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?