Connect with Your Spouse, Revive Your Marriage

Connect with Your Spouse, Revive Your Marriage

Marriage can be a lot of work. Movies and TV make being married look simple – as long as you have someone to love you, you will have a great life. What they fail to show is how to live a great life in the everyday world. I see couples every day who are frustrated, angry and disappointed with the direction their lives are going. Things started out well and they were both happy, but somehow they have lost their way and are no longer connecting with one another. What happened to the closeness they once felt for one another? How do they find their way back? 

The way we interact with our partner every day matters. Understanding how our spouse receives love – a warm “good morning”, a kiss hello upon arriving at home, and making or bringing home dinner can all show our partner we care. Often, life gets in the way of the little things we used to do with and for one another. Remembering to do the little things is a great way to rekindle your relationship. 

When we have been separated from our partner when we are first dating, the reunion is usually joyful. We smile, kiss and share how glad we are to see one another. As the relationship grows, we often forget to greet one another with joy. Think of how you feel when your child or your pet is overjoyed to see you, and try to greet your partner with that same level of enthusiasm. This five second interaction can set the tone for an entire evening/ morning. It is also important to greet your spouse before greeting your children so the spouse feels important and the children learn the parent’s relationship is just as important as they are.

Set aside time to talk about the expectations for the week. What events will the family have going on, and who is going to be responsible for carrying those activities out. Many times, if expectations are not expressed, it can lead to disappointment and frustration. When these feelings build up, they often lead to couples arguing and feelings of bitterness. Talking about expectations ahead of time is a great way to prevent hurt feelings and angry outbursts.

Spend some time alone to just be together. Go to a movie, or have a dinner date where you do not have to talk about your everyday life. Take time to remember what you love about your partner and why you are together. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, it just needs to be time set aside for you to be a couple.

A few times a year, do a project together that may take a weekend or go on a trip with another couple. This is a longer period of time than just a simple date night and is an opportunity to rekindle and reconnect. Try visiting a place you loved when you were dating, or investigate a new place together.

Having traditions around your anniversary or for birthdays is a great way to reconnect with one another. Perhaps you go out of town away from normal distractions, or maybe you go to a specific restaurant where you became engaged. Doing something special to the two of you is the important part. Take turns planning what you do and be willing to try something your partner has planned for you. 

Many couples come to therapy to work on their communication, but what they really need to work on is their connection with one another. Connecting with our partner requires less time than we think. It begins with how we greet each other as well as sharing our expectations with one another. These two behavior shifts can be a catalyst for new and better relationships. Give it a try. If you have tried some of these ideas on your own and not had success, seek out a therapist near you. Taking time to meet with a therapist can be incorporated into time spent with one another. What we put our energy into grows, so why not try growing your relationship?

About the Author

Headshot photo of Ann Gavin, T-LMFT CounselingAnn Gavin, LMFT sees individuals and couples in Cedar Rapids and via telehealth. She has a special interest in working with people experiencing grief.





How Premarital Counseling Leads to Successful Marriages

How Premarital Counseling Leads to Successful Marriages

Many couples are advised to explore premarital counseling before they get married – and many more could likely benefit from this work. Doing couples work with a therapist to prepare for marriage frequently provides valuable insights, allowing the focus to be on your specific needs as partners. Premarital counseling can also be a great way to discover areas within your relationship that need support, as well as prevent problems in the future and grow closer as a couple.

Learning to Communicate as a Couple

One common focus for pre-marital work with couples is focused on helping both partners discover new, more effective ways of communicating with each other. Sometimes, one partner doesn’t feel comfortable being completely honest with how they feel about specific situations, goals for the future, or other topics. Nearly always, this leads to resentment and disappointment down the road if the disagreement doesn’t come to light until after the couple is married.

In sessions, we focus on learning new tools for how to share tough topics or feelings in a way that does not make your partner feel threatened or upset. For example: taking a timeout when one partner is overwhelmed and setting a timeframe of when to return to the conversation is important. This allows for both to feel their needs are respected.

Planning for the Future Together

We also explore what each person in the couple would like for their future life. Many couples have not talked about their future in a business-like way before getting married. When you get married, having a plan for what you would like for your future is very important. Decision making can become more challenging now that you have another person’s opinion to consider. 

We also focus on providing space for couples to discuss their expectations for the marriage with one another. Marital expectations mean things like who does the household chores, who manages the money and pays the bills, whether or not you will share a faith system, how many children and how will they be raised, and so on. By exploring scenarios in advance, both individuals can learn more about their partner and how to engage in dialogue to prevent future stress on the relationship.

Understanding Your Partner

I encourage couples to listen to the audiobook, Your Brain on Love: the Neurobiology of Healthy Relationships by Stan Tatkin. The author does an excellent job of explaining different kinds of attachment behaviors and how to interact with them. Attachment style impacts our ability to love and interact with others in both romantic and non-romantic relationships.

If we have had poor relationships in the past, it can often impact our relationship with our partner as this person is now our primary “attachment figure.” Our brains are designed for connection and understanding more about how your partner’s brain works can improve your ability to respond to challenging situations. The book is a short listen (~5 hours) and gives couples tools to better comprehend how their partner processes events or disagreements, and why they might react differently depending upon their attachment style. 

Marriage is about more than the ceremony and the party afterward. If the proper care is taken in the beginning to explore the partnership, the result can be a rewarding lifetime experience. I have met couples who have been married for over 70 years that still love and value each other. It is not easy and requires patience and sacrifice, but it can be achieved with the right effort in the beginning of the marriage.

Ready to get started? Reach out today if you’re in the state of Iowa or contact a couples therapist in your area to invest in your relationship for the future. 

About the Author

Headshot photo of Ann Gavin, T-LMFT CounselingAnn Gavin, T-LMFT works with adults and couples from all backgrounds, faiths and orientations in Cedar Rapids, IA and online.





How Therapy Can Help You Through the Grieving Process

How Therapy Can Help You Through the Grieving Process

One of the first things I think is important for people going through the grief process to understand is that there’s no right way to grieve, and no two people will grieve the same way. So, even in a situation where a husband and wife may have lost a child, they’ve had the same loss, but they’re grieving in their own separate ways. It’s important to know that it’s okay that you’re doing it the way you need to do it. A lot of times, when a person experiences a loss, they’re really struggling because the people around them always want them to be okay. And they never feel like they have a place where they can go and just talk about that loved one that they lost. That’s what we try to create for you in therapy is a place where you can talk about that person all you want, you can talk about their memory, you can talk about things you miss about them. You can talk about the way people are treating you, you can talk about what you need from others, and you can learn how to share with others what you need from them.

As a therapist, I find working with people through their grief is a really moving experience. I have several clients that are going through this process right now. I am very comfortable sitting with someone who is right in the throes of it, and I understand the deep dark hole feeling that there is, and it goes away. You just have to give it time. And I understand that it’s such a cliche to say that, but it really does get better with time. When you’re willing to share with someone your feelings, it helps take that burden off just a little bit and makes it, so you don’t have to carry it by yourself anymore. I want to encourage anyone who’s maybe seen a therapist before, whether it’s for grief or any other issue that you might be having, that if you didn’t connect with that first therapist, that’s not your fault. It just means that person wasn’t right for you. So please reach out to someone else, and you may have to interview a few people until you find the right person, and that’s okay. It’s important to have help, and if you really need it, you will find the right person because there are a lot of caring people out there who want to help you and want to make a difference for you. If you’re experiencing any of the things that I was talking about, please feel free to reach out. I’m currently accepting new patients. So please feel free to give us a call or go to the website.