be understood, to be listened to and heard,” says Ricciardi.
How to reconnect after growing apart may depend on the specific circumstances affecting your relationship. It may include strategies like having difficult conversations, doing the little things, and seeking professional help.
“When we view our relationships as ever-evolving and commit to them with the intentions that we did upon beginning the relationship, we can fall in love with our partners over and over again,” says Helfer.