Most of us enter into relationships feeling giddy with excitement. The feeling of falling in love with someone leaves most people feeling euphoric, optimistic and unable to “get enough” of their new partner. What many people may not realize is that the process of falling in love with someone elicits the same chemicals in your brain that are released when you drink or use drugs. It are these chemicals that contribute to the incredible ways that we are feeling. We are literally high on love. For many people, however, this feeling begins to fade a little bit as soon as the couple starts to settle into the monotony of life. The positive feelings still exist, but they have likely morphed into more mature feelings of love, stability and security. For some couples, however, these positive feelings may not be present after they’ve been dating or married for a substantial chunk of time. When two individuals begin to feel comfortable in their relationship, they typically stop putting forth the same amount of effort and no longer do the things that they used to do earlier in their relationship. The lack of effort and time can lead to one or both partners no longer feeling the same contentment or excitement that they used to feel within their relationship. This however, is not a death sentence for the relationship. If both individuals are committed to make their relationship work and to begin putting effort into it again, then they can rediscover the joy they once felt and can feel closer to one another than ever before. Listed below are the top 10 recommendations that I make to most of the couples that I work with, particularly if they are reporting an increased sense of disconnection within their relationship. Following some, or better yet, following all of these tips can help you and your partner to again achieve the closeness that you so often feel in the beginning of your relationship and can help you remember the many reasons that you fell in love with one another.
10 Tips to Leave You Feeling Closer to Your Partner
1. Spend more quality time together-alone.
One of the first things that couples stop prioritizing when their life gets busy and chaotic is their time together. When dating, new couples typically spend a great deal of time alone together. This helps them to get to know one another and can open opportunities for communication and intimacy. Taking the time to have dates and spend uninterrupted time together is essential in couples maintaining a positive connection and in helping them to continue to grow together.
2. Spend at least 15 minutes each day communicating.
When two people begin seeing one another, they spend a great deal of time talking with one another. They are seeking constant connection and use these opportunities to grow closer to one another and to help one another through anything they may be going through at the present time. Carving out 15 minutes each and every day to talk to your significant other is incredibly important in maintaining connection and problem solving skills together. It provides an opening to share thoughts, feelings, concerns and to discuss future goals and plans. This time will leave both of you feeling closer to one another, will enhance your bond and will give you something to look forward to each day.
3. Find new ways to show one another love.
In the beginning of every relationship, both people are putting their best foot forward because they want to make the best possible impression. What this usually translates to is that they are doing everything possible to show their new partner how much they care and love them. They may shower them with affection, spend more quality time with them, buy them gifts and make thoughtful gestures for them. Over time, however, this may wane and both members of the couple may begin to miss these gestures and may not feel as loved as they did in the initial phase of their relationship. Take the time EVERY SINGLE DAY to show one another love. Take the love languages quiz to determine the ways that you and your partner best receive love and take these results and begin implementing them into your daily life. Find new and creative ways to showcase your love for your partner. Gestures of adoration do not need to be grand or extravagant--something small (like a love note, making someone's lunch or giving them a relaxing massage) can go a long way in helping your partner to feel more loved.
4. Make time for laughing together and having fun.
Who doesn't absolutely love to laugh and explore things with their partner? In the beginning of relationships, we do so much of this as we are getting to know the other person. Laughing and having fun helps to keep the friendship component of your marriage alive and releases hormones into your body that help you feel happy and more in sync with the other person. Tell each other funny jokes or stories that you have encountered during your day apart. Engage in activities together that allow you to "let go" a little bit and connect more with your inner child (who wouldn't laugh and have fun over a water gun fight afterall?!). Don't be afraid to be silly and be your genuine self. After all, the person sitting across from you is the person you fell in love with in the first place, and the couple that plays together, stays together!
5. Make the time to maintain intimacy.
Intimacy is so much more than just sex, although sex is an important part of a relationship too! Emotional intimacy and physical intimacy are integral components of a happy and stable relationship. Emotional intimacy involves spending time engaging in conversations with your partner and sharing vulnerable thoughts, opinions and feelings. Physical intimacy is all aspects of touch-including massages, hand holding, cuddling, kissing, hugging and any sexual touches as well. For all of us, these two types of intimacy are tied together and a void in one of them will impact the other. To enhance emotional intimacy, follow the 15 minute rule for step 2. While you are communicating with your partner, find opportunities to engage in healthy touch as well. This may involve holding hands or cuddling while you are speaking. Make it a point to kiss and hug your partner several times throughout the day. Carve out the time in your schedules for sex (even if you have to actually schedule it in), because without sex, many couples feel disconnected from one another. This is one part of your relationship/marriage that is different from ALL of your other relationships (ie: we don't have sex with our friends), so don't allow yourselves to lose sight of the importance of this.
6. Preserve healthy boundaries.
Imagine your marriage as though it is a house. As a part of this home, we have walls, a roof and a foundation that help to protect this home from the elements. This helps to keep things outside that we do not want inside our home, and helps to preserve the things that we want to keep within our house. These walls are boundaries, and just like a house needs protection, so does your marriage. Maintaining healthy boundaries with family members, friends and anyone else can preserve the integrity of your relationship and help your partner continue to see that you respect and value them and your marriage. Don't share every detail of your life with other people. Not everyone needs to know EVERYTHING about your last fight or the things that your partner does wrong (although this does not mean that you can't have agreed upon safe people to whom you can vent). Do not let the opinions of other people dictate your marriage and the decisions that the two of you make. Have your partner's back and support them when you're speaking about them to other people. Keep certain things private and special for just you and your partner.
7. Show appreciation and respect.
This is one that typically begins to fade as a couple progresses through their time together. In the beginning of a relationship, we appreciate everything that our new partner does. We are happy to eat a burnt meal because we appreciate their effort in trying to make something for us. We respect their opinions and the traits that make them an individual. We remind them of these things often, leaving both partners feeling cared for and appreciated. Take the time every day to express gratitude for the things that you notice your partner doing. They folded the laundry on your day to do it (even if it isn't done the way you'd like), say thank you. They grab you a coffee because they know you are tired, show appreciation. Tell them the good things that you notice them doing. Tell them they are doing a great job. Show them the respect that they deserve by supporting their decisions, their desires and the things that make them uniquely them. When we are acknowledged and appreciated for the great things we do every day (even if they don't feel so great), it makes us want to do these things more. It validates our experience and decreases the chances that resentment will begin to fester.
8. Support one another in accomplishing your goals.
We all have goals in life, however big or small they may be. We may have a career goal, financial goals, may have goals to get in shape physically or may simply have a goal to fold and put away the laundry at the end of every weekend (is this one every really accomplished though!?). Proving to your partner that you believe in them and will support their endeavors to accomplish these goals is important. When we all have someone that believes in us and our capabilities, we are more likely to believe in ourself and set out to make our dreams a reality. Ask your partner what their dreams are. Where do they see themselves in their career in 5 years? What about goals in your marriage or with them as an individual? Ask them what they think may be needed to accomplish these goals-and most importantly, ask them how you can support them and help them to get there. Be a guide for them and relieve burdens (like taking care of things on the home-front) so that they are able to devote time and energy to accomplishing this goal.
9. Remember to always do the small things.
The saying goes: "it's the small things that mean the most in our lives." This could not be more true. Our lives and our relationships are made up many moments and opportunities to engage in small and easy tasks that can show other people just how important they truly are to us. There is no-one that is SO busy that they can't take one minute out of their day/week to show someone else they are thinking of them. How does this translate to your marriage? Easily. Look for the opportunities to make your partner feel loved and special. Open the car door for your partner when you're leaving. Pour their coffee in the morning. Send them a message to let them know you are thinking of them. Take care of the kid's bedtime routine so that they can rest their feet at the end of a long day. Tell them you love them. Tell them what they mean to you. Show them you value them.
10. Focus on the positive.
We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded by negative and overwhelming things. We hear at least 20 negative things for every 1 positive thing every day. It can feel very overwhelming and defeating. The same thing holds true in our relationships. It is so very easy to notice all of the things that our partner is doing wrong, and we don't often take the time to point out all of the things that they are doing right. If we focus on the positive, we are likely to be surprised at all of the good things that are happening around us and can be reminded of the things in our relationship that are going well. Throughout the course of a normal day, make a note (like, actually write it down) of all of the things that you notice your partner doing that are helpful, good, kind, supportive, etc. At the end of the day share this with them. Tell them that you noticed them loading the dishwasher, reading stories to your children in funny voices. Let them know you noticed their efforts to make you feel loved and special. When we dwell on the positive, more positive change is likely to happen!
Implementing these tips can be a great start to improving your relationship and moving you and your partner to the next level. If you are both still struggling to find ways to connect or to find the "good" in your relationship, please don't hesitate to begin couple's therapy. The sooner a couple gets help, the better the outcome!