*4 Tips to Improve your Relationship
Updated: Jan 25, 2020
Do you ever wake up in the morning feeling like you have lost connection with your partner? Are there lingering resentments or stressors that have driven a wedge between you? If so, you are not alone. These problems are common among couples who have traversed across the challenges of juggling work, family, and other responsibilities. If this describes you, there are several home remedies consistent with Gottman research that you can practice to steer your relationship toward re-connection.
1. Make quality time a priority. This may seem obvious and yet impossible, given your competing time demands. However, sometimes creative re-prioritization can lead to hidden opportunities to spend time together. For example, going for a walk, or having tea together after the kids are down can usually be squeezed in at least a few times per week in even the busiest schedule. Similarly, routine chores (such as grocery shopping) can be used as an opportunity to be together. Finding mutually enjoyable activities can take some work (hint: this isn’t the time to convince your partner to take up your hobby that he or she doesn’t enjoy). You most likely enjoyed doing things together at the beginning of your relationship or you wouldn’t have stayed together. Looking back to the early days should provide some ideas for things you both enjoy.
2. Ask your partner about their day. Perhaps you already do this and if so, great! I find that a surprising number of couples gradually drop this practice over the years due to overall busy-ness, especially once kids enter the picture. Why does it matter? One important metric for connection is how well partners know the emotional details of each other’s lives. In other words, big connection = many small interactions.
3. Listen. This is the simplest, hardest, and most important of all relationship skills. Really. In diagnosing relationship problems, we often find that many problems on the surface stem from one or both partners feeling misunderstood and disregarded. If you can give your partner your focused, nonjudgmental, non-problem-solving attention while he or she shares feelings, struggles, accomplishments, and concerns, you are giving your partner the best gift of all. Did I mention that it is hard? We seem to have an innate drive to race to advise, evaluate, and problem-solve so be patient with yourself (and your partner) as you build your listening muscle.
4. Respond to bids for connection. In distressed couples, both parties feel that their partner doesn’t attend to them. While it is probably true that the frequency of connection attempts is low, it is often also the case that subtle connection attempts are missed in the frenetic pace of life and the constant attention-suck of our always-connected world. While you can be a bit more obvious in your attempts to engage with your partner, you can also make an effort to be more attentive to subtle cues from your partner. For example, if he or she wants to talk about a concern or triumph, share a story, or sit down for coffee together, try to weigh your response with the understanding that, a positive response now may lead to more attempts to connect in the future.
These 4 concepts are actually quite simple but may be quite difficult to implement. If you want to give them a try, start small and be patient. Ultimately, these are habit changes and, if you have tried to change your eating, start exercising, or practicing meditation, you know about the challenges associated with starting a new habit. Also, there are a lot of resources that can help. Please visit my resources page for books, articles, and other resources that can help you move in the direction you want.
*This blog is written for educational purposes only and is not intended and should not be construed as therapy or a therapeutic relationship.