How do you make sure your marriage or relationship stays healthy and continues to grow? How can you keep from coasting or checking out? Here are four meaningful ways to stay focused and connected to the one you love.
Simple, right? But when life’s demands crowd out conversation, distance grows. Every day, make it a priority to talk, to find out about each other’s day and how you’re both doing. If you don’t carve out this time every day, you’ll only talk about dinner and kids and what needs to get done. That’s the perfect way to end up with a roommate rather than a partner in life.
Block out time to talk away from children, and let them know what you are doing and why. Children need to see parents spending time alone together. Even if they fuss about it, they’ll get over it. We’re not talking hours. Even 20 minutes of alone time to connect will make a huge difference. When my kids were little, my husband and I would have “couch time.” The kids knew they could be in the room, just not on the couch with us. According to the American Psychological Association (APA) even a few minutes of daily discussion that goes beyond family maintenance is enough to keep you connected to your partner.
Irene Hansen Savarese, LMFT, says, “Listening is a relationship skill that most of us haven’t learned. Active listening is, if practiced and mastered, the best gift you can give your partner.” You don’t always need to do all the talking. You need to listen as well. Make sure you are a giver and a taker. Don’t interrupt, and put your phone down. Let there be a time in the day when you are both completely focused on each other.
When you truly hear one another, so much of the little nonsense that piles up goes right out the window. If you know your partner is stressed about something at work, or your partner knows you’re overwhelmed by a friend’s illness, you’ll both be kinder and more understanding. So many times we jump to conclusions and assume negative feelings are directed toward us when they may have nothing to do with us at all. Listen actively, so you know exactly where you’re both at.
According to Will Meek, Ph.D., taking interest is a key component of any healthy relationship. He stresses the importance of moving beyond small talk to really find out what makes your partner tick. Ask questions that have nothing to do with you. There are still things to learn about each other. Ask questions about what matters to your partner. Ask about hobbies you don’t share, about dreams not fulfilled, about family you’ve never met. Ask questions, and don’t forget to pay attention to the answers.
Look at your partner through a different lens every now and then. It’s easy to let familiarity breed contempt. But don’t fall for this relationship trap. As Dr. John M. Grohol says, “A big part of ‘being happy’ is all about the choices we make in our everyday lives and in our everyday interactions with those around us.”
Remember how you looked at your partner when you first met, how you couldn’t wait to see him or her again, how your eyes lit up when you saw each other. Remember the past, and bring it into the present. Don’t take each other for granted. Remember why you love, and celebrate all the good you fell in love with — that you’re still falling in love with as you grow and change together.
Relationships become the most complicated and unsteady when we stop trying. It’s all about paying attention and focusing. It’s not about perfection. It’s about intention. So take some time today to connect with the one you love.
More About Relationships From Lori:
5 Ways to Make the One You Love Smile Today
Date Night: Necessary or Nonsense
How We Fight Fair: The Only Three Rules We Need