3 Signs of Emotional Distance in a Relationship

3 Signs of Emotional Distance in a Relationship

Last update: 17 August, 2016

Emotional distance is a clear indicator of crisis within a relationship. The emotional bond between partners is closely linked with intimacy, with sharing and enjoying things together. This one of the essential pillars of a relationship. That’s why the emotional bond in every relationship requires constant care.

When you care about the relationship you have with that special person, you’re always there for them, you pay attention to them, and you tend to everything that reinforces the bond between you. And you do it for no other reason than to look towards a shared future together.

This is the ideal, but most relationships are weighed down by expectations, histories, fears, and insecurities. This can complicate communication with each other, which creates misunderstandings and emotional distance.

Being aware of these critical moments, paying attention to the signs that start to appear, can help you build a solid relationship that won’t fall apart at the slightest conflict.

“Without love that captivates, the loneliness of a hermit frightens. But more frightening is the loneliness of two people together!”

-Ramon de Campoamor-

What is emotional distance?

Whether you know what “emotional distance” means at the theoretical level or not, this is something you’ve surely experienced in any relationship, whether it was with a family member, a coworker, a friend, or a partner. Our emotional bonds tend to go through different stages, and it’s inevitable that you’ll sometimes be less present in the relationship under certain circumstances.

Emotional bonds unite us to other people, allowing us to offer them our attention and understanding. It’s an act of love in which you don’t expect anything in return. The basic characteristics of this kind of bond are mutual intimacy, trust, affection, and care.

An emotional bond is the basis for keeping love alive and making sure that conflicts and difficulties are no more than just simple bumps in the road, challenges to face together, and ways to continue strengthening the relationship. Emotional distance, contrary to what most people think, doesn’t mean avoiding conflicts; it’s more like creating obstacles to the development of love.

partners in a play


“Real conflicts between two people, those which do not serve to cover up or to project, but which are experienced on the deep level of inner reality to which they belong, are not destructive. They lead to clarification, they produce a catharsis from which both persons emerge with more knowledge and more strength.”

-Erich Fromm-

Lack of intimacy and sexual activity

Many issues that present themselves in romantic relationships serve as indicators of deeper issues. Blocking your ears and putting on blinders doesn’t just complicate everything, it also lays the foundation for the destruction of the emotional bond in the relationship.

Intimacy is one of the key things to attend to in a relationship, because when you neglect it, you destroy communication, trust, sexual desire, and the desire to share likes and passions with one another. When intimacy starts to make you uncomfortable, you should pay closer attention to the underlying problem.

Sexual intimacy might decrease due to a lack of desire and passion, and there may be fewer and fewer sexual encounters as time goes on. If there are no other deeper problems that are causing this to happen, it might be a sign that there’s emotional distance in the relationship.

Sexual intimacy is very important in a relationship, which is why it can signal crisis in the relationship.

Manipulation and isolation

When problems build up without being resolved, even if they’re little things, people fall into the habit of not showing their emotions. Each person slowly shuts themselves away in their own world, isolating themselves and retreating into themselves. Depending on the relationship, this can cause huge fights over the smallest things. It’s also a source of silence, boredom, and lack of interest in being together.

person alone in the rain

Manipulation in this sense is constantly present, because when each person doesn’t express what they want and need from the relationship, it shows in other ways through contempt, blackmail, victimization, and a whole host of other attitudes that turn the relationship toxic. This situation is clear evidence of emotional distance.

When you’re confused, seriously affected, disoriented, and unable to confront the situation, it might start to become unbearable. This is precisely how emotional distance can start to grow.

In trying to avoid emotional pain, we tend to distance ourselves. We run away because we think this is the only way to avoid an iceberg that we can’t break through, that just keeps getting bigger. This is why the biggest enemy of emotional distance is communication.

“Love, experienced thus, is a constant challenge; it is not a resting place, but moving, growing, working together; even when there is harmony or conflict, joy or sadness, is secondary to the fundamental fact that two people experience themselves, rather than by fleeing from themselves. There is only one proof for the presence of love: the depth of the relationship, and the aliveness and strength in each person concerned; this is the fruit by which love is recognized.”

-Erich Fromm-


This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.