“When we enter a relationship we often expect how we connected to remain the same. But the things that connect us can change over time,” according to Erik R. Benson, MSW, LCSW, a private therapist in the Chicago and North Suburbs area.
And this may cause a disconnect in your relationship. Naturally, you may feel overwhelmed or unsure about how to reestablish your connection.
“Start small with just one thing every day. And let it build from that, said Meredith Richardson, Esq., a mediator, conflict coach and trainer who creates retreats designed to help partners be their best selves.
Doing something small every day is important because your connection with your partner is a daily commitment.
As psychotherapist and relationship coach Susan Lager, LICSW, said, connection is “a couple’s co-commitment to a daily, mindful practice of gratitude, generosity, kindness, compassion and joy in whatever ways resonate for them.”
Here are seven simple suggestions for cultivating your closeness.
1. Do things together.
“I can’t tell you how many couples I’ve counseled — especially couples in long-term relationships — who fall out of the habit of doing things together,” said Christina Steinorth, MFT, a psychotherapist and author of the book Cue Cards for Life: Thoughtful Tips for Better Relationships.
It’s not surprising that 10 years or even several years down the line, couples don’t have much in common, she said. Having shared experiences keeps your connection alive.
2. Touch throughout the day.
“Touch is a very primal, visceral way to feel connected to someone,” said Ashley Davis Bush, LCSW, a psychotherapist who specializes in couples therapy and co-author of 75 Habits for a Happy Marriage. It reminds us of our most basic needs as infants, and “we need to be held.”
3. Get romantic.
“Connecting with your partner has one variable that is not found in any other relationship: romance,” said Aaron Karmin, MA, LCPC, a psychotherapist at Urban Balance.
“Carve out the time [for romance, flirtation and sex], and honor it,” said Trevor Crow, LMFT, an expert on modern relationships. “Encourage your partner to express their inner feisty, sexy self.”
4. Be interested in your partner’s interests.
It’s important to know what your partner loves to do and join them, Crow said. For instance, even if you hate hockey, watch a game with them, she said. “Feel his or her joy and go with it.”
“Connecting through empathy and genuine interest with one’s partner’s passions helps develop greater intimacy and commitment,” said Douglas Stephens, Ed.D, MSW, LICSW, co-author of The Couples’ Survival Workbook.
For instance, if your spouse loves painting, you might say: “I can’t help but notice how you were today so intent in your painting. What do you process or think about while you are at work? It really impressed me.”
5. Have inside jokes.
“When you laugh with your partner, you create a positive bond, which is what connecting is all about,” Karmin said. Inside jokes derive from shared experiences, such as parties, anniversaries, travels, funny films and goofy singing or dancing, he said.
6. Give eye contact.
According to Karmin, looking into your partner’s eyes when you’re talking or listening to them communicates, “I am here in this place and moment with you. I’m not looking at a screen or giving priority to anything else. I’m making you my priority.”
Turning off all distractions and focusing solely on your partner means you’re choosing to make a connection, he said.
7. Perform small, sweet acts.
Karmin shared these examples: “writing love notes or sending special e-mail messages; helping each other with a project; and preparing a favorite breakfast.”
Relationships don’t work on autopilot. They require nourishment like a plant or pet, Bush said. So it’s important “to give [your relationship] that kind of attention.”