by Dr. Jeanne Peterson
Summer is such a fun time for families, but as we get back to the routines of the school year, it’s a good time to get back in touch with our partners. Many people report tha tthey have let the bonds with their spouse lapse and that some of the intimacy they once felt is fading. Those key relationships require time and attention. A well-nurtured relationship can offer you deep satisfaction and happiness, so maybe now is the time to make some new habits in the relationship realm.
How much time do you and your spouse spend each week – alone and having a pleasant time? Making time for one another may be your first task! It may sound obvious to say, but you can’t connect if you don’t have time together. Make at least one time a week to spend several hours together and try to build in a daily “touchpoint” as well - some daily time to check in with the other person and show your interest and caring. Make your times of connection reallycount. You could use your “date” to argue, but it won’t serve the purpose you intended – instead, spend time in enjoyable activities and be active in engaging and listening to your spouse. Research suggests that partners in happily married couples make about 30 attempts each hour to connect with one another, whereas unhappy couples make only seven!
To keep your marriage vital and alive, you need to share your world with your partner and take a vital interest in his or hers. One of the easiest ways to increase connection is to make a point to follow your partner’s interests. Pay attention to what’s important to him or her and inquire about how it’s going. When he or she shares with you, remain nonjudgmental and interested. Listen openly and supportively. Avoid giving advice, even if you think your partner needs it. Instead, tune into his or her feelings and follow along with what’s important to him or her. When you’re not with him or her, you can give a few minutes thought to his or her interests or current stressors and consider how to let your partner know of your support. A text or call to say “good luck in that meeting,” or “can’t wait to hear how it’s going” can let your partner feel your support and encouragement even when you’re apart. There may be ways for you to share your partner’s interests further – read up a little on the subject, tag along on an outing that lets you find out more, or watch a TV show with your spouse to increase your understanding. In those efforts, stay curious and avoid ANY negative comments or criticisms. Your show of support will be noticed and it will make it easier for you to make the next “reach out” attempt if you know more about the subject.
While your efforts to know and connect with your spouse won’t solve every relationship problem, they are an essential part of keeping the“foundation” of friendship in your partnership strong. The good feelings that spring from a solid connection can ease tensions and provide a balance for the inevitable conflicts that arise.