Life. It requires much, particularly once one allows others in it. Disengagement, or actively withdrawing from others, is no longer an option once a person is in a committed relationship. But perhaps that is just my opinion. And that of the many, many others with whom I have spoken…
Some people, it seems, can engage and disengage at will, feeling that this is normal and acceptable behavior without realizing how this effects others. What to do about this? As a “fix it” person, a type-A personality, I seek solutions to problems.
I see this disengagement within my own circles and in my observations of various types of relationships. I have yet to find true resolutions; rather, I find the ‘other people’ in the relationship feeling disconnected (be it a parent, a significant other, a child, a sibling, etc), while the off and on disengaged individual remains ignorant of any possible issue. Obviously, at this point there is a lack of communication, if not addressed. If it has been addressed and still not resolved, it has been my observation that people either end the relationship (where possible) or continue it, but poorly.
You may ask, but what about people who have come so very far in managing stress, depression, and/or other types of “weigh-you-down” dis-eases or dis-orders that this is a new level (and better) coping mechanism? Excellent question. This is a much better coping mechanism, if prior to this staying in bed all day (or days at a time) was the ‘norm.’
So how do the dynamics of a relationship work? How do the people involved come together and agree on what works, and, more than that, stick to that plan? It has been said numerous times (until we are all blue in the face, I think!) that communication is the first step. Okay, great. We all know it is not a one-way street. It simply cannot be. How to make it two? Or three? Or four? Open dialogue can start by asking leading questions; easy questions to start, for the reluctant responder (say a teenager). For example, after a full day of disengagement, perhaps the next day – when the mood is right – get a convo going with something like this:
You: hey, everything all right yesterday?
Other: yeah… (or maybe: yeah, why?)
You: just wondering. you seemed like you were off in your own world. (I realize it’s difficult not to say the person was ‘distant’ or ‘disengaged’ or ‘aloof’ but why put the person on the defensive?)
So then you know it was nothing personal and that the next time something like this happens, don’t let it just hang in the air the entire day and even all night long. Guilty! Maybe better communication skills might be to do something like my 7th grade teacher – who also happens to be my favorite all-time teacher – Mr. Bill Sutton taught us: I feel/when you/because… For example, when you are certain the disengagement is taking place (do not assume – you know ‘they’ say it makes an as* out ‘u’ and ‘me’.)…
You: Hey (this gets the other’s attention before you being the “I feel” statement) I feel like you are withdrawing from me/the family/your brother/
Other: what? I’m just sitting here
You: When you _______ (sit there/watch tv/don’t respond/leave the room) I feel like you are _______ (neglecting/withdrawing) from _______
Other: What are you talking about?
You: It’s because I/your sibling/child/mother/spouse am/is (trying to get your attention/wanting to watch something else/etc)
Other: Oh. I’m sorry. I didn’t notice. (most likely this will be the response, if both parties have kept it civil, because most likely the other party honestly didn’t notice)
The other party may be so disengaged that you get out the complete I feel/when you/because all in one breath. This may or may not be a good thing. If s/he is actually listening when you say it, then good for you! However, pausing for a response in between may actually end up with a more productive end-result.
This is just my take on the matter. But then again, I am still working on it, myself! I am certainly no expert and open to any suggestions on the matter! In fact, I am HOPING for any guidance on the matter, while preaching to myself as I write! 🙂
Happy communicating, readers!
- Groping with coping (biwrora.wordpress.com)
- My depression battle: ‘I am not weak or unworthy – nor is anybody else’ (careers.theguardian.com)
- some more on dealing with a Narcissist (for those going through the same thing) (pauerhouse.wordpress.com)
- Saying “Whatever” is a Relationship Killer. ~ Tawny Sanabria (elephantjournal.com)
- The Relationship Arena: Separateness and Togetherness Cycles in Relationships (empathyinterpersonal.wordpress.com)