For couples, getting closer can mean many things. It might mean learning more about each other, sharpening your communication skills, deepening your emotional bond, fighting fair and just having more fun.
But there are many ways you can build closeness outside the therapy couch, she said. Here are five strategies to try.
1. Check in with each other daily.
“Leading couples therapists recommend creating an established time each day for couples to touch base with each other,” said Rastogi, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Arlington Heights, Ill. For instance, family therapist William Doherty and his wife carved out 15 minutes after dinner for checking in with each other, she said.
“Ask your partner how they are doing emotionally overall, and also specifically how close they feel to you.” For instance, you might ask each other, “Do you feel open and connected? Or distant? Or somewhere in between? Is there anything you want to share with me?”
2. Participate in new activities.
According to Rastogi, her couples clients have tried everything from hot yoga to salsa lessons to massage classes, which “helped them get closer on many different levels.”
3. Give each other space.
Getting closer by being apart sounds counterintuitive. But “time apart allows partners to grow in ways in which they complement their partners,” Rastogi said. Plus, “No one person can ever meet all your needs for your entire adult life!”
So partners might schedule time for their individual interests and passions, and hang out separately with their friends. Rastogi quoted Khalil Gibran, who once said: “But let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of the heavens dance between you.”
4. Consider your partner’s needs.
If your partner seems angry, withdrawn or conflicted, ask them “What do you need?” Rastogi said. “This allows the couple to explore emotions, and also positions the other partner as validating, and available to help.” It shows your partner you support and care about them. And it no doubt soothes the sting from conflict and puts you back on the same team.
5. Explore deeper emotions together.
If certain issues really rile up your partner, there’s probably more beneath the surface. If they seem especially upset about something, Hanks suggested asking, “When have you felt that way before?” In her work with couples, she’s “found that if they can explore deeper emotions together and link it to their past family patterns, [then] empathy and understanding flourish.”