How to Be With Someone Who Is Emotionally Disconnected

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When your partner suddenly, or gradually, becomes emotionally disconnected, it can lead you to feel alone, even when you are together. Disconnecting emotionally can occur for a variety of reasons, but this doesn't make it easier to be with someone. Fortunately, you can take steps to encourage your partner to be more connected to his own emotions and more comfortable sharing them with you.


Emotional disconnection is also sometimes defined as emotional detachment or emotional distance. This individual emotional isolation from another person may manifest by lack of sharing of emotions, withholding affection and a numbing of sorts, where the person has also disconnected from his own emotions. Emotional disconnection can occur suddenly, but more often it's a gradual omission of the emotional expression in an insidious way. After some time, you suddenly find yourself realizing that the emotional closeness and comfort you once had with your partner has diminished or disappeared. In response, you too may have become less emotionally open.


Emotional disconnection that was not characteristic of the person originally can indicate the onset of psychological conditions such as depression. Personality disorders such as paranoid or schizoid personality disorders can also cause emotional disconnection. These conditions typically manifest in early adulthood and can be triggered by stress or a particularly traumatic event. Additionally, emotional disconnection can indicate that the individual was raised in an emotionally disconnected environment, explains psychologist Tony Ferretti. If your partner becomes emotionally disconnected with no apparent explanation, he may be having an affair.


Although your partner is currently emotionally disconnected, it's essential that you maintain your own connection with your emotions, explains Indiana-based marriage and family therapist Shruti S. Poulsen, Ph.D. Sharing your emotions, including your frustration with your emotionally disconnected partner, can be accomplished by reaching out to your social supports such as friends, family and coworkers. If necessary, seek professional help for yourself and, if necessary, couples counseling to help identify and address the underlying problem that led to the emotional disconnection. Keep in mind that your partner's emotional disconnection isn't your fault and it isn't your problem, but it can significantly impact your relationship, especially if it continues indefinitely.


Emotional expression is largely shaped when you're growing up, through experiences with friends and family. If you have a partner who is, by nature, emotionally disconnected, it's important to ask yourself if it's a problem for him or for you. Speaking frankly with your partner about how his emotional disconnection affects your emotions can be a first step towards encouraging him to make changes. Unfortunately, you can't expect him to change, particularly if his emotional disconnection is ingrained, notes the Counseling Center at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.