The pressures of modern life often mean that relationship maintenance falls pretty low on our lists of priorities. After all, love conquers all, right? Wrong! We don’t expect our cars to run without gas and maintenance. We don’t expect to progress at work without effort. We don’t expect our kids to raise themselves. And yet, somehow we conclude that love and sex will take care of themselves.
The bad news is, they won’t. The good news is, you don’t have to sit back and let either one fall by the wayside. Whether you’re at odds with your spouse or just feeling detached, psychologists have devised three remarkably simple techniques to inspire a greater feeling of connection and appreciation between partners.
Here are the basics:
First, take a moment to reminisce aloud about how you met.
Talk about those first few nervous dates, and the light, funny and romantic moments of your early courtship. Resist any impulse to make snarky comments or contrast then and now. If your partner doesn’t offer up anecdotes, ask what he or she remembers. If they’re not willing to contribute, just try again at another time.
Why it works
For many couples, simply recalling positive feelings of the past brings a touch of sweet frisson back into their current lives. Relationship gurus (and the happily married) do this simple memory exercise often – so it’s a great one to add to your relationship toolkit.
Second, sweat the small stuff.
To easily create a sea of change in your relationship, make small affectionate gestures. A few times a day, as you walk past your spouse, gently reach out and touch an elbow or shoulder. It’s a minor action with major benefits, namely that it instantly restores a sense of ‘us’ through the everyday crush of responsibilities. Likewise, plan time to spend together – even a weekly lunch or date night. It may seem silly considering you live together, but these little considerations can do a lot to make you feel connected, like a couple, and special to each other.
Why it works
Research reveals that happy couples don’t just co-exist side-by-side in the same house; they do things together – for fun. It’s not easy to get time away from the kids, it’s not easy to come up with the energy or money to have an evening out – but it’s much, much easier than a divorce. Having a date night may feel forced initially, but after a while it re-introduces a feeling of anticipation into the relationship. More importantly, it allows you to connect emotionally which can have a big pay off when you tumble between the sheets.
Third, set new goals.
Once you’ve soothed troubled waters by building some positive interactions, it’s a good idea to develop goals for the relationship. This will help you, as a couple, invest emotionally in building a future together. It’s not difficult to make goal setting enjoyable. Ask your partner what special thing(s) they’d like to do with you within the next year, just for the sheer pleasure of it. Then, take your turn giving your partner your ideas. This exercise opens things up for both of your unspoken dreams. Down the road you can expand upon your time frame – try setting goals for two, five and ten years down the line.
Why it works
Setting goals – for the long and short term – unites you as a team and sets the stage for mutual support, growth, and a future of your own design – together.
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