In 2016 author Jessica Turner surveyed 2000 working moms. Two-thirds said that marriage or making time for their partner was a challenge. For instance, one working mom wrote: “My husband and I are so busy and tired that we ‘forget’ to pay attention to each other.”
Another wrote: “My husband and I find it difficult to find time to have any sort of conversation outside of work and kids.”
Another working mom expressed: “I feel as if I have become a roommate to my husband. I love and adore him, but I have no energy left after taking care of the kids. I miss him dearly, but I feel as if I have nothing left to give.”
Many, many husbands and wives feel this way. They feel disconnected from their partners and too exhausted to do anything about it.
When was the last time you really talked to your spouse—not about bills or kids or schedules? How often do you talk about how you’re doing, and what’s on your mind? How often do you look at each other—really look at each other?
Our partners often get the short end of the stick. Because we can’t exactly ignore our kids. And we can’t ignore work. And we have to eat, which typically requires grocery shopping and cooking. And we have to maintain the household (even just a bit). So since something has to give, sadly, it’s usually our relationship.
However, there are simple and small yet significant things you can do to reconnect and strengthen your relationship.
Turner talked to several counselors for her new excellent, encouraging book Stretched Too Thin: How Working Moms Can Lose the Guilt, Work Smarter and Thrive (that’s where the above comments come from).
For instance, Bill Lokey suggested these valuable tips:
- Share a high and low from your day with each other. Be honest about the best and worst parts of your day. This is an important opportunity to share your heart with your spouse—and for your spouse to listen fully, without interrupting and without judgment.
- Read to each other in the evenings. It doesn’t matter what book you choose. It’s the act of reading that inspires intimacy. For instance, here’s a sweet snippet from a working mom who read with her husband on vacation: “The intimacy of sharing written words and a story in your head can be very special. Watching someone speak, hearing their voice, and even feeling their breath are things we don’t tend to do naturally. When they read to you, you automatically watch their mouth and tongue move around the words and their facial expression change…Your own breathing begins to sync with theirs as you become aware of the rhythm of their chest, as they breathe in to catch the next word. For me, it’s made me want to place my hand on his chest as it moves up and down, inhaling and exhaling characters, plots, and chapters.”
- Play a board game. Maybe you played certain games when you first started dating. Or maybe you want to try games you loved as a child. Either way, playing together is powerful. As psychiatrist Stuart Brown, M.D., writes in his book Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, play “allows us to express our joy and connect most deeply with the best in ourselves, and in others…Play is the purest expression of love.”
- Try prompts. According to Turner, “certain questions are designed to unpack a person’s personal narrative”—no matter how minor or silly they might seem. For instance, she suggests these prompts: “What is your favorite memory from childhood? What is your favorite game and why? What is the most embarrassing experience of your life?” Other questions to consider: What’s your version of an ideal day, from sunup to sundown? What are you currently wishing for? What’s the best joke you’ve ever heard? What skill do you yearn to learn? What makes you want to cry? What always cracks you up?
- Pray together. “By presenting your prayers and petitions to God as one marital unit, you will forge a stronger connection,” Turner writes. If praying doesn’t resonate with you, think about other small ways you can connect on a deeper level. Maybe you meditate together. Maybe you sit in silence and simply hold hands. Maybe you talk about what you want for your family.
Another counselor Dawn Sturkey tells Turner that she recommends many of her couple clients savor quality time on Sundays. That’s because many people don’t work then and the kids usually go to bed earlier than on Friday and Saturday. Turner and her husband always watch a show on Sundays. They have three kids and both work full-time. (In addition to her writing and blog The Mom Creative, Turner also works 9 to 5.) Their kids already know that they need to be in bed right at their bedtime because mom and dad are spending that time together.
It’s also important to remember the basics. We tend to be kinder (and more polite!) to others, including complete strangers, than to our partners. Turner reminds us to use words like “please” and “thank you”—and to incorporate sweet gestures. For instance, she has a stack of “I love you” cards, which she sometimes fills out and slips into her husband’s computer case. “Kindness always is appreciated, and the ones we love the most should experience it the most frequently,” she writes.
Reconnecting to our partners is about being intentional. It’s about paying attention to each other. It’s about getting to know each other—even if we’ve been together for over a decade. It’s about appreciating the relationship, and reminding yourself regularly of just how blessed you both are.
Reconnecting doesn’t require big things. It can be a short but sweet conversation before bedtime. It can be a game of Scrabble. It can be a long embrace. It can be a silly question. It can be 20 minutes of your favorite show. It can be saying “I love you. I’m so proud of you,” or “How can I help?” or “I am here.”