Bonds decrease and barriers increase over time in nearly every relationship.
Maybe it’s him, maybe it’s her, maybe it’s life? The thing is, no matter how long we’ve been with our significant other, there will always be a need, a reason, a necessity for connection.
The only way to foster or maintain connection in a relationship is to...work at it. Yep, like most other things in life, even relationships require work. As I always like to say, if you aren’t growing, you’re dying.
Consider the following ways to work at connecting with your significant other:
How we treat, interact with, and connect with other people truly is a reflection of our own self. This is why, when looking at ways to connect with others...your significant other...we must start at the source and look within.
So, how do you know if you need to be paying some extra attention to your own needs?
In some ways, we all practice some elements of self-care naturally. But, if you find yourself experiencing any of the following: low energy, impatience, trouble sleeping or concentrating, lack of motivation, or even that your relationships are suffering...research would suggest that all of these things can be rooted in a lack of self-care.
In caring for ourselves, just like with anything else in our life, we have to plan, prepare, and prioritize. Look at the following list (though not exhaustive) and see how, what, when, and where you can incorporate these acts of self-care into your daily life:
Sleep Strive for 7-9 hours nightly
Exercise Choose an activity you enjoy (and thus will stick with), and commit to moving your body for at least 30 minutes a day. MOVEMENT IS LIFE. We were designed to move and it influences EVERY aspect of your life, mental, chemical, physical, spiritual.
Relaxation Prayer/meditation, journaling, long walks, hot baths, massages, pedicures, listening to music, reading a book, enjoying a glass of wine or a cup of hot tea, etc.
Laughter Laughter truly is the best medicine, laugh more, stress less
Pleasure Make time for loved ones, friends, and the things or activities that make you happy, and know that it’s okay to say ‘no’ to people and situations that cause or bring you pain.
Communication is a crucial part of connecting with your partner. Failure to openly and lovingly communicate can sacrifice happiness and feelings of security in a relationship.
A lack of communication can create a barrier between you and your significant other. Then, when “life happens” and stresses, worries, and sorrows mound, these barriers amplify all of those things.
If you openly and effectively communicate with your significant other, you can work through life’s trials together.
And, though often neglected, one of the most important forms of communication that we should engage in with our significant other is that of listening.
Empathy is the root of listening. When we listen, we understand, we empathize, we build trust...we connect.
3. Speak their language
Everyone loves differently, and everyone receives love differently. What may feel like an expression of love to your spouse, may just be a routine task to you. And, what may seem mundane to you (watching television together for example), may be special time spent together in the eyes of your spouse.
In other words, when we give and receive love in different ways, we’re essentially speaking different “love languages” to one another. Author Gary Chapman addresses this notion in his book, The 5 Love Languages.
Consider these five ways of showing love in your efforts to connect with your partner:
Words of affirmation Using verbal communication to edify and convey love to your partner.
Acts of service Showing love for your partner in action, through effort.
Receiving gifts Love is felt through receiving meaningful or thoughtful gifts (the focus being on thoughtfulness more so than materialism).
Quality time The focus here is on love shown through meaningful time spent together where your attention is fully given to your significant other.
Physical touch Those who speak the love language of physical touch feel loved and connected to their partner through touch, and may feel unloved in the absence of it.
Learning both you and your significant other’s love language can help you connect and remain connected in your relationship as you speak each other’s language accordingly.
Whether or not “quality time” is your love language, spending time with your significant other is still of great importance.
Simply put, how can we connect with one another, in any relationship, if we don’t spend time together? We know this is a reality, yet it can be hard to accomplish.
Perhaps your job is demanding. Maybe the kids’ schedule has you constantly on the go. And, when the weekend arrives the to-do list is long and time is limited.
But, just like self-care, relationship-care takes planning, preparation, and prioritizing.
Perhaps you could:
Plan a weekend away together when possible.
Prepare a meal just for the two of you.
Catch a movie.
Go out for a quick walk together.
Coordinate your work and/or home schedules to facilitate a lunch date.
Grab a cup of coffee together and talk about your day.
Tailor activities to your shared interests and connect with one another while enjoying that activity together.
5. Focus on the positive
We all have faults. We all have quirky, annoying or even negative habits. I believe we can label these characteristics as...being human!
But, focus is everything. If you look for the negative, you’ll see it everywhere, in everything, and in everyone, including your significant other. And, nothing can kill connection like focusing on the negative aspects of your partner.
If you only focus on your partner’s negative traits or habits, your entire outlook on your significant other...on the whole relationship...will be negative.
But see, that’s the thing about focus, you can just as easily flip that around, choosing to see the positive everywhere, in everything, and in everyone...including your significant other. The choice is yours.
No one wants a spotlight on their shortcomings.
Focus on your partner’s positive qualities. Communicate with one another to work through any negative characteristics that truly need attention, but learn to value your partner.
When we practice gratitude, we reduce stress, improve our mood, decrease depression, and have an overall inclination towards happiness.
Gratitude communicates worth. And, when you practice gratitude towards your significant other you can nourish your connection as a couple.
Build on the act of focusing on your partner’s positive characteristics by communicating the ways in which you value and appreciate them.
Practicing this in your relationship can quell negative feelings towards your partner and increase the bond between you.
Physical contact is one of the most basic human needs. In an intimate relationship, hand holding, hugging, and kissing are important. These acts can raise the body’s levels of oxytocin, a hormone that actually impacts the bond you have or are creating with your significant other.
And, though all of these things can be considered intimate acts, there is truly no greater act of intimacy than sex.
To emphasize the importance of sex...God Himself puts a premium on it for connection in a marriage.
In reference to sexual intimacy, 1 Corinthians 7:5 says “do not deprive one another…” The implication here is that an absence of a sexual relationship amongst spouses can lead to disunity, lack of connection, and even unwanted temptation.
Also, be sure not to neglect communication in the bedroom. Thoughtfully talk with your spouse about their needs and desires regarding intimacy to further enhance your experiences and bond in and through the bedroom.
8. Be present
I get it. Life is full of distractions. They often can’t be avoided. But, how many of us have been guilty of being physically present with our significant other while not mentally or emotionally present?
Not only are most of us guilty of this, chances are we’ve been on the receiving end of that situation as well.
When we’re with our partner and we feel like we’re having to compete for their attention...how does that feel? It hurts, right?
We all want to feel important, especially to our loved one. So, perhaps the best rule to apply here is what is often referred to as “the golden rule.” Treat others the way you want to be treated.
Commit to being present (mentally, physically, and emotionally) when you’re with your partner. Make time for one another, and clear away the distractions when you’re together.
9. Show Interest
Just because you are in a relationship with someone doesn’t always mean that your likes and dislikes will align. But, this doesn’t mean that you can’t connect even through diverse interests.
You don’t have to like what your partner likes. But, you can show interest in the things that are important to your significant other.
If a hobby, interest, or issue is important to your spouse, studies show that asking your significant other about those passions (whether they would normally be of interest to you or not) can create feelings of closeness and facilitate a bond and connection in your relationship.
10. Little things are big things
Remember when you first started dating your significant other? Remember the newness?
I would venture to say that during that time you engaged and took delight in all kinds of little things.
Did you gaze into each other’s eyes? Did the compliments abound? Were small touches never lacking? Was your flirting game on point? Did you write letters to one another (do people still do that...or is it all texting all the time now)? Did you make him coffee in the mornings? Did you know exactly how she liked her tea?
All of those small things made big differences in those first stages of your relationship, right? So, if those little things have gone away...may I ask, why?
Life. Kids. Work. Age. Time. Conflict. Change. ...right? But, those are just excuses. Excuses rob connection and fulfillment in your relationships (all of your relationships).
Don’t become complacent. There is no room for it in your relationship with your significant other.
Complacency and connection are sworn enemies. And, when complacency permeates a relationship, connection goes out the window.
So, think of all of those little things you took delight in doing at the beginning of your relationship. Now, commit to bringing them back if you’ve presently been making excuses to forego them, and relish in the renewed excitement and connection they bring.
We all need connection. Make no mistake, people need people. But, just because we may be seriously dating, engaged, or married doesn’t mean that we automatically have an unbreakable connection with our significant other. Connection takes work.
Work on yourself, your health and your well-being, so that you can be there for others in your life.
Communicate openly and effectively with your significant other. Listen well.
Learn your love language. Learn your partner’s love language. Foster connection by speaking that language to your loved one.
Make spending time with your significant other a priority.
Focus on the positive qualities in your partner.
Communicate gratitude to your partner.
Enjoy the closeness brought through intimacy with your spouse.
When you are present physically, be sure to be present mentally and emotionally as well.
Show interest in the things that interest your significant other, and
MEDICAL DISCLAIMER This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Charles Livingston nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.