Connecting in everyday moments
As I work with individuals and couples in relationship coaching, 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 and I then 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 our love to our partner, the love can start 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, thought 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, 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 goodbyes. 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.
You probably have seen the reaction of a dog when its owner comes home, if not experienced it yourself. It is as if you are the most important person in the world at that moment, and they haven't seen you in ages. Or maybe you know the feeling when you come home to your young child (this is possibly not the case with a teen child) who melts your heart with a "DAAAAADDDDYYY" and big hug.
Now, think about your reaction when you see your loved one after a long day. Do you greet them with the same reaction?
Often times, the day can wear us down, and the first thing we think about is getting dinner and plopping down on the couch. During relationship coaching, I have heard husbands and wives express that they feel their partner cares more about TV, books, hobbies, etc. than them simply because that is the first thing they give their attention to when they come home. Taking time to celebrate seeing your loved one first thing when you come home can help strengthen your relationship. This simple gesture shows your partner that they are the most important person at that moment, that you missed them, and that you are excited to see them again no matter how tired you are.
Additionally, when you leave your loved ones when going to work or out the door other times, do you take time to say farewell? During my time in grief coaching, one of the most difficult things for clients to resolve is the sadness they feel if they didn't get to say a good goodbye, or if their final goodbye was a bad one. It's difficult to think about, let alone say, but when you leave your loved one for the day, it might be the last time you see them. If that thought makes you sad, then you can see the importance to express your love each and every time you part ways. Again, this simple gesture speaks volumes about your love and priorities. These two actions combined set your relationship as a top priority and gives you two times each day, no matter what else happens or how drained you are by the day, to express your love.