You don’t have to be told that today’s world is a rapidly moving one. You know it. You feel it every time you start writing your to-do list or reviewing it at night, noticing that you haven’t exactly crossed everything off.
“Every individual, couple, and family experiences the ramifications of the fast-paced world in which we live,” said Kaitlyn Slight, MS, a marriage and family therapist who specializes in working with couples in Raleigh, N.C.
“Coming home from work to do more work, carpooling children, unmanageable responsibilities, and impossible deadlines leave people fatigued, frustrated, stressed, and with little energy to give to relationships.”
When it comes to couples, being busy can boost tension and create distance, she said. It can lead couples to start neglecting their relationship and stop nurturing its needs, she said.
“Additionally, it becomes difficult to accept responsibility for being less present when we know we have ‘so much to do.'”
However, there are things you can do to nourish your connection.
First, intention is key. Most of us take time to work, pay bills and get gas, Slight said. “You have to also be intentional about spending time connecting with your partner.”
Below, Slight shared specific strategies for fostering intimacy and a greater connection.
1. Explore your connection.
According to Slight, ask yourself these questions, and discuss them with your partner: “When do I feel most connected to my partner? Do I know when my partner feels most connected to me?” Your responses can help you figure out new ideas for maintaining your connection, she said.
2. Carve out time for intimacy.
Try to spend at least 15 to 30 minutes enhancing your physical, emotional, intellectual or spiritual connection. You might do this before or after work, or after the kids are in bed. But avoid talking about work or your to-do list, Slight said.
3. Create rituals.
According to Slight, “Rituals are intended to strengthen couple relationships by helping each partner feel loved and connected even when both partners are busy with other obligations.”
This might be anything from kissing on the cheek before leaving for work to leaving an “I love you” note in your partner’s lunchbox to exercising together once a week to sharing one positive thing about the day or your partner, she said.
4. Create boundaries.
Slight suggested couples create their own relationship boundaries. These aren’t set-in-stone rules, she said. Instead, they’re guidelines, which give you “the opportunity to disconnect from the stresses of other things in life and focus on giving and receiving love, attention, and affection.”
Avoid looking at other relationships for examples on how to behave in your own relationship, she said. Talk to each other about how you’d like to set boundaries with work, loved ones and other obligations and responsibilities, she said. This way you can protect and nourish your relationship.
Another helpful type of boundary is allowing time for personal self-care, Slight said. Each partner can unwind — exercise, take a bath, read, write — and then be “fully present when engaging in the relationship.”
5. Check in about your connection.
Either once a week or once a month, talk about your connection with your partner. For instance, you might feel like your relationship is being neglected because of work, friends or the TV, Slight said.
“Knowing when to expect this conversation can help prevent partners from feeling accused or attacked and allow for open and honest communication about the level of intimacy each partner is experiencing.”
We tend to neglect our relationship when we’re most overwhelmed. But, as Slight said, that’s when you need to maintain your connection most.
“After all, what are we working so hard for if not to share our lives and our love with the person and people we hold dearest?” she said.
“Life will not stop moving, but if couples are intentional about connecting with one another, intimacy and love will not simply be maintained, but will continue to grow.”