Marriage is no fairytale. In fact, happily ever-after can sometimes feel like frustrations ever-after. Of course we can appreciate your spouse’s good qualities but, sometimes, they really get under our skin. The dishes that pile up in the sink, the Brita that’s never filled, the socks on the floor… Frustration builds and it’s almost like the universe bellows, “And let the nagging begin!” Because it’s off to the races. With one person feeling like a nag, the other like a chastised child, and resentment festering on both sides.
This pattern sucks. You hate it. Your partner hates it. But somehow you keep ending up circling the same drain. It can feel hopeless and frustrating and really lonely to be in this rut.
Conversations seem to center around chores, household tasks, who’s picking up/dropping off the kid(s), and what’s for dinner. And gone are the days when you’d cuddle, talk about your days, go out on dates, and laugh until your bellies hurt. And, if you’re anything like the couples that I work with, you want those back!
The first step to repairing your marriage is connection. Connection is the difference between coasting down Lakeshore Drive enjoying the views and getting stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Dan Ryan. Marriage is a journey. You’ve got some options for what and how you drive. You’re guaranteed to hit some potholes and need some tires replaced. But, if you tune up your car and get the right Spotify playlist going, you can really enjoy the ride.
There is hope. You don’t have to stay in the Roommate Rut.
The Roommate Epidemic is sweeping through modern marriages but, don’t worry, there is an antidote. It is entirely possible to reconnect and rekindle your relationship if you implement these simple, daily habits. You can have your best friend back. Keep reading for my 5 Top Connection Tips so you can start reconnecting to your partner today.
What Happens When You Don’t Prioritize Your Relationship?
At first, it’s harmless. You’re tired, stressed, and overwhelmed and investing in your relationship requires energy that you don’t have. So attending to the relationship and your partner’s needs falls into that “I’ll get around to it later” bucket that, well, you never get around to... Time is elusive and we lose track of how long it’s been since we’ve taken the time to connect with our partner. Days turn to weeks turn to months turn to years. And all of a sudden we don’t recognize the person sleeping on the other side of the bed. The gulf between you feels like the size of Lake Michigan. And you start to wonder “How did we get here?” and “How can we get back on track?”
Couples don’t drift apart because of major events. Rather it’s a series of habits, rituals, and choices that make or break marriages. It’s not one big thing. It’s a million little things. In that way, staying the course can seem like the easier option. You continue on as you have been, it’s the path you know. But it’s also a lonely path.
Couples on this path are weary wanderers. They feel lonely and unsatisfied. Right now, you and your partner are like ships passing in the night. For awhile now, you’ve been living parallel lives. Conversations are about the kids, chores, or the household. Occasionally you’ll have a polite but superficial exchange. But you can’t remember the last time you had a real conversation or connected sex.
When you married this person you thought they were your soul mate. And now they feel more like a roommate. It’s not enough to prompt you to divorce but it certainly doesn’t make you want to stay married. This isn’t the relationship you want to be in long-term. You’re ready to reconnect and rekindle your passion. You’re at a crossroads. You can continue down this path or do something different. The choice is yours…
Reinvesting and reprioritizing connection…
If you’ve gotten this far in this post, my guess is that you’re seriously considering reinvesting and reprioritizing your marriage. You want to reconnect and rekindle your passion. Because, for you, having your marriage strong and feeling like your partner has your back is important. You’re not ready to throw in the towel. You want to learn and implement the habits that can improve your relationship.
Good news: you’re in the right place. I’m in the business of helping couples have healthy relationships and happy lives. Keep reading for my Top 5 Tips to reconnect to your partner and rekindle your passion…
Connection tips from a marriage therapist
Intentional hellos and goodbyes
Couples drift apart because of the little things. Similarly, it’s the small, everyday habits that can bring you back together. One habit that I encourage couples to cultivate is being intentional about their hellos and goodbyes. It’s a simple, easy way to start to reconnect. And I bet simple and easy sounds really good right about now…
Instead of rushing out the door and shouting bye from across the room, I want to you to embrace your partner. Give them a hug and a kiss goodbye. And then do the same thing when you greet them. It’s a simple way of slowing down and prioritizing the relationship. And, trust me, you need this right about now.
Respond to your partners attempts to connect
Couples are constantly trying to connect with one another. The more your partner responds (positively) to your connection attempts, the more connected you feel (and the more likely you’ll continue to reach out). The roommate rut comes in when partners stop responding to one another’s attempts to connect. Eventually one or both partners stop initiating and they begin to lead parallel lives.
Couples researcher John Gottman calls these “bids for connection” and has identified nine ways that couples reach out for one another.
You are your partner make bids for:
- Attention (“Look at this cute puppy video”)
- Interest (“Can you believe what Trump just tweeted?”)
- Enthusiastic engagement (“Want to plan a trip to Iceland?”)
- Extended conversation (“Jack and Sophie are splitting up. Do you know what happened?”)
- Play (Tickling, goofy faces)
- Humor (dad jokes, funny stories)
- Affection (snuggling, hand holding, initiating sex)
- Self-disclosure (“How was work?”)
Couples then respond to their partner in one of three ways.
- You turn towards your partner. You acknowledge what they are doing or saying. It can be verbal or non-verbal (kissing/cuddling back, a nod, or a smile). This is how you want to respond to most bids of connection.
- You turn against your partner. You get critical or defensive. Perhaps you roll your eyes or snap at them. This is not recommended. But the worst is…
- You turn away from your partner. You don’t acknowledge them. This silent treatment is deadly.
Set aside time to talk
Part of the reason that you’re in the roommate rut, is that you’re out of touch with each other’s lives and emotions. You’ve been living parallel lives for so long you don’t really know each other anymore. Start with setting aside a measly 20 minutes each day to talk. I recommend that couples pick a time that works for them and keep a consistent time.
The purpose of this 20 minute conversation is to connect and decompress. Each of you gets ten minutes to share what’s going on in your life while the other simply listens. This isn’t the time for feedback. It’s time for listening and connecting.
So many couples come into my office feeling like their partner doesn’t hear them. This is a small way to practice hearing and being heard. It keeps you in tune with each other’s world. And that is the foundation of a strong relationship.
Touch while you talk
When couples get into the roommate rut, they stop touching. And lack of touch means lack of connection. When we have skin-to-skin contact, we get a huge boost of oxytocin. This love hormone helps you to feel connected. Plus is relieves stress (and, if you’re anything like my clients, you could use some stress relief!).
Touch is our most intimate form of communication. When you’re talking, hold hands, snuggle, and/or give foot/back massages. Touching while you talk will help you feel connected even while having those stressful conversations about finances, kids, and household chores.
Make space for intimacy
If you don’t make time and space for intimacy, it won’t happen. Life has a way of getting in the way. And if you’re hoping for a connected, red-hot relationship, you’ll want to prioritize intimacy.
Create physical space for intimacy. If you want to get into the mood, you need to set the mood. It can be hard to have a deep emotional or sexual connection when you’re distracted by your environment. You want to create a space that feels cozy and intimate and that fosters conversation and connection.
Create emotional space for intimacy. Many people struggle to get in the mood when they are stressed, overwhelmed, and/or feeling disconnected from their partner.
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