As time goes by, marriage sometimes takes on a busy routine that distracts from the beauty and wonder that marriage is intended to be. Some couples like to periodically reconnect by taking time off for a romantic getaway. There are additional options couples can use to make sure the warmth of their romance continues to grow. Sometimes a marriage therapist can help a couple get past specific sticking points, but a good marriage requires regular attention and intentional effort. Here are several tips that can help couples grow together and weather the challenges that life throws at us.
- Sex is important: When spouses get busy they can lose physical connection. Regular sex provides connection and intimacy that is difficult to duplicate in other ways. Studies have shown it’s not the duration of sexual encounters that is important, but rather the frequency. Sometimes when couples have experienced extended periods of conflict sexual intimacy becomes difficult. The longer the time between sexual encounters, the more difficult it becomes. Sometimes depression or medications can decrease a person’s desire for sex. Some of my client’s speak of the power of spontaneity in their encounters. With that said, I’ve found real value in having clients who are struggling to regain physical intimacy schedule having sex on the calendar – it really works. Couple report that it provides the security that neither will be rejected and they find themselves looking forward to the encounters.
- Write when you fight:For many years I’ve had couples conduct their conflicts in writing. When I make that request I generally am greeted with eye-rolls and stares. Yes writing takes MUCH more time, but a very different part of your brain is being used when you write. Couples have reported that when they negotiate conflicts in writing, they are more thoughtful and the result is more about understanding and compromise then “winning”. Writing your conflicts also slows the process down which allows more time for processing your own feelings rather than simply reacting emotionally. Sometimes it’s not possible to actually write your conflicts. Writing about your conflicts after the fact can sometimes lead to startling insights into what the conflict was actually about.
- Spend time together: By spending time together, I’m not talking about sitting together and watching a movie or TV. I’m talking about going for a walk, doing a project together, sitting side by side and working through topics that are important. When important topics are being discussed, it’s important that you both feel like you’re on the same team. Going for a walk, joining together to accomplish a project, sitting side by side are powerful ways to accomplish this important goal. It is much easier to be mentally synchronized when you do these things.
- Non-sexual physical contact is important:It’s amazing how often quick kisses and hugs become mechanical and happen without feelings. The problem is those mechanical encounters don’t result in the same benefits of longer stretches of physical contact do. Oxytocin is a chemical our bodies release when we touch one another. This chemical helps to emotionally connect people. Extend the time you hug. Extend the time you kiss. You’ll feel a new sense of connection.
- Sit next to each other at restaurant tables:You may be inclined to take a seat across from your partner – eye contact and all that. However, sitting side by side is far more intimate. It is a “parallel” process, you can touch each other… Instead of playing footsie under the table, you can slide an arm around your partner, or touch their knee while you whisper in their ear. “It’s a parallel, and much more intimate position.
- Jot down what they did that you appreciate:Maybe she picked up the clothes you left lying around and washed them without comment. Perhaps she fixed your favorite food. He filled up your gas tank without you mentioning it was getting low, or brought you flowers for no good reason. Write down those things your spouse did that you appreciated. So often they are missed and then forgotten. Writing them down and then mention them at the end of the day. This is the glue that holds relationships together. There is no stronger factor in healthy marriages then being appreciated. When working with couples, I know they have turned an important corner when I hear them mentioning without prompting, those things they appreciate about their spouse. Keeping a list helps you feel grateful for the daily blessings of marriage, and sharing that list with your spouse makes them feel appreciated. This is a big deal!
- Schedule rom-com date nights:You always knew there was a practical purpose to watching Harry and Sally fight; now science confirms it. According to a study from the University of Rochester in Rochester, NY, taking in movies about relationships together, and then discussing them, is just as effective at reducing divorce rates as learning about conflict management and compassion. But surprise! Watching and talking about flicks is better at limiting how much marriage therapy time couples need than formal relationship skill training. It could be because those kinds of films deal with universal couple conflicts and provide an excuse to talk about those issues.
Marriage is the corner stone of culture. It is also the foundation that families stand on. Hope Counseling Center specializes in meeting the needs of families who are struggling.
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