"I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” ― Brené Brown
When working with couples in marriage counseling, one of the most common statements I hear is that they don't spend enough time together and need to schedule more time. However, life gets in the way and work, children, and outside responsibilities soon fill our calendar. Then, I'll see the couple a week later without having spent any "quality time" together. While I do think it is important to make time for date nights, it is not the only way to start connecting more with your partner. There are opportunities every day to show one another your love.
Why Connecting Everyday Matters
Love and relationships are like any living thing. They need daily nurturing and care to live. If we don't take time in daily moments to show love to our partner, the relationship can begin to starve. When we don't see love regularly, we begin to question if it is still there.
This comes across in several ways. Sometimes we start to nag or criticize our partner to get any response possible. Sometimes the only interactions we seem to have are negative, so we start to withdraw to try and avoid fights. We can also dive into work or projects that we gain satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment from because we feel like our relationship is failing. And finally, sometimes partners find connection in another person, either emotionally or physically, through affairs. Frequently, couples come in saying that the love just "went away." What I find, however, is that the love wasn't gone, it just hadn't been seen in quite some time. That date night kept being put off, bills, work, and kids ate up more time, and in the meantime, there were no small connections along the way to show that the love was still there.
Finding Opportunities to Connect
I want to start by saying this is understandably not easy. Couples who are struggling to connect on a daily basis typically have extremely busy schedules. Kids, as much as we love them, can also make it more difficult to find time and energy to connect to our partners. Lastly, if there have been many hurts in the relationship to this point, it might be difficult to even want to connect in a loving manner. If this is the case, additional work should be done to strengthen the relationship, possibly through marriage and couple counseling, before you try to push yourselves into something you're not ready for.
In a previous article, I discussed the importance of hello and goodbye. These two moments are opportunities every day to show your partner you love them and will either miss them when leaving or are excited to see them when you return. This is not a time to simply run out the door saying you love each other, or to return by gliding past your partner on the way to the couch or bedroom. Keeping in mind that this could be the last time you ever see each other, you should make it a priority to really engage each other when saying goodbye. And, thinking of how a child or pet are excited to see you when you come home, attempt to show a similar level of excitement to see your partner after a long day. Sometimes this takes practice in order to leave our day behind us and start fresh when we get home.
Additionally, look at times you are doing activities apart, and see if there is opportunity to do them together. Are you both watching different shows in separate rooms? Could you find a show you agree on and watch together? When one person is doing laundry or dishes, could the other step in and help? This can be an opportunity to show your partner you not only love them, but support them in household chores, and it is a time that typically stimulates conversation. If one person needs to run and errand, can the other tag along? The point here is not that we need to spend every waking hour together, but that there are times everyday that we can spend ten minutes together, and that time goes a long way to showing our partner they are loved.
James McMillian, LCPC
Resolve - Counseling & Wellness
8340 Mission Rd Ste 230
Prairie Village, KS 66206