One of the secrets of happy couples is that they continue to invest time and energy in their relationship and friendship. It is one of easiest things to let slip when daily realities of running a house, the bills, work, kids and busy social lives are present. And it becomes easy to start taking each other for granted.
But how do people do it? How do they find the time in this busy life?
Making the time
The truth is there are no magical formulas. Of course it can be challenging to find time together with the busyness of running Home Inc. But, it is absolutely crucial to long term relationship success. It comes down to prioritising your partner and your friendship. It is about investing in your relational bank account - not in a 'set-it-and-forget-it' manner, but through regular intentional time-based investments. That intention is about communicating to your partner that they are your top priority. To do that you need to make time for your partner.
It is about investing in your relational bank account - not in a 'set-it-and-forget-it' manner, but through regular intentional time-based investments.
Different couples find different ways of remaining connected. Outside of the home for some sending each other text messages during the day is a nice way to feel bonded. Others remain connected through social media. For others this does not work and their rituals of connection are more centred around in-person time together. Most couples have rituals of saying goodbye/hello at the start/end of the day, plus other regular catch-ups through the week or month.
Prioritising your friendship
Happy couples prioritise their friendship and this shows in their willingness to spend time together. Specifically this is about spending quality time together and interacting with each other - not just sitting on the couch together while you are both on your phones. Many couples like scheduling their catch-ups. Prioritising your friendship and relationship also means sticking to scheduled catch-ups - regular cancellations convey that you have other things in your life which are more important. For some this is some regular weekly connection which might take the form of a date night, weekend activity, or doing something together that you both enjoy (shared hobbies/sport, bike rides, visiting art galleries, walking the dogs, cooking, camping, planning holidays/trips etc.)
Investing in your friendship also means remaining curious about your partner. What makes them tick? What are their interests? What experiences, ups and downs characterise their day. This does not mean one has to share every little detail. This is about remaining connected with your partner by understanding them as an individual. One good way to find out more is to ask your partner open-ended questions (i.e., questions that doesn't end in a yes/no answer). The Gottman Card Decks App has some nice open-ended questions under Love Maps to get you started: Google Play (Android) or App Store (Apple)
Put the phones away
Phones can really put a dampener on in-person connection. Texting while your partner is talking, scrolling through social media, looking up something - all of these are communicating to your partner that what they are saying is not that important. This is a killer for relational connection. Negotiate some clear rules about this as a couples - is it OK to take the call from your boss or a client? Most people can tolerate a limited amount of this, but if this characterises every interaction you are having, it will turn things sour very quickly and resentment will build. Having your phone with you/within sight also means you are more distracted and won't give your partner all of your attention. Take this tip! To make your life easier, feel less distracted, more focused, more stress free and more connected: When you are with your partner and you are spending quality time together, PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY. All of the stuff happening in social media land will still be there when you come back to it after your quality time together.
The 'same old same old' can wear thin. Regular catch-ups that follow the same old pattern can become tedious. This is particularly true if one of you is not into something anymore.
Is it time to expand your horizons? To inject some joie the vivre into your friendship? Again here open-ended questions where you explore each other's interests can be helpful to build some new fun activities into the mix.
Feeling like you are a team
The feelings that you get from remaining connected and investing in your friendship is that your partner has your back; that you are a team; that you matter and that your partner matters. When you are starting to feel lonely in your relationship it is likely that your friendship with each other is suffering. If this has been going for a while, you might need some expert help to assist you - drop me a line if you want to work on this.
Disclaimer: This post is for informational and educational purposes only. It should not be taken as counselling/therapy advice or used as a substitute for such. You should always speak to your own counsellor.