Mark: Most of us would say we’re “busy.” Busy with work, busy getting the kids to all their activities, busy with family, busy serving at church, and the list goes on! Many of those activities we do side by side with our spouse. We go to church together, attend kids or grandkids events together, we might even serve together.
We can be great tag team partners and even the best sitting-together-at-little-league couples out there and still feel very disconnected from each other. This happens when we confuse activity with connection.
Jill: Accomplishing tasks side by side is being active together. Spending time face to face, hearing each other’s heart, is connecting as a couple.
Mark: We can be a well-oiled couple machine on the outside that has run out of gas on the inside. When that happens, things look good to others but they don’t really feel good to us. If we don’t prioritize connection, the activity will grow empty and we’ll feel like two ships passing in the night.
Jill: This is when the slow fades we talk about in No More Perfect Marriages begin to set in. The slow fade of naivete says, “We’ll invest in our marriage when the kids get older.” The slow fade of minimizing says, “I don’t have anything else to give you…I’m spread as thin as it is.” The slow fade of avoiding emotion says, “Look, I’m providing for the family so our kids can have the things we didn’t have. I don’t have time for anything more than that.” And the slow fade of defensiveness says, “I’m doing the best I can!”
Mark: When we dated before marriage, we likely had many conversations…lots and lots of connecting conversations. We talked about what we like and dislike. We talked about the things that interest us and cause us to be curious. We shared our feelings. We tuned into the nuances and emotions of the everyday stuff of life. We asked questions, explored each other’s heart, and shared our own thoughts and feelings.
Jill: Then we tie the knot and life gets busy…with work, with kids, with activities that fill the calendar. And we stop talking, and connecting, and really tuning into what’s going on inside each other. Sometimes we’re not even tuning into what’s going on inside ourselves! When this happens we often see an increase in conflict…or our hearts start to drift apart.
Mark: So how do we change that? How do we increase connection and decrease conflict? How do reintroduce connecting conversations into our relationship? How do we stop expecting activity to provide connection? And how do we turn activity into connecting opportunities?
Here are 6 next steps to take to increase connection in your marriage:
What’s filling your time that isn’t filling your heart? Do you need to limit the kids’ activities to one sport per season? Do you need to learn to say “no” to volunteer requests more often? When we’re going, going, going, we don’t have the time to be sensitive, patient, or explore the nuances of life and emotions, victories and struggles. Is it time to resign as coach? Is it time to step down from a community service volunteer position? Do I need to say no to overtime opportunities so I can say yes to being fully present for my family?
Add meaningful touch to your daily interaction.
Hold hands as you sit on the sidelines of the soccer field. Get in the habit of just holding each other at least once a day for a one-minute full body hug. Anytime someone prays–at the dinner table, at church, in small group–hold hands. Give each other a back rub and share with each other the stress you’re carrying that day by asking, “What’s weighing heavy on your heart tonight?” Resist the temptation to be two ships passing in the night. Be intentional about touching and talking every day.
Ask questions about thoughts and feelings.
Most of us are asking questions of our spouse about LOGISTICS but not THOUGHTS and FEELINGS. You did it when you were dating so you are completely capable…but you just might be out of practice! Get in the habit of asking each other questions like:
- If you could choose one word to describe how you’re feeling today, what would it be? (Need help figuring out what you’re feeling? Check out this feelings word list from our friends at www.HowWeLove.com!)
- What are you struggling with today?
- What are the messages only you can hear?
- How can I pray for you? encourage you? help you?
Resist the urge to challenge, change, or correct your spouse’s thoughts and feelings.
We feel connected when we’re heard. We feel loved when we’re accepted. We feel heard when our spouse empathizes and validates our feelings. We have to learn to feel with our spouse and resist the urge to fix. If you’ve ever heard the saying, “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care,” it applies to marriage!
For those who tend to be a fixer, learn to bite your tongue and start responding with empathetic statements like, “Wow…that must have been hard,” or “I’m so sorry, I know that hurts,” or “I can see how that depleted you.”
If your spouse tends to be the fixer, start giving him or her cues to what you need by saying things like, “I’ve had a tough day. I don’t need a “fix it” answer, I just need a listening ear and a heart that cares,” before you share your feelings. You might even simply say, “Will you just hold me for a few minutes?” and then enjoy that connecting, full-body hug.
Become No More Perfect Date Night members.
No More Perfect Date Night is designed to help couples connect. Couples that watch the short videos together and utilize the “Talk About It” conversation starters report an increase in their feeling of connection. Individuals that do No More Perfect Date Night alone–even if their spouse isn’t willing–tell us that the content and the “Think About It” reflection questions help them to improve what they bring to the marriage.
Both couple members and individual members tell us that the once-a-month Design-A-Date’s are helping them have fun together again. The expert interviews help us all to know we’re not alone and the monthly live webinars allow you to ask any question about marriage you have! Hop over and learn more about starting a free 7-day trial of No More Perfect Date Night, so you can increase your connection with your spouse today!
No couple intends to drift apart. We slowly drift apart when we stop steering the boat and instead allow the waves of life to determine our direction. Stay at the helm with your hands on the wheel. Stop confusing activity with meaningful connection. Start talking about more than who picks up what kid when or what restaurant you’re going to for dinner. Join the No More Perfect Date Night community. Put date nights on the calendar. Schedule sex in order to make it a priority. Be intentional about growing your marriage and making it a priority!
More than anything, keep being intentional about connecting face to face and heart to heart…just like you did when you were dating!
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