What to Do If You and Your Spouse Are Growing Apart

A serious woman looking out a window while her boyfriend hides behind a newspaper

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It can be easy for couples to grow apart over time, particularly when each person has responsibilities and commitments that pull them in other directions. Without realizing it, these forces can start to put people on differing paths, often to the point where they feel disconnected from each other.

If you feel like you and your partner are growing apart or you’d just like to feel closer to them, there are steps that you can take to rebuild your connection.

Recognize the Signs

Some evidence suggests that 'growing apart' is one of the most common reasons why relationships ultimately fail. According to one study looking at British couples who were married or cohabitating, 39% of men and 36% of women cited 'growing apart' as the reason why their relationship ended.

Growing apart was identified as the single most common cause for breakups, ahead of arguments, unfaithfulness, and lack of appreciation.

Some signs that you might be growing apart as a couple:

  • Lack of attention: You don't pay attention or listen to each other.
  • Lack of intimacy: This can include a lack of both physical and emotional intimacy. You feel like you don't know your partner anymore or that they don't know you.
  • Lack of connection: It seems like you're never on the same page. This can make it difficult to make decisions as a couple and often contributes to conflict.
  • Lack of trust: You feel like you can't share your true feelings.
  • Lack of empathy: You have a hard time understanding each other's needs and emotions.

Sometimes these signs can be glaringly obvious, but they can also be subtle or develop slowly over time. Instead of brushing it aside, it is important to recognize that this is a problem that you can work together to resolve.

Share Your Concerns

The first step toward overcoming the growing distance between you and your partner is to talk about your concerns. However, it’s important to make sure this is a conversation and not a confrontation.

Make it clear that you aren’t blaming your partner for what is happening. Instead, provide observations about what you feel is happening and discuss how you can work together as a couple to bridge the gap.

You might start the conversation by talking about what you are feeling. For example, you might say something like, “I feel like we aren’t as close as we used to be and I’d like to find ways to spend more time together.”

Don’t go into the conversation with comments like “You’re never around” or “You act like you don’t even care anymore.” While you might feel those things to be true, starting a blame game will only put the other person on the defensive and make them less likely to want to work together on rebuilding your intimacy and connection.

Spend Time Together

Research suggests that couples who spend more time together tend to experience greater happiness and less stress. Shared time together, however, isn't always easy to come by.

Studies looking at the intersecting demands of work and family suggest that both are high-demand and time-intensive institutions that require a great deal of devotion. This requires individuals to make choices about where they spend their time, which sometimes leads to relationships getting short-changed in order to make time for kids and work.

Working parents often struggle to coordinate their schedules in order to find time for each other amidst work and family obligations.

Past research has suggested that marital well-being can have long-term effects on health, but one study found that simply spending time together can have a number of immediate benefits as well. The results of the study found that:

  • People were almost twice as likely to report feeling happy when they were with their spouses than they were when they were apart.
  • Individuals also reported finding activities done with their spouse more meaningful than those done alone.
  • Simply having a spouse present also appears to decrease stress levels. Participants were 21% less likely to report stress during activities when their spouse was present.

"When men and women were with their spouses, they reported being happier, finding more meaning, and experiencing less stress. This suggests the relevance of shared time with a spouse for married individuals’ well-being," University of Minnesota researchers Sarah Flood and Katie Genedek explain.

Support One Another

Sometimes it’s easier to feel a connection to someone when you feel like they are in your corner. Look for ways that you can show care and support for one another.

"When we believe we're supported, we feel better about ourselves and can cope better with stressful events and situations," explain Rob Pascale and Lou Primavera, PhD, in their book "Making Marriage Work: Avoiding the Pitfalls and Achieving Success."

There are many different ways to support your spouse, including both words and deeds:

  • Tell your partner you’re proud of them.
  • Write a note to describe how you appreciate them.
  • Or show your support through actions by doing a favor or act of kindness for your partner.

Validating their feelings can also be a way to help your spouse feel seen, understood, and more emotionally connected.

Have Fun Together

Any relationship can start to feel less exciting over time as the realities of maintaining a lasting partnership and the grind of day-to-day life take precedence over keeping the passion alive.

“People stop engaging in the very activities that brought them together in the first place,” explain therapists Robert Schwarz and Elaine Braff, authors of “We’re No Fun Anymore: Helping Couples Cultivate Joyful Marriages Through the Power of Play.”

Schwarz and Braff suggest that even after your relationship settles into a pattern, it’s essential to maintain a sense of fun in order to have a successful and lasting relationship.

In fact, research suggests that having fun in a relationship is a key factor determining marital satisfaction. One study of 1,187 couples throughout the United States found a strong correlation between those who engaged in activities they enjoyed doing together and happiness in their marriage.

Fun Activities for Couples

  • Cook a meal together
  • Create a new tradition
  • Exercise together
  • Find a hobby you both enjoy
  • Get a couples massage
  • Go dancing
  • Go biking, hiking, or kayaking together
  • Have a game night
  • Look at photos or make a memory book
  • Plan a date night
  • Travel
  • Watch the sunset or sunrise
  • Write love notes

Get Professional Help

If the distance seems to be growing despite both of your efforts, consider talking to a mental health professional. Couples counseling can be helpful for identifying underlying problems, helping couples rebuild intimacy, and improving empathy and communication.

Emotionally-focused therapy (EFT) is one type of couples therapy that has been shown to be effective in helping people address relationship issues. According to the American Psychological Association, this type of therapy has been shown to be effective at helping couples improve their emotional connection.

A Word From Verywell

A healthy relationship requires effort to maintain excitement, commitment, and connection. If you’re starting to notice that you and your spouse are growing apart, it’s important to think about how you want to address the problem and how you can work as a couple to build a richer, deeper, and more meaningful relationship.

Finding ways to reconnect can strengthen your relationship and increase your well-being. If the disconnect persists despite your efforts, consider trying couples counseling.

8 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  4. Primavera LH, Pascale R. Making Marriage Work: Avoiding the Pitfalls and Achieving Success. Rowman & Littlefield; 2016.

  5. Schwarz RA, Braff E. We’re No Fun Anymore: Helping Couples Cultivate Joyful Marriages through the Power of Play. Routledge; 2011.

  6. Ward PJ, Barney KW, Lundberg NR, Zabriskie RB. A critical examination of couple leisure and the application of the core and balance modelJournal of Leisure Research. 2014;46(5):593-611. doi:10.1080/00222216.2014.11950344

  7. Schofield MJ, Mumford N, Jurkovic D, Jurkovic I, Bickerdike A. Short and long-term effectiveness of couple counselling: A study protocol. BMC Public Health. 2012;12:735. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-735

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By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.