How Stagnation Can Harm a Relationship and What You Can Do About It - How To Win a Man's Heart

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August 10, 2014

How Stagnation Can Harm a Relationship and What You Can Do About It

Everyone in a relationship has had that moment.

The moment of looking at your partner and feeling like there’s nothing there anymore. No feelings, no desire, no connection. This feeling can last a minute or may feel like it goes on for months.

In these moments of relationship “nothingness” or stagnation it can be very hard to remember that they are normal, that all couples have these moments.

These moments typically lead to feelings of being out of control, being trapped, or fear. These feelings can be uncomfortable and often turn into panic and stress.

Recognizing the moments of stagnation and calming yourself during those moments is extremely important, letting it brew and manifest into anxiety is harmful to yourself and your partner.

Here are five ways that stagnation can harm a relationship, and what you can do about it:

1. Limited Communication

Once panic enters the picture communication is difficult. The larger the amount of panic the more unlikely communication will be successful. Anxiety is activated by the part of the brain that navigates the “fight or flight” response.

When that part of the brain is activated the frontal lobes in the brain, the thinking part of the brain responsible for logic and language, become less activated. With the frontal lobes weakly operating communication becomes difficult.

One way to manage the anxiety and to move the energy to the thinking part of the brain is to notice what feelings arise once the wave of “nothingness” occurs.

Do these feelings include abandonment, feelings of failure, or doubt about who you are?

Noticing the feelings simultaneously decreases them and brings calmness. Insight into the feelings also gives you something to share with your partner, increasing communication and moving the energy from a place of stagnation to an intimate dialogue.

2. Ineffective Decision Making

The feelings connected to stagnation can be very difficult to tolerate. In order to avoid the feelings and feel better you might be tempted to create new things to focus on.

Plenty of people get new jobs, buy a house, or have a baby in order to keep things moving and to distract themselves from the feelings they are having about their relationship.

It’s important to notice if you have this pattern and talk to a friend, therapist, or loved one to help you slow down. Making decisions based off of distraction or avoidance often leads to regrets down the road.

3. Limited Physical Intimacy

The feeling of “nothingness” in a relationship usually means a decrease or absence of sexual contact. Talk to your partner about your needs, whether it’s for more intimacy or for less.

Being honest about what you want can actually decrease stagnation and increase bonding. Even if that means communicating something to your partner they might not like.

4. High Reactive Emotions

Watch out for the temptation to be more emotional in order to bring energy back into your relationship. While talking about your feelings is important, using feelings to get rid of stagnation is dangerous.

Often times it creates walls rather than intimacy. Notice if you are using your emotions to get attention and be heard. Write in a journal, do yoga, or talk to a friend to help you tolerate the “nothingness” and keep your emotions balanced.

5. Separation or Affair

If you do not learn to tolerate moments of relationship stagnation you might be tempted to end the relationship or engage in an affair. If you have reached this place talking to a professional before you act can help you ensure you are making the best decision for you.

On a final note, consider the possibilities within relationship stagnation.

Instead of being scared tell yourself that stagnation means that you are in a long term relationship, that you feel comfortable enough with your partner to live without drama and acting, and that you and your partner are normal (yes thats a good thing!).

Remember that stagnation is not only an opportunity for you to see the strengths in your relationship but is also a chance for you to grow and create new possibilities.

After all this is what it means to live life, to be happy, and to love.

About the author

Patricia O’Laughlin

Marriage and Family Therapist and Art Therapist Patricia O’Laughlin specializes in adult attachment and its impact on relationships and parenting.

She has a private practice in the Silver Lake community of Los Angeles where she sees couples, children, adolescents, and adults. She supports people through the different stages of life and helps people integrate mindfulness, understanding, and support into their relationship with themselves and the people the love.

Patricia has been featured on the Today Show,, Parenting Magazine, and

Visit her at  or follow Patricia O’Laughlin on Twitter (!/therapy4parents) or Facebook ( for articles or to learn more about the Psychology of Parenting.