We’ve all been there at one time or another. Something is…just a bit off in your relationship. You can feel it. No, this isn’t a lets-draw-up-the-divorce-papers scenario. But there’s a palpable sense of distance and disconnection. Maybe it’s due to a sudden change in schedules. Maybe it’s because every day feels the same and you’ve both fallen into a little bit of a funk. Maybe it’s something else entirely.
Whatever the case, you’ve noticed that your relationship feels distanced and want to take some steps to close that space. Good for you. Here, then, are a variety of small, nice things to do if you feel disconnected from your partner. Will they all work for you? No, but each requires effort. And effort is what’s needed to make a change.
Talk about it. Seriously. Your partner is not a mind-reader. If you don’t bring up the fact that you feel distance, they won’t know how you feel and you won’t know how they feel. Hell, they may be surprised that you feel it. Either well, it will be helpful. So put it out in the open, explain what’s on your mind, and listen to your partner do the same.
Don’t blindside them when they have a five minute break from work or they finished bathing the kids. Choose the right time to bring it up.
Show appreciation. And be specific about it. Mention the loving way they defused that tantrum the other day. Compliment them on how thoughtful they are. Tell them they’re a wonderful parent. Make it known that you’re paying attention.
Ask questions. About work. About friends. About colleagues. About sex. About anything and everything. Importantly, listen actively and remember the answers. Curiosity is what keeps couples connected.
Offer up information about yourself, too. Did you eat a great sandwich today? Hear a great song? Are you working on something interesting at the office? Did your toddler do something ridiculous at the park this morning? Tell your partner. You need to be three-dimensional, too.
Make time for one another. Even if it’s just 20 minutes together doing the dishes after dinner. Set aside the time. Disconnection often happens when alone time is not actively pursued.
And make plans for next month. Real plans. The more interesting the better. Is there a cool show in town? An interesting restaurant that you both want to eat at? An axe-throwing place you want to check out? Whatever the case, find something that will give you something to talk about and connect over.
But also discuss far-off plans. Excitedly talking about the future helps make it obvious that you will both be together for the long haul. And who doesn’t like to imagine the good things to come? “Wouldn’t it be amazing to sail around the Greek isles together when we’re retired?” Yeah, it would.
Download a relationship or sex app. Use them on your next date night. Many contain a variety of exercises to help stave off boredom. Here are a few to check out.
Plan a date night. In or out. Fancy or casual. Just make it happen.
Text. Call. Occasionally pop in and say hi. Don’t be overbearing, but check in because you want to.
Put down the damn phone. If you can’t go five minutes without thumbing through Instagram, you can’t expect your partner to think you’re listening.
Say thank you. However often you think you’re saying it, say it more.
Identify your spouse’s love language. Speak it often.
Stay up to date about expectations. The who-does-what-and-how talk is not a one-time conversation. It is an ever evolving one that must take place regularly. It helps keep you both on the same page and does a lot to ward off resentment.
Set goals together. What do you want to accomplish in the next year? What do you want to achieve in the next few years? What does your partner want? Don’t know? Figure it out. Discussing your goals and arriving at a shared set together that you can then map out is a big step in feeling connected.
Try to incorporate some couple’s therapy exercises. So many are designed to re-establish connection. Here are some to consider.
Try to maintain the “magic formula” of a happy marriage. Dr. John Gottman discovered that for every negative interaction you have with your partner, you need five positives. Stick to this as often as possible and good things will follow.
Reflect on the good times. Reminisce. Because A) this shows your partner that you look back fondly on your relationship and B) it helps you both remember why you decided to live a life together in the first place. That goes a long way.
Turn towards, not away from your partner’s bids for connection. That is, when they tell you a story about their day or offer something for you to respond to, respond to them as much as possible.
Hold hands. Touch the small of their back. Give them more hugs. Embrace the six-second kiss. Just make a pact to be more affectionate in general.
Schedule sex. It may not seem sexy, but this is a simple way to put connection on the calendar.
Handle whatever needs to be handled so they can take some time for themselves — be it an hour or an entire weekend. A relationship can only function at its fullest potential if both partners have the chance to feel like individuals. Help them carve out the time.
Call your friends. Talking to and hearing from your buddies fills you with stories to share and advice to receive. It also helps keep things in perspective.
Play a board game. Build a pillow fort. Go go karting. Just do something silly together. Silliness is a big part of connection.
Don’t bother them when they’re doing the thing they like to do. We all need time to decompress.
But sometimes watch that show that they like to watch but you don’t. You know the one. Yup, that one.
Try, really try, to make them laugh.
Hang out together without talking. Just being comfortable together is important, too.
Give them a kiss before they leave and when they return. Or, if you’re the one to leave before you leave and when you return.
Check in at the end of each day. Talk about what went right, what went wrong, what made you roll your eyes.
Say “I love you” often. But not so often that it becomes the thing you say to prevent them from being upset with you. You get it. We know you do.
Play an active role in your relationship. That is, never stop trying.
- Wong DW, Hall KR, Justice CA, Wong L (2014). Counseling Individuals Through the Lifespan. Sage Publications. p. 326. ISBN 978-1483322032.
Intimacy: As an intimate relationship is an interpersonal relationship that involves physical or emotional intimacy. Physical intimacy is characterized by romantic or passionate attachment or sexual activity.
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