Living Parallel Lives


Have you ever wondered how committed couples begin to fall apart?  Typically one person gets preoccupied at work, or with the kids, or with day-to-day living or with worries.  The other person gradually notices the partner/spouse/lover is more preoccupied and less emotionally present, and unconsciously adjusts his/her own emotional presence to match.

This is subtle process that typically occurs beneath our awareness.  But this process will, over time, insidiously undermine the strength of our intimate connection.

Over time, we discover as a couple that we are living parallel lives.  Each of us has is involved in our own endeavors, concerns, tasks and chores, and each of us has withdrawn from the other.  Both of us will say the relationship no longer feels vital like it once did.

This process of unintentionally disengaging from each other is very common in intimate relationships.  Over time, sex between the two of you becomes incrementally less passionate, less connected, more mechanical —   and often less frequent.  With some couples, sex stops completely.

It’s not that either of us wants a distant, disconnected relationship lacking in vitality, passion and sex.  It’s that neither of us paid attention to the subtle ways we began to grow apart and disengage from each other — and inadvertently agreeing to live parallel lives.

What can we do to change this dilemma and be closer, more engaged and more passionate with each other? 

First, notice and respond to your partner’s “bids” for your attention or engagement—any expression or behavior which says “I want to feel connected to you.”  These are extremely important cues that, if missed, will begin to push the two of you emotionally apart.

Second, reach out to your partner multiple times a day with your own bids for engagement, connection and affection–behaviors that say  “I value you and want to feel close and connected to you.”

Third, openly address the following questions with each other.   Be sure to listen non-defensively, with an interest in learning how your partner feels rather than in defending your behavior or in justifying yourself:

  • If I pay attention to the quality of my communications and interactions with you…
  • I have been protecting myself by…
  • I feel most connected to you when…
  • I have contributed to the problems between us by…
  • I could help repair the problems in our relationship by…
  • The most important things you could do that would help me to be closer to you are…
  • Some of the things you have requested that I will commit to do are…
  • If I were more willing to share my inner struggles with you…
  • If I were to take more responsibility for being understood…
  • If I were to take more responsibility for understanding and empathizing with you…
  • I would feel more sexually vital with you if you would… if I would….
  • What I want or need from you in order to feel more loved, valued, nurtured and cherished is…
  • Please forgive me for…
  • I forgive you for…
  • I love that we…
  • I love that you…

Staying connected, close, engaged and intimate is not a big secret.  It requires that you pay attention to the quality of the relationship on an on-going basis, and do upkeep and maintenance on the intimate connection between the two of you.