It’s normal to feel disconnected from your partner from time to time. It happens to the healthiest of couples.
We are all busy. We all have things that should’ve been done yesterday. We may be parents, which adds an extra layer of hectic. We may have demanding jobs or several jobs. We may have completely different schedules from our partners.
So we asked two relationship experts to share several activities couples can do to reconnect and get closer.
Practice daily GEMS.
GEMS is an acronym for “Genuine Encounter Moments,” according to Olga Bloch, LCMFT, a therapist who specializes in working with couples in Rockville, Md. This is simply a time when one partner shares something about themselves or their day, while the other partner listens and then asks three questions to deepen the conversation.
Questions might include: “What was that like for you? Did you enjoy that? [Will you] tell me more about your experience?”
This can take just five minutes, and includes partners giving each other their undivided attention — no phones, TV or eating, she said.
Bloch shared this example: Let’s say your partner tells you they had a bad day. You respond with: “It sounds like it was difficult; what happened?” He or she reveals there was a big argument with his or her mom because both of you aren’t going to her house for the holidays.
You respond with: “That must have been so hard for you. What else was hard for you?” He or she shares the various hurtful comments Mom made. Then you say: “What can I do to help you feel better? How can I support you?” and listen intently as he or she shares their response.
In another example, your partner wants to go bike riding on the weekends, so you ask these questions, Bloch said: What do you like about biking? What was your experience of bike riding from the first time you tried it? Is there anything I can do to support this important hobby?
Learn each other’s love language.
Along with your partner, take this test to determine each of your love languages, said Kirsten Jimerson, MS, LCMFT, a therapist who specializes in working with couples in Bethesda, Md.
Your love language will fall into one of five categories: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time or physical touch.
Share your love languages with each other, she said. “You can even come up with some ideas together of activities or things that fall under your love language categories.”
Jimerson also suggested doing something once a day or a few times a week in your partner’s love language to show them you care. For instance, she said, if your partner scored the highest for “words of affirmation,” make it a point to say “I love you,” “Thanks for working so hard,” “It meant a lot to me when you cleaned up after dinner,” “You bring out the best in me,” or “Thank you for the date. I loved spending time with you.”
If it was “physical touch,” she said, hold their hand, stroke their back or spontaneously kiss their cheek or lips.
Read the book All About Us by Phillip Keel.
Bloch suggested reading this book and responding to the questions. “[T]his opens lines of communication without a lot of hard work because couples just answer the questions in the book.”
Create sexual games to enhance physical intimacy.
Bloch shared these examples: “setting a predetermined amount of time for foreplay or role playing and pretending not to know each other.”
Learn something new together.
This might be anything from learning to salsa dance to playing an instrument to learning a new language to trying a new form of exercise, Bloch said. Then talk about the challenges and pleasures of this activity, she said.
Jimerson also shared these additional connection-boosting activities: make your partner breakfast in bed or a special dinner; work on a household chore together and make it into a game; flirt with each other; give eye contact; and learn to fight smarter. For instance, sit down to talk about disagreements. Take a break if tempers flare up, and return to the conversation when both of you have cooled off, she said.
Reconnecting with your partner doesn’t require grand gestures. Sometimes, it can be as simple as asking them how they’re doing and actually listening to the response.