Relationship expert and licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Tara Fields shares tips on how to reconnect with your spouse today.
Posted in , Jan 4, 2016
Excerpted with permission from The Love Fix (William Morrow) by Tara Fields, PhD, LMFT
If you feel like you were absent the day they passed out love's rule book, you're not alone. None of us were given a rule book for how to communicate and create a loving relationship. So instead of playing by a common set of rules, we're pushed and pulled by the patterns we created in our childhoods and earlier relationships. With more than 50 percent of marriages ending in divorce, these aren't always the greatest examples. Too often we wind up feeling angry or misunderstood and we react--hurting each other or retreating into hopelessness, and growing apart in the process.
If you're feeling hopeless or ambivalent about your relationship, if you and your partner have grown so far apart that you're leading separate, parallel lives, or if you don't even know how to approach your partner to seek out his or her participation in revitalizing your relationship, focus on the following three steps. Little by little, you will begin to notice a shift in your relationship.
1) Give your spouse a Daily Dose of Gratitude.
Over time, the things you once loved about your partner-- his levelheadedness when faced with stress, her spontaneity and sense of adventure--can beomce the very things that cause the most conflict. Dwell on the negative long enough, however, and you can get stuck in a negative rut. Cultivating gratitude is about more than showing your partner respect and appreciation. It entails retraining your brain so that you home in on the positive. Spend some time focusing on the positive aspects of your relationship, and you can reinvent the entire dynamic. Don't worry about beginning an official Gratitude Journal or coming up with at least three things that you are grateful for, that you admire, or that you appreciated. Find one nice thing to say to your spouse face-to-face every day.
2) Ask your spouse about his or her day.
Don't unload all the highs and lows of your day first. Instead, focus on being a set of listening ears. When your spouse comes home at the end of the day and has had a chance to change clothes, relax, and get settled, ask: "Did you have a nice day?" "How's that project at work going?" "Did you have that conversation with your boss?" These questions cover the basics and give you a chance to know your partner and what he or she really wants. Knowing seemingly trivial details can help you start to show your partner that you really get them.
These basic questions can also help you learn to have conversations again. If you aren't used to discussing deeper issues, such as feelings and fears, with your partner, you're going to need a bit of a warm-up to work your way into it. These basic questions will help you figure out how to talk to and listen to each other again.
3) Find time for physical affection.
Everyone has different needs and desires, but we all have some degree of what I call "skin hunger," a desire to be touched physically. Find a way to express some physical love with your partner each and every day. This might translate into a kiss before work or a hug when he or she arrives home. If you've grown apart, take it slow. Even a gentle kiss on the forehead or holding his or her hand during a movie can restart a connection. Physical touch can make your partner feel heard, understood and emotionally supported. Take some time to think about what you already know about your partner. Putting aside any agenda of your own (this is the most important part), what can you do to support your partner today? Now go and do it!