Disconnect is a Slow Silent Killer of Relationships
So these past couple of weeks I started to feel like my husband and I were growing distant. We’ve had to make some huge life transitions recently, from a hurried out of state move to managing our active little toddler to relocating our 5th grader who wanted desperately to graduate with his childhood buddies. To say the least, the move was tough. We wanted to downsize and get rid of things and, as a semi-hoarder of sorts, I found it difficult to do this without my hubby’s help. Being that he is a man that likes to travel light, dealing with my stuff was a frustrating thing. Instead of talking about it, we retreated into our own isolated worlds and deep inside, I began to feel abandoned when he couldn’t help me. Multiply these feelings with stress, lack of sleep and exhaustion and I was a walking recipe for disaster.
Each day was slow torture for me. We began to get very short with one another. I found myself turning my back to him at bedtime and withholding goodnight kisses. In a very short time, I felt oceans away from the man I love. I acted like I was fine, but we were just tolerating each other. I felt my heart growing cold as I was used to the loving manner in which my husband usually dealt with me, and I’m sure he was caught off guard at my cold demeanor. I began to understand how quickly couples can grow apart.
A Heart Can Shift Back
Now this was a matter of a couple of weeks, but a very real concern began to surface, as I have several friends whose marriages have ended because of the great disconnect that happened over time. A wonderful book I’ve often recommended to married friends, called HeartShift: The Two Degree Difference that Will Change Your Heart, Your Home and Your Health by John Trent, came to mind. He talks about how we begin to make little 2 degree shifts away from our spouse over time. These little shifts are usually caused by hurts and little offenses that never get dealt with. When you stay silent, resign yourself or just tolerate those offenses, you continue to make more little 2 degree shifts away from one another. Sometimes you may resolve it and shift back, but if you don’t continually check it, then before you know it years have past, and you’ve shifted so dramatically away from one another it seems impossible to reconcile. That’s when you start to hear comments like, “I love you but I’m not in love with you” or “I don’t know how we got here. We used to be so close” or “We’re more like best friends not husband and wife.” This doesn’t just happen with our spouses. This can happen with our best friends or family members, anyone we are in close relations with, or even with our health. When you reach this point, I believe you’ve gone from cold to just numb. The numbness usually comes from an overwhelming feeling that you can’t ever get back to where you started. You might even say you feel nothing for this person anymore or even find yourself saying “I don’t care” more often than not.
It is very possible to shift back toward loving one another, but when you think it takes 180 degree changes to reconcile, it will seem impossible. When you start with an understanding of small 2 degree changes combined with commitment, patience and understanding, it is possible to heal your relationship.
A Calloused Heart
Scripture calls this condition a calloused heart.
“You will be ever hearing but never understanding, you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” – Matthew 13:14-15
When your heart is calloused, you can no longer truly hear, see or understand the other person because every offense, unkind word and hurt has created a new, hardened layer over your heart. Everything they say to you is falsely interpreted through the filter of all that hurt. Even when they’re not trying to hurt to you, it feels like they are. When you decide, and yes, it can be a decision, to close your eyes, ears and heart to them, the end of the relationship is near. There is no room for healing, because you can’t get past the hardened or calloused heart condition. This condition opens you up to pride and great feelings of self-righteousness, further putting your spiritual condition at risk. A hardened heart against another person reflects a hardened heart toward God and rejects the possibility of God’s healing.
Choose to Stay Connected
I felt the layers forming over my own heart these past two weeks and decided enough was enough. However, pride had crept in to my heart as well and I had a hard time reaching out to him. I had to pray for a softening of my heart and I also had to pray for my husband. A wise man once told me that if I couldn’t pray to the point of asking God to bless the person I was at odds with (and truly mean it), then I didn’t have a right to confront them. I needed God to deal with me and my heart first. This is the not-so-fun, but-oh-so necessary part to healing. I needed to be willing to see how I might have offended my husband too and ask for forgiveness for my own hurtful behavior.
I finally confessed to my husband the hurt and abandonment I was feeling and my sadness at our disconnect. He confessed his confusion about the way I seemed to be loving towards everyone but him. We agreed we were just offending each other over and over with the way we were reacting to one another. We both apologized for our hurtful behavior. I saw things a bit more drastically than he did. He said he began to think the disconnect might just be a normal part of being a working family with young children going through a tough transition. I saw this as a red flag to the beginning of some great and unnecessary heart shifts away from one another. I realize I don’t want stress or tough times to be an excuse for us to use to be disconnected. We both agreed we could do a better job of communicating, praying together and staying connected. That night was a breakthrough night for us. It brought the revival of both of our hearts, the pouring forth of loving words, sweet goodnight kisses and a renewed commitment to love each other better.
I never want to wait until we’ve shifted so far away that we don’t know how to get back to one another. I love him too much to do that.
If you’re feeling disconnected to a loved one here’s 6 Steps on How To Make Up:
1) Pray. Ask God to search your heart and show you where and why you have hardened your heart against them.
2) Then ask God to show you where you might have offended your loved one.
3) Confess your behavior to God and ask for forgiveness. Believe me, this is a great warm up to confessing your behavior to your loved one and asking for forgiveness. (And by the way, God already knows your shortcomings , so you’re not doing it for his benefit.)
4) Ask God to help you forgive your loved one. You may find it difficult to do this on your own strength. God needs you to invite him into this process or else you will continue to try (and potentially fail) to live this out on your own strength.
5) Find ways to pray blessing over your loved one (maybe to prosper the work of their hands or for blessings over their health or healing over their past hurts, etc). If you still find this difficult or you feel resistant to doing this, then it means there’s still things you haven’t confessed and aren’t ready to let go of. Go back and repeat steps #1-5.
6) Pray for the wisdom to know the right time to confront your loved one. If you’ve done steps #1-5, then chances are it will be a loving conversation.
You’ll find when you are still offended and try to confront someone, you will begin to accuse them and even potentially manipulate them to get the response you want. When your heart has openly confessed and you can pray blessing over someone who has hurt you, then your heart and communications will be free of any agenda. God can give you the strength to communicate lovingly. When pure love is present in your communications, there is no agenda and you’ll find less resistance from the one you’re trying to reconcile with.
How’s your heart today? If you’ve faced disconnect with a loved one, how did you handle it? Be sure to share your experiences in the COMMENTS section below.