It happens so easily if you aren’t paying attention, life sneaks up on you and you no longer feel like you know the person who is sitting across the table at you at dinner, if you are lucky enough to even be sitting at the table together. Hint- It’s your spouse! With technology our life is supposed to be easier, but this just isn’t the case as we pile on more obligations and take on more than our counterparts did 30 years ago. In many families, both spouses work, they have children, the children are involved with several after school activities, we feel like we have to be super parents and home makers- baking, cleaning, etc. In our free time we tend to veg in front of the TV, computer, or gaming device. The one thing that you don’t notice here is communicating with your partner and actually making your relationship a priority.
My first rule for reconnecting with your spouse is to increase the amount of positive communication between the two of you. Another hint, in order for this to happen you may very well need to turn off the computer, cell phone, TV, gaming device, or any other electronic that commands your attention on a regular basis. It amazes me how many couples sit on the couch and watch TV every night, do not communicate, but expect that because they are sitting next to each other watching the same show they should feel connected. Don’t get me wrong, this is fine to do on occasion and even a few nights a week especially if you are physical people who enjoy cuddling with one another, but will not be helpful if it is most nights.
So what should you do if you are not watching TV or using other electronics? Talk! Communicate! Share with one another! I usually advise my couples to pick a night of the week that is good for them and to create a ritual around it. So it may be that you decide that every Friday night is your date night and you will have wine and cheese after you put the kids to bed and sit and talk with one another. Another couple I see reported that they would pick a different country each week and cook a dish from that country together. Some choose to go for regular walks around the block after dinner or to do more physical activities which they can still talk to one another. The options are endless. As John Gottman, a well known figure in couples counseling, has stated- you need 5 positives to cancel out a negative. So the point of this is to increase the positive communication before or at the same time you try to change the negative.
I like having a day scheduled since it is more likely to be remembered and held as a priority. Of course things come up and in that case, if you are still only having alone time once per week then it is best to reschedule it to another day. If you have incorporated multiple activities throughout the week it is okay to agree to miss one when something comes up. After doing it week after week it becomes something that you look forward to as it becomes more familiar and represents who you are as a couple. When you first start out, it is important to keep the conversation positive by steering away from high conflict areas of conversation.
I hope you enjoy finding your own way of incorporating this idea into your marriage. Please feel free to share your ideas of rituals that you like or use.