Remember the early days of your relationship with your spouse?
- Romantic dates
- Flirty messages
- Anticipation around next steps
- Long conversations as you got to know each other
- Excitement over your potential future
Today, if you are like me, you and your partner are mere versions of your younger selves, focused now on things like:
- Raising your children
- Meeting financial goals
- Addressing health needs
- Tackling career aspirations
- Cultivating friendships
- Taking care of household tasks like laundry, cooking, and cleaning
- Trying to complete those never ending “to do” lists
The reason so many couples find themselves feeling distanced from each other at this stage of life is simple—We all have a tendency to put our romantic relationship on the back burner after marriage because we think all of the other needs and responsibilities are more pressing.
The kids need you. Work needs you. Your aging parents need you. The youth sports teams need you. Your friends need you. Your house needs you.
After all, this is the person you are spending the rest of your life with, so they will always be there beside you. It’s okay to put your relationship on the back burner right now. How exciting will it be to spend your golden years of retirement with them?
What if you never get to enjoy those years? What if you make it to retirement but after spending decades focusing on others, you realize that you no longer know your partner. Worse yet, what if you realize that you no longer like each other? What if something terrible happens and you don’t get to make it to retirement age?
Sure, putting things on the proverbial back burner can work for a little bit. But, what happens if you leave something on the actual back burner? Eventually it dries out, maybe burns, and becomes a failure.
Marriages are the same.
It’s time to take your relationship off the back burner and start nurturing it now, before it’s too late.
Here are 9 ways to reconnect with your spouse and put the focus back on your relationship without compromising your other responsibilities:
1. Date your partner
I cannot stress enough the value of dating your partner. While you may not be able to afford to hire a babysitter for at least one night each month, you can certainly find a way to creatively date your partner.
Maybe it means taking a day off from work during the day while kids are at school or at grandmas house so you can be alone. Maybe it means working out together at the gym while the kids are in the child care room. Maybe it means simply shutting off the tv, ignoring the dishes, and having a date at home after the kids go to bed. Maybe it means using your money to pay for a sitter and then having an inexpensive date while you walk around Target together.
It doesn’t have to be fancy, romantic, or cost money. You just need to make time for the two of you.
2. Hold staff meetings
You and your partner are essentially running a business. You’re managing a household and that inevitably means there are things like bills, repairs, and maintenance that need to be addressed. If you have children and/or pets, then you also have medical appointments and logistical considerations for others. Let’s not forget about things like laundry, meal prep, shopping, and cleaning.
Would you ever expect a company to run effectively without having some type of formal and consistent check in?
Marriages are the same. Schedule 30-minutes each week to check in with each other on the business aspects of your relationship. This can be a great time to compare calendars, identify breakdowns in communication, plan for next steps, and highlight accomplishments and sources of pride. You can also combine this with a date night — just make sure it’s only a portion of the date!
3. Don’t expect mind reading
So often we fall into the trap of expecting our partner to know us so well that they know what we are thinking and what we need. That’s not fair to your partner or to you.
Communicate your needs with your partner. If you come home expecting your partner to have started dinner but you never asked for that to happen, it’s not fair to then be angry or hurt that it didn’t happen.
Don’t let missed opportunities for communicating your needs lead to built up resentment.
4. Learn your love language
So often members of a couple feel as though their partner is not showing them love. In reality, though, they aren’t speaking their partner’s love language.
My partner may bring me flowers and little gifts, thinking that I know it means he loves me. But, we have learned that Gift Giving is not one of my love languages. Instead, Acts of Service (things like unloading the dishwasher or making a doctor’s appointment for the kids or taking out the trash) make me feel loved.
Get on the same page with each other by reading Dr. Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts so you not only know how to recognize your partner’s expression of love for you but so that you can also more effectively show love to your partner.
5. Take a couple’s vacations
Once you’ve been able to make date nights or date days a priority, the next step is to find a way to take vacations together. This could be a big vacation like a few nights in the Caribbean or traveling through Europe or it could mean you rent an AirBnb or cheap hotel room the next town over for one night.
The location doesn’t matter; what matters is that you have the opportunity to step out of your everyday life just the two of you and reconnect away from the normal routines.
6. Try new things together
Remember what it was like going through all the firsts in your relationship? There is something exciting about experiencing something new with your partner and we lose that spark the longer we’ve been together.
Consider taking up new hobbies or trying new things together. The options are limitless- golfing, dance lessons, hiking, reading a new book together, trying a new restaurant together.
The actual thing you do doesn’t matter. The key is for it to be something new for both of you.
7. Do things that your partner enjoys
It’s very rare that two members of a partnership enjoy all of the same things. Is there something that your partner enjoys that you find extremely boring? Find a way to try to do some of those things with your partner.
Learn that video game they love to play. Go to the concert of the band they really like. Go to that Indian restaurant even though you don’t like that type of cuisine.
Make them feel valued by showing an interest in the things that make them happy.
8. Physical connections
Don’t wait for there to be a natural physical spark between the two of you. With kids and work and responsibilities and pressures and competing schedules, it’s very likely that by the time the two of you reach your bed at the end of the day, the last thing you have the energy for is sex. Those are exactly the times when you need to make a priority though.
What would happen if the next time you found yourself with a fleeting thought of physical connection, you actually pursued it and put sleep or that pile of laundry off for a little bit longer?
What kind of impact would it have on your relationship if your put physical connection a bit higher up on your list of priorities?
9. Lean into each other, not away
When things get hard many couples lean away from each other. They complain and vent to their friends when their partner does something hurtful or irritating. They ignore opportunities to communicate directly with each other about concerns, instead leaving their relationship open to built up feelings of resentment and anger.
Lean into each other during those difficult times. Have those challenging and uncomfortable conversations with each other.
It’s what we do in almost all other aspects of our life, right? We have difficult conversations with our children, our friends, our coworkers, other parents on the sidelines at our kids games, and even strangers on social media. So, why won’t we do it with our partners? Is it maybe because we are leaving our relationship on the back burner, assuming we’ll have time to address it in the future?
The time to strengthen your marriage is now and you can find ways to reconnect meaningfully with your partner without taking your attention away from the other important relationships in your life.
Wouldn’t those younger versions of yourselves want you to make your marriage a priority now?
Jenni Brennan is a psychotherapist, college professor, creator of Changing Perspectives (www.changingperspectivesonline.com), and co-host of The Changing Perspectives Podcast (https://podnews.net/podcast/1458220280). Jenni is passionate about exploring the topics of parenting, relationships, grief, and mental health through her writing and podcast episodes.
Jenni lives with her husband, 2 teenage sons, 3 dogs, and 2 cats in Boston, Massachusetts. You can follow Jenni on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/changingperspectivespodcast and on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/changingperspectivesblog/