Keeping your relationship at the center of your life is easier said than done. Careers call for more and more of our time, even when we’re not at work. Add children and other responsibilities to the mix, and the quality time we spend with our partners shrinks into nothing. This is dangerous ground.
I see too many couples who have always relied on Valentine’s Day or their anniversary to connect. The rest of the time, their romantic partner is more akin to a housemate. Before they know it, they have become become virtual strangers. Couples can drift apart over months or years, and the relationship dies before anyone even realized what was happening.
Don’t let this happen to you. Here are some extremely effective, powerful ways to keep the magic alive and your connection strong.
- Make Your Relationship a Priority
The biggest thing you can change right away is your attitude. So many people assume their relationship is simply low-maintenance. For most of us, however, that is simply not the case. Relationships are complicated beasts and require our time and attention.
To keep your relationship healthy, you’ll have to focus 100% on each other for some time every day. It doesn’t have to be sex (although this is also great!) Just talking with each other, with no cell phones or computers to distract you, is effective. Even if you only have ten minutes with one another before going to bed, say something tender that will make your partner feel just that little bit more special and loved.
- Be Kind
The famous psychologist John Gottman recently noted that one of the most important predictors of whether a relationship would thrive or fail was in the “small acts of kindness” that couples display towards each other.
Start with simple politeness. Always make time for to ask your partner how their day was. Pause for a hug or a kiss at the end of the day. Always respond with interest when they bid for your attention, no matter how busy you might be at that point! Step in when you see them struggling. Say thank you when they do something unexpected to help out.
These are all small things, but when added up they will communicate your love and respect more powerfully than a million bunches of flowers!
- Create Rituals
It’s incredibly important to establish—or re-establish—regular small rituals throughout the week that let you connect with your partner. It can be as simple as sharing a cup of coffee in the morning. Try to eat meals together without the TV or your phones. Exercise together once a week with a bike ride or a swim. Create a ritual for saying goodbye in the morning and coming back together around the end of the day.
Many couples have also found success taking a yearly vacation together. See if you can fit in a getaway once a year. You can even go for a long weekend or camping nearby where you live. That way, spending time with your significant other is something simple that you can look forwards to, without too much organizational stress.
However, if your relationship is in trouble, don’t assume a vacation will fix it. You’ll only take your problems with you. Making an appointment with an experienced couples therapist is a much better use of your time and money in this situation.
- Support One Another
“One of the best parts of our relationship,” a client told me recently, “is that I know my wife has my back and she knows I have hers. My previous relationships didn’t always feel like this. I don’t know if we had each other’s best interests at heart.”
It sounds simple, but it’s vital to the health of your relationship. Whatever your partner’s goals are, make sure you cheer them on. If you don’t, who will? Their boss or coworkers? Your teenage children? Probably not. Look for the positive and give honest compliments. Tell each other what you appreciate and enjoy about the other.
If you’ve felt distant from your partner recently, think about what has been going on in their life recently. They may have been working long hours or stressing out about finances. Other times, we don’t notice how much something like the loss of a job has affected those we love.
When we encounter stress, withdrawal from our partner can be a natural reaction. Consider how you would feel in their situation, and how much their support and acknowledgement would matter. Make it a point to listen to them and encourage them. It may take them sometime to respond, but your effort won’t be in vain.
Here are some more suggestions that I have seen work for couples. Try some out and see what’s a good fit for your situation:
- Leave a surprise note for your partner—a piece of paper in their pocket, a sticky note on their mirror—that says how much you love them or something you admire about them…or something more risqué.
- Dance together when you have an extra moment.
- Find time to lay down and talk without interruptions.
- Meet up for a lunch date.
- Pass a journal back and forth every couple of days with messages to one another.
- Cook something new together.
- Write down a bucket list of everything you want to do together.
- Head out for a picnic with a bottle of wine or a pot of tea.
- Make eye contact at an unexpected moment and smile.
- Get up first and bring them a cup of coffee in bed—or, better yet, breakfast in bed.
- Read to each other before bed—a novel, a magazine article, or the newspaper.
These ideas are just the beginning. Let us know in the comments if you have any of your own suggestions for reconnecting with your partner. Once you take a bit of effort to remember and enact some of these steps, you’ll once more feel that special connection that drew you together in the first place.
PARC © 2017. PARC (Park Avenue Relationship Consultants) is a group of highly skilled and experienced NYC relationship therapists working with individuals, couples, and families. We have private office locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Riverdale, and Long Island. Each PARC therapist has extensive clinical training and experience, and is fully licensed and certified by New York State. Privacy and confidentiality are guaranteed. Out-of-network only. For more information, please call PARC at (917) 340-7592 or visit parkavenuerelationshiptherapy.com.
I thought it was interesting when you mentioned that withdrawal from a partner can be a natural reaction to stress. I would imagine that many couples have problems because they just don’t know how to express their struggles to each other. It seems like it could be a good idea for couples to get counseling if they have a hard time talking with each other about hard things.
I love how you emphasize being kind when going to couples therapy. My sister’s best friend is struggling with her marriage and she wants to try her best to save it. They’ve been looking into finding a place they can go to for marriage counseling to hopefully help them work through these kinks.