“The things I do for the family are barely noticed, but I’m quickly called out for every slip-up. Nothing I do seems good enough.”
“Spending time together seems to be at the very bottom of the priority list. I know our lives are jam-packed, but sometimes I feel so alone.”
I heard these comments from Sarina and Sean (not their real names). Like so many, they invested enormous time and energy into their jobs and their kids, their massive to-do lists, and their goals. In the process, they seemed to lose sight of each other. Their relationship was on the back burner. At the same time, their commitment to get things right led them to do some quality control at home. They critiqued each other at every turn. Before long, Sarina and Sean found an emotional chasm between them. Neither one felt important in the other’s life, nor did they feel valued. They began to wonder if they still loved each other.
Reconnection for Busy Couples
What helped them reconnect required some refocused attention and sharing, but a minimum amount of time. I gave Sarina and Sean research-based tools to strengthen their bond and rediscover what they cherished in each other.
- They actively looked for ways of letting the other person know that they are important and valued.
- Both began looking for what the other was doing right and then sharing appreciation for their efforts.
- Sean began checking in with Sarina in the middle of the day to see how she was doing.
- Sarina began shutting off the sound on her phone at dinner time so she could concentrate on their conversation without distractions.
- They began focusing on what they cherish in each other and sharing those thoughts regularly.
- When Sarina noticed Sean playfully teaching the kids a new game, she let him know that she thinks he’s a fun and loving dad.
- Sean shared how much he admired Sarina’s compassion after hearing her comfort a friend.
- When Sarina took time to listen to Sean’s conflicting thoughts and emotions about his boss, Sean shared his gratitude. Then, Sarina thanked him for being so open and honest with her about his feelings.
- They added a few new rituals of connection. These are things that you do on a regular basis that show deep affection.
- They usually kissed each other good night but decided to also have a few moments of cuddling before sleep.
- After learning about the health benefits of the six-second kiss (a German study showed that men live an average of ten years longer if they do this each morning), they chose to give each other a long kiss before beginning their workday.
- Planning weekly couple time or date nights became a priority. They searched for “at-home date nights” and got lots of wonderful ideas for things to do after the kids were asleep.
- They made sure that they carved out at least twenty minutes each day to speak.
- This was particularly difficult because of their children. If they waited until the end of the night, they were too exhausted to pay attention to each other. After some trial and error, they found that if they let the dishes soak after dinner and instead of cleaning, took that time to sit down and talk while the kids played, they had the energy to really hear and offer support to each other. This became another ritual of connection.
- They began talking about their sex life and sharing what they liked.
- This was a little awkward at first, but overcoming this and taking the time to talk about sex made them both feel desired. These discussions—and their recognition that sometimes sex had to be planned to fit into busy schedules—raised the pleasure of their intimacy to a new level. Their whole world seemed right.
A New Culture of Appreciation
It took Sarina and Sean several months to slowly build these activities into their daily lives, but they both reported that it was time well spent. They felt better about each other and shifted the atmosphere in their home. Even their children were more content. The whole family embraced this new culture of appreciation.