Connect with Your Spouse
Quality Time and Communication Make a Difference
Kids, jobs and everyday stresses often take priority in a family, leaving little time and energy for the couple to spend on their marriage.
With three kids ages 9-22 and jobs outside the home, Susan Danzi and her husband, Jeff, work hard to be sure they devote enough time to each other. Married 14 years, the couple from Springfield, PA, finds little ways to show they care.
“We are constantly busy with work, school and running the kids to their many activities,” Susan says. “We try to do thoughtful little things for each other. I buy him his favorite gum or snacks, and he buys me chocolate-covered pretzels — my weakness!”
Experts urge couples to consider the following tips to stay connected.
Every day matters
A strong relationship must be built on a foundation that both partners tend to every day, says Wanda Sevey, director of the Voorhees, NJ, office of the Council for Relationships. “Things like making a ritual around saying goodbye to each other when you part for the day and finding a way to greet each other when you come back each night” are important, Sevey says. “It’s not taking each other for granted.”
Tonya and Richard Bishop of Aston, PA, parents of two children ages 8 and 11, set aside time during the day when both are free. “Even if it is a little bit of time to talk on the phone, it helps us reconnect,” says Tonya. “Also, when life is too frantic and we are not on the same wavelength, we purposely stop all activities for one night to just be.”
Talk to each other
Communication is “the lifeblood of the relationship because it is an act of love,” notes therapist Richard Brousellof Delaware Marriage and Family Counseling in Wilmington. “It means turning off your own brain while the other person is speaking and taking it all in,” Brousell says.
“When you have a concern that needs to be addressed, start gently,” Sevey suggests. For example, say, “I really appreciate that you load the dishwasher after dinner, but it would be great if you could also clean out the sink.”
It’s not about winning
Research by relationship expert John Gottman found that 69 percent of relationship conflict concerns perpetual problems. Different personalities and ways of doing things might mean that you and your partner will never agree on some things. “Learning how to manage, communicate about and build a bridge between those differences will make a difference in your relationship,” says Sevey.
It’s important to spend time together without the kids around. A planned date night gives you a chance to enjoy each other’s company, share an experience and get caught up on each other’s lives. Get out of your rut by choosing new shared experiences. If you always go out to dinner and a movie, try bowling or skating.
The Danzis try to plan a date night once a month to help stay connected. “Sometimes, especially around the holidays or kids’ birthdays, we go shopping,” Susan says. “It’s not very romantic, but it may be the only time we can get that task done without the kids.”
Even small signs of affection are important. Touching and holding are essential physiologically as well as psychologically, says Brousell. “Make sure you still flirt with each other,” adds Sevey.
You also need more intimate moments, and sometimes that requires scheduling. “Being spontaneous isn’t always possible,” Sevey says.
Terri Akman is a contributing writer for MetroKids.