Because of daily responsibilities, long to-do lists and stressors big and small, it’s easy to feel disconnected from our partners. It’s also easy to take each other for granted, especially if you’ve been together for a long time.
Your connection with your partner needs cultivating. That’s why we asked relationship experts to share the exercises they assign to couples to help them get closer and nourish a stronger bond. Here are three activities to try.
Mudita Rastogi, Ph.D, a marriage and family therapist in Arlington Heights, Ill., suggested couples turn off their phones and put the kids to bed. Go into a room that isn’t your bedroom, and sit so you’re facing each other and your knees are almost touching, she said. Take a minute or several minutes to look into each other’s eyes.
Consider your own reactions and thoughts. Then share them with your partner, she said.
“This exercise works because it promotes the kind of intimacy that is often lost in the busyness of our day. It is a great way to connect with a partner, and tune into one’s own and his or her inner world.”
“For five days, write down one thing your partner did for you that you appreciated,” said Christina Steinorth-Powell, MFT, a psychotherapist who specializes in couples counseling in Santa Barbara, Calif. These don’t have to be grand gestures; they can be small, sweet acts.
For instance, Steinorth-Powell’s list would include her husband joining her to walk the dogs. This shows her that he wants to spend time together.
Her husband’s list would include Steinorth-Powell making sweet tea. “He’s told me that he appreciates the fact that I actually took the time to learn how he likes his tea and that I go through the effort to make it for him.”
After the five days, exchange your lists. “It’s very easy to feel taken for granted in relationships and feel that the little things we do for our partner are overlooked.” This exercise helps partners see that their gestures are noticed and appreciated, she said.
“Many times, we get so caught up in doing the things we think our partners will value that we don’t really know and/or pay attention to the things they really want or desire,” said Steinorth-Powell, also author of the book Cue Cards for Life: Thoughtful Tips for Better Relationships.
Instead, each of you can write down five things your partner can do or already does to show their love, she said.
“For example, when my husband helps me with housework, or cooks dinner, this shows me he loves me because he’s trying to lighten my load.” For Steinorth-Powell’s husband, running errands or simply sitting together in the mornings and evenings makes the list.
Steinorth-Powell has found that her clients are often surprised at how easy it is to let their partners know they love them. “Most of the time it’s not big, expensive gestures that show love, but day-to-day little things that are simple to do.”
“Intimacy is not easy,” Rastogi said. Any of these exercises can trigger complex reactions. That’s why she suggested seeking counseling, which is especially important if your relationship is in distress.