By Natalie Kusturic, M.A., LMFT
Photo by ‘Wesley Correa’
“I just don’t feel close to them anymore,” is one of the most common statements I hear couples make.
It is natural for couples to move in and out of closeness with each other. You may need time to yourself before you can be there for anyone else including your partner. This is an important aspect of self-care, when taken can bring couples closer together. Couples experiencing issues in their relationship can distract themselves with the daily demands of life. Without attention the relationship begins to feel more and more disconnected. You may even feel like strangers to each other. The demands of managing career and family can bring about a feeling of separation from your partner. While this may be true there is a piece of the puzzle missing when closeness in relationships is discussed.
The missing link is YOU. Couples consciously and unconsciously compromise themselves for the sake of others. Self-care can bring up feelings of guilt and even shame. How will things work if I’m not taking care of everyone and everything? The fact is it will. The needs of the kids, home, bills, and every other thing vying for your attention will get done. While these are important responsibilities, they can serve as a distraction from your mental and emotional health.
The truth is you don’t have to make more time for any of this. What I am proposing is a change in your thinking and feeling state. Behaviors change when your thoughts and feelings about your circumstances shift.
Here are 5 things you can do to get the spark back into you and your relationship:
Practice mindfulness. There are piles of books written about the benefits and practice of mindfulness. In its most simple form mindfulness is the act of being a conscious observer of self without judgment. Start giving your attention to what you are doing. This means when talking to someone instead of looking at your phone in an attempt to multi-task you put your phone down and make eye contact. When you fold clothes focus only on the clothes. Be intentional and bring awareness to your activities. This will begin to train your brain to be present and start noticing the details of the world around you including your more subtle thoughts and feelings.
Create your personal bubble with your partner. Decide that no matter what you have each other’s backs. You can make the effort to wake up together or go to bed together to insure you can talk and have time alone while the kids sleep. You can text each other short loving sentiments during the day. Pick one day of the week where you both can do an activity together. It can be taking a yoga class or something as simple as putting the kids to bed earlier one night and staying up talking. Whatever activity you choose, commit to doing it. Check in with each other and invest in making you both feel happy and loved. You are a team running the business of your family. If you want this business to thrive the executives have to be a team.
Be Curious. You can’t escape the daily activities but you can get curious. . There was a time when your partner was one of the most fascinating people you ever met. Take a moment and recall what attracted you to your partner in the first place. Ask different questions to each other. You have had so much time together it’s easy to assume you know everything about your partner. Most likely you don’t. Come up with questions for each other and see what hidden treasures you uncover. Choose to do a new activity together that pushes you both past your comfort zone. If you are afraid of heights maybe try indoor skydiving together, rock climbing, or even a dance class. Get creative. You can learn more about your partner and yourself.
Laugh. This one gets forgotten all the time. Life is serious but it is all a matter of perspective. Yes your child snuck out of the house and needs to have consequences for their behavior. They are also asserting independence and ingenuity to execute their plan. There are useful skills they can use in the future. You don’t have to tell them but you and your spouse can find the humor in it. No need for everyone’s day to be ruined. Remember to laugh. Insert some silliness into your life by playing a game like twister, watching a funny tv show, going to a comedy club, or inviting friends over for a game of Cards Against Humanity. Find an activity that moves you both out of your head. Your hearts will thank you for it.
Play. You can play with anything anywhere. Maybe put a joke in the kid’s lunch or send a funny video of you to your spouse that you recorded on your own. Make up words and give it your own unique meaning the kids don’t even know. Through play you can access your creativity and inspire each other. Don’t bring work and children to the bedroom. Go to an indoor trampoline center and jump around. Do an indoor skydiving event. Miniature golf, batting cages, trivia night at a local hangout.
If you do this you will have fun. You will grow. You learn about each other. You will feel more relaxed. You will be taking care of yourself and reigniting your spark. The best part is it will help reintroduce you to the kid inside you both.