Ever feel like the two of you are more like roommates than partners? If you're worried that you're not very close anymore, that you're disconnected, and that the passion is gone.... don't worry. These feelings can easily grow back with just a few, simple steps!
It's actually very common for someone to come into my office and say, "Dr. K, we just aren’t close anymore” or “I feel like we’re roommates who just share household responsibilities and kids” or “it feels like the spark between us is gone, there's zero romance or passion.”
If you feel the same way.... you're normal. All of us feel this way from time to time in our relationships. It's very common and it's something you can make better quickly.
Here are 10 ways to strengthen that connection and get those close, cuddly, sparky feelings back!
1. SPEND MORE ALONE TIME TOGETHER.
Increase the amount of quality time you spend alone with your spouse. You don’t need to be talking the whole time, in fact, it might be better for you to just do an activity together.
If you’ve been disconnected for a while, it’s actually hard to start talking again. Start doing whatever feels comfortable to you; add conversation in when you can. Make sure your conversations are NOT about relationship problems for a while, focus on what is good and what is positive at first.
2. GET OUT OF THE HOUSE AND DO SOMETHING FUN TOGETHER.
When our relationships feel kind of blah, we tend to start living in our own separate worlds. Either we stay home and do our own things or we start spending time away from home without our spouse. This is not great... we can't create connection while you're living in separate worlds.
To reconnect, do more activities together outside of the house. Go take a walk, go for a bike ride, try a yoga class or go to an art museum. You could also go to the movies, have dinner with friends, or take a wine appreciation class together. The point is to do something together that you will both enjoy. The more fun stuff you do together, the closer you will feel.
3. START A PROJECT TOGETHER.
Working on something together will bring you closer. The project should be something meaningful and valuable to you both, like building a doghouse, turning family pictures into a video, planting a vegetable garden. Whatever the two of you like and care about, do that!
Some couples find that they enjoy working on projects so much together that they decide to start a small business; this can be great! You spend more quality time together, you have a shared vision and purpose, and you make money.
If you need ideas for projects, explore Pinterest.com for DIY projects and much more. Just be sure to choose something that makes you both happy.
4. VOLUNTEER WITH A CHARITY.
Close couples have shared values and missions. Talk to your spouse about the causes that really matter to you and see if you can find one that matters to you both. If you can, wonderful, look for a local group where you can volunteer together.
If you have different passions, agree to each spend a certain amount of time helping the other advance a group that champions your causes. You can look online at VolunteerMatch.org for local charities that have volunteer opportunities in your area.
5. CREATE A “HAPPY MEMORIES” BOX.
When our relationships hit a rough patch, it is easy to get discouraged. Please don't! Know that like most achievements, strengthening your relationship can be hard at times.
I’d like you to think of building up your relationship just like you’re climbing up a mountain... just because you fall back a step or two doesn’t mean you’re all the way back at the bottom of the mountain. Sometimes, we have to take a step back to learn something new or gain a new perspective. Challenges are often just as important, if not more important, than successes.
To help you cope with rocky spots, create a “Happy Memories” box, where you put letters, photos, fortune cookie notes, matchboxes, or anything you like in a box to remind you of good moments between the two of you. You can create this box together or each make your own. Go through the box whenever you need a relationship boost.
6. RESEARCH YOUR GENEALOGY AND CREATE A FAMILY TREE.
Most of us really enjoy learning more about our family history. I encourage you and your partner to help each other research your genealogy and create a shared family tree. This research can be done online, using tools at Ancestry.com or Genie.com.
You can have great conversations as you talk about what you’ve found and what you’re seeing online. You might also decide to plan a trip to one of the places that’s meaningful to your family history. Being helpful, sharing in important events, and talking about memories is a great way to reconnect.
7. PRACTICE RELATIONSHIP ENHANCING THOUGHTS EVERY DAY.
A relationship enhancing thought (RET) is a thought about a happy time, a good feeling, an important moment that makes you feel closer to your spouse. I’d like you to spend 2 minutes a day thinking about RETs and trying to reconnect with good, loving feelings about your partner.
To generate some RETs, try asking yourself some questions, like:
- What did your spouse do yesterday that was nice?
- What did he say recently that meant a lot to you?
- What things are you grateful for in this relationship?
- What physical trait of your spouse are you most attracted to?
- What compliments have people given you about your spouse?
If you’re struggling to come up with RETs, just google “relationship affirmations.” You can also check out my Relationship Mantra Board here on pinterest.
8. HAVE MORE HALLMARK MOMENTS.
I ask nearly all of my clients to end each session with a Hallmark moment. What I mean by this is that I’d like them to imagine a romantic, mushy Hallmark card and to say out loud to their spouse what they would write inside.
For example, I might “give” Chris a Hallmark card that says, “Don’t worry, you’re safe with me” on the cover. Then I’ll ask Chris what he would tell Karen on the inside of the card. Chris might say, “Don’t worry, you’re safe with me, I really love you and I’ll never let you down.”
Perfect! These words are likely to be very meaningful to Karen and something she’ll think about for several days. I encourage you to do these Hallmark moments on your own, what we say to the other is very powerful. When in doubt, pour on a little Hallmark with your spouse. It's something we all love (as long as it's sincere and genuine).
9. INCREASE YOUR AFFECTION.
Be a little more affectionate with your spouse. Affection can take many forms... sometimes it is a kind word, sometimes it’s a compliment or helping someone with a chore. Others prefer physical touch or a little gift.
Think about how your spouse shows affection and try to give them affection in their preferred way. For example, if your wife always sends long, loving cards to friends on their birthdays, she probably loves words of affection. Give her some words of affection by verbally thanking her for something nice she’s done for you or by leaving a loving post-it note on the mirror in the morning.
If your husband likes to give people gifts, pick up a little token gift for him, like his favorite snack, and have it at home. Make little gestures often, rather than one sweeping gesture once a year. If it’s been a long time since you had any physical closeness, start slowly and remember that physical affection should happen after emotional closeness is achieved. Focus on feeling closer before you try to initiate too much physical touch. It’s good to start with holding hands, a hug, a touch on the shoulder; then proceed slowly from there.
10. TALK ABOUT WHAT MATTERS, SHARE YOUR DEEPER, INNER THOUGHTS.
The single most important thing you can do to feel closer to your spouse is to open up and talk about what’s really on your mind or in your heart. If you’re just starting to reconnect, talk about more easy, superficial things: your day, what’s happening at work, what would be fun to do this weekend.
As you get closer over time, push yourself to go deeper: share what you’re excited about, what you’re worried about, what sore spots you have that need healing, what scares you, what you’re dreaming about.
Close partners feel comfortable sharing anything and everything with their spouse and knowing they’ll be safe sharing that information. Work hard to make your partner feel understood, safe (i.e., not judged or criticized), and supported in each conversation. With time, lots of conversations, and much love, you will find your way back to each other.