Do you need to know how to practice detachment in marriage?
If you need emotional space in your relationship because it’s unhappy or your needs aren’t being met, you’re in the right place.
Here are the key steps to start taking now:
- Restrict interactions with your partner to functional interactions and conversations only, sharing nothing personal or intimate
- Build a support network outside of your marriage
- Make sure you have emotional outlets
- Be clear about your boundaries and reinforce them calmly, but firmly
- Learn to control your thinking patterns
Keep reading to learn how to practice detachment in marriage.
Table of Contents
What does detachment mean in marriage?
When you emotionally detach from your partner, you create a protective barrier.
The goal is to eliminate your emotional vulnerability so that your spouse’s behaviors don’t negatively affect you.
So while you continue on as a married couple, you stop doing the things that foster an emotional bond.
You don’t share any form of intimacy. And you don’t let your partner have access to your private, inner world anymore.
To detach successfully, you shift your focus to supporting your own needs and mental health.
Instead of working on breaking and resolving negative cycles in your relationship, you disengage as a form of self defense.
Read Next: How Do I Know If My Marriage Is Over?
Why Would You Need to Emotionally Detach From Someone You’re Married To?
There are very good reasons for detaching.
Sometimes you can’t leave the marriage and it’s simply the best form of self-protection.
Other times, you need the distance in order to gain clarity on the state of your relationship.
But people who practice emotional detachment are generally not happily married.
Here are some reasons you may decide to emotionally detach:
- Your spouse refuses to meet your needs
- The way your partner treats you is unacceptable
- Your spouse has an addiction problem
- You can’t leave an unhappy marriage for financial, family or other reasons
Detachment lends you personal freedom within your relationship.
Critically, it also gives you more objective insight into your relationship.
Using this information, you can determine what’s best for yourself and your family, including whether it’s wise to continue or end the marriage.
When you’re not constantly at the mercy of toxic patterns in your relationship, it’s much easier to work on self-healing and make good decisions.
Read Also: How to Save Your Marriage
What Healthy Emotional Detachment Is Not
Constructive emotional detachment is not:
- Trying to get your partner’s attention by giving the cold shoulder
- Ignoring your partner’s needs in order to control them
- Getting back at your partner for treating your poorly
- Any kind of manipulation tactic
Emotional detachment is not reactionary in nature.
It is a method to control your own part in your relationship and draw healthy boundaries in a stressful situation.
Though detachment sometimes carries negative connotations, it’s also known as “loving detachment” and “compassionate detachment.”
This is to emphasize that emotional detachment stems from love and respect.
How Do You Practice Detachment in an Unhappy Marriage?
1. Try to improve the situation first before you detach
Step one should be to make sure you’ve done what you can to improve your relationship first.
In other words, you don’t detach as a first line of defense when things go south in your relationship.
The fair thing to do is give your spouse a chance to correct their behaviors.
This means you will have voiced your dissatisfaction in the relationship and what you need from your partner to change things for the better.
If you’ve done this and your spouse has yet to do something about it, you may be ready to begin detaching.
2. Know why you want to detach
It’s important to have a clear understanding of your own motivations for detaching.
This way, you can keep your goal in sight when things get tough.
Otherwise, it’s too easy to get confused about your feelings or doubt your decision from one week to the next.
Especially when you still love someone.
3. Have outlets and stay busy
When you detach from your spouse, you stop spending time together like you used to.
Especially in the beginning, it’s going to help massively to keep yourself busy.
Give yourself healthy outlets for your stress and emotions.
For example, activities like running and hiking are great physical outlets for emotional energy.
As well, trying something like playing an instrument or taking a pottery class can help you focus your attention and express yourself.
Your hobbies can be very therapeutic.
4. Create a social life outside of your partner
You may feel like you’re starting over from scratch if you did all your socializing with your partner.
But it’s a good time to start building an independent social life.
Don’t push yourself if you’re not quite ready to make new friends or reconnect with one ones.
But it can help to feel like you’re getting “back to normal” to grab coffee and get your mind off of your relationship.
5. Don’t put your spouse on alert
You may feel that in the interest of transparency, you should let your spouse know that you’re emotionally detaching from them.
But that’s not recommended, and it can even be counterproductive.
However, if your spouse asks because they suspect something is going on, you should be honest with them.
You can let them know you’re focusing on yourself right now while you reflect on your relationship.
6. Set your boundaries
Emotional detachment is all about setting clear boundaries.
Especially during this time, you need to protect yours so you don’t slip back into unhealthy relationship patterns.
Think about what you will not tolerate, from bad behavior to unwanted affection.
Keeping your boundaries in mind will help you avoid getting into situations you’re not sure how to respond to.
Always, communicate when your spouse is crossing a boundary.
Do it calmly but firmly: “Yelling is not okay. If you continue to yell at me, I will leave the room.”
7. Do take time to reflect on your relationship
While you’ll be shifting your energy away from your spouse most of the time, there will be times you’ll need to reflect on your marriage.
When it feels right to you, think about how the detachment is going and what you’re feeling about your relationship.
If any revelations come up, write them down.
Review them any time you need to.
8. It’s okay to be sad
At various times, feelings may come up.
Allow yourself to emote.
Emotionally detaching from your wife or husband does not mean that you can’t feel anything at all.
Anger and sadness are part of the process of reflecting and healing.
Acknowledge your feelings, process them and find healthy outlets for them.
You might also want to think about keeping a journal as a form of self-therapy.
9. Find someone to share with
Your partner can no longer be the person you confide in.
So who can?
Being able to share your thoughts, feelings and daily stressors is an important element of support we can usually count on in our relationships.
But while you’re detaching from your partner, you have to transfer fulfillment of this need to someone else.
Choose someone you trust, whether it’s a parent, sibling or good friend.
10. Support your mental health
There are many things you can do to support your mental health right now, including:
- Getting enough sleep
- Getting out in nature
- Picking up a new skill or hobby
If you need to, find a mental health counselor to speak to.
There are also local meetup groups that can help you meet new people and develop new interests.
11. Understand that your thoughts control your feelings
“What you think, you become.”
This quote attributed to Buddha holds so much value for you right now.
Our minds are incredibly powerful. So powerful, they can train our emotional responses.
When you move your thoughts away from your relationship and toward more positive and constructive things, better feelings will follow.
You’ll feel more stable and less at the mercy of your emotions, and you’ll be less susceptible to moments of sentimentality or missing your spouse.
12. Don’t sleep together
Whatever you do, don’t sleep together!
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can separate physical intimacy from emotion with your spouse.
Being sexual with your partner is a way of bonding, not detaching.
Even if it doesn’t seem that way, it will mess with your emotions.
13. Walk away from arguments
If you feel tension mounting, you can choose to opt out.
That is, you can tell your spouse (respectfully) that you don’t want to engage in this interaction and excuse yourself.
One of your greatest defenses is simply to let go and not react.
Remember, emotionally detaching is about responding with intention.
When we remove ourselves from an escalating situation, we are not reacting emotionally—we are eliminating risk of involvement.
14. Treat your spouse with respect
It’s always important to treat your partner kindly and respectfully.
You can do this without inviting them into your emotional life.
If it helps, think about it like a transaction between customer and clerk.
You can be polite and show respect to each other, but you are in no way investing in them on a personal basis.
15. Restrict your mutual activities
If you’re married, chances are good that you’re going to have to interact with your spouse sometimes.
This is not a bad thing.
And in fact, if you have kids, you can maintain normalcy for them.
You just need to be methodical about which activities you share with your spouse.
Activities that can remain impersonal are safe to do together.
Things like eating dinner together, for example. Or watching a movie as a family, which is also beneficial for kids.
And these activities don’t require sharing anything personal or emotional with your spouse.
16. Find neutral subjects to talk about
When you talk to your spouse, conversations should be “strictly business.”
That is, you’ll only be talking about practical subjects that are necessary to discuss.
- Financial matters
- Your kids’ school and weekend plans
- Household upkeep
If you want to talk to someone about how your day went, call up a friend.
The reason is that engaging any further is essentially a bid for your spouse’s attention, and that’s exactly what you’re trying to avoid.
17. Avoid talking about your relationship
Definitely don’t discuss your relationship with your partner while you’re emotionally detaching.
There may be a time and place for that down the line, should you decide to end the detachment period and work on your relationship.
But for right now, any discussions about your marital problems or your feelings for each other creates mixed messages.
18. Don’t fall for emotional manipulation
There could be times when your spouse tries to tempt you by appealing to your sentimentality.
Or they may try to guilt you.
If your spouse says anything related to statements like, “If you loved me…”
That’s emotional manipulation.
Until your partner comes to you sincerely and actually makes the changes you need to see to continue a secure and happy relationship, you’ll need to stand your ground.
19. Look forward, not backwards
It’s tempting to see the past through rose-colored glasses.
The good times may have been good—but there’s a reason you decided to protect yourself emotionally.
Also, don’t spend too much time rehashing your relationship mistakes.
Instead, focus on the security and stability that you’re building.
This will help you to orient your perspective to the future and also help you to be more mindful from moment to moment.
Now that you know how to practice detachment in marriage, you can start putting the steps into practice now.
If you walk away from reading this article with one thing, think about your detachment in terms of loving yourself.
By turning the focus away from your spouse and relationship and onto yourself, you can create healthy boundaries, take charge of your own happiness and promote more self-love and awareness.
This is a huge step for some people toward healing.
What do you do when you don’t feel connected to your spouse?
- Start responding to their bids for attention
- Compliment your spouse and show appreciation for them
- Start taking loving action toward your spouse, even if you don’t feel it yet
Our behavior is powerful and can build the missing emotional connection—this is the basis for Dr. Lee Baucom’s marriage-saving formula in his Save The Marriage Program.
Check it out if you’re struggling in your marriage and want to reconnect with your spouse.
How can I be good at detachment?
The key to practicing detachment is to stop reacting to the person you’re detaching from.
Reactions are immediate responses based on emotional triggers.
But you can be prepared to respond calmly and appropriately once you’ve set clear personal boundaries and learned how to control your thinking.
Can a marriage survive emotional detachment?
Marriage can survive emotional detachment if it’s done respectfully and with the right intention.
For long-term marriage survival, both parties will at some point need to commit to change.
Signs of emotional detachment in marriage?
Key signs of your spouse emotionally detaching are:
- When your spouse stops talking to you about their problems
- Your spouse doesn’t initiate conversation or engage with you
- Your partner has cut off any affection or sexual intimacy
- You don’t spend time together as a couple
- Fighting has stopped, but conflict does not get resolved
What causes emotional detachment in marriage?
Several things can cause emotional detachment in marriage, including:
- Drug and alcohol use, causing one spouse to emotionally withdraw (this is not a healthy form of detachment)
- Past trauma that gets re-triggered
- One partner initiates emotional detachment in attempt to remove themselves from the effects of their partner’s negative behaviors
What is emotional abandonment in marriage?
Emotional abandonment can be considered the negative iteration of emotional detachment.
That is, emotional detachment that is not based on the foundation of mutual respect and love can become emotional abandonment.
It is a form of neglect.
However, it should be noted that because it’s a subjective experience, a person may feel emotionally abandoned regardless of their spouse’s intentions.
How do you fix emotional detachment in a relationship?
In short, it takes practice.
If you are the one who has detached, you must practice mindfulness as a pathway to awareness of your emotions.
You must open yourself up to interacting lovingly with your spouse even if you don’t feel it.
If you’re trying to fix a relationship with a detached partner, have an honest and heartfelt conversation about your needs.
If your partner doesn’t try to meet your needs on their own, you may consider counseling for an objective perspective and guidance.
How do you detach from someone you love deeply?
Set a goal for the detachment and keep it at the forefront of your mind.
Is it to evaluate your relationship more objectively?
Or are you trying to end a relationship with someone you love and care about in a more peaceful, healthy way?
Figure out what you want to happen as a result of the detachment, and make sure you know your reasons why.
Bear them in mind while you practice the steps of detachment so that you’re never doubting what you’re doing.