Q: How can couples make the best of their time together so that they enhance their connection each and every day?
**This was a question submitted from someone who is not struggling with addiction, infidelity, or betrayal, and so my response is geared towards healthy couples with no addiction and betrayal history. If you have addiction and betrayal history some of these ideas may not work depending on where you are in recovery.**
The Savvy Answer:
One of the first things I want to address with this question is the concept of time. Too often couples say, “I don’t have enough time to take them out on a date” or “we never have time for each other since we had kids.”
I want to challenge that limiting belief.
Now, I want to say that there are going to be times in your life where there genuinely is not enough time.
Sometimes you’re going through a medical crisis, a death in the family, a trauma.
There are going to be seasons that are more challenging for couples when it comes to making time for each other.
Strategy #1 To Enhance Connection: Try Something New Together
When you and your partner are looking to enhance the connection or light the spark back after years of disconnection, doing a new activity that neither of you have done can really challenge you as a couple!
When you do a new activity together, both of you are doing this activity for the first time, so you’re on a more level playing field.
You also are doing something new which releases dopamine, which can enhance your connection to each other because this new thing together is exciting.
You might also find that this new activity you do, you both love and it would be great for future date nights!
Strategy #2 To Enhance Connection: Explore Your Common Interests
Reality is that most likely you and your partner will have separate interests. However, oftentimes couples do have at least 1-2 common interests.
Those interests might even be the reason you liked your partner in the first place!
Explore those interests! We as humans can always learn more. If you and your partner are learning together or enhancing the skill together you will feel closer and have even more to talk about.
Plus, when you have a common interest, you can even make it more fun when you add in friendly competition. If you both love cooking, on a Sunday you guys could do a cook off on a certain dish and see who made the dish better. And when you choose who did it better, you share what you did differently that made the dish better so that your partner can learn from you.
Strategy #3 To Enhance Connection: Explore Your Partner’s Interests
As I said above, you and your partner most likely don’t have the exact same interests. When you see your partner into their thing – whether it’s cars, writing, music, cooking, etc. – join in!
Get interested in their interest – yes, even if you have no interest in it whatsoever.
My husband loves cars. Seriously, he can live, eat, and breath cars and he’d be happy. Now, when I met my husband I knew nothing about cars. Now 7 years later, I can name car parts, I can identify different cars, trims, and tail lights at night.
I’ve never been interested in cars, but watching my husbands passion and his own learning, growth, and development as a BMW & Audi technician meant I’d most likely be learning about cars whether I wanted to or not.
Now, while I am not as enthusiastic or interested in cars as my husband, I do engage in car activities with him – whether we are talking about some car dream of his, researching new cars together, or letting my husband tell me about the new car he worked on or the big job he accomplished, I’m there.
Same goes for him. When he met me, he knew nothing of psychology and thought it was stupid. 7 years later, he is initiating psychological discussions and debate with me, he is using the psych stuff I taught him on me in moments I need a reality check.
We both took the time to explore each other’s interests and even if it’s not our number one interest, we are now well versed enough in that interest to engage each other in it and feel closer because of it.
Strategy #4 To Enhance Connection: 30 Minutes/Day Guideline
Couples express how they don’t spend enough time with each other, and to begin to change that habit, you need to replace the old habit with a new one.
Assess where you spend your time in your day. Figure out what is LESS important than your partner, because I bet you have 30 minutes somewhere to give to your partner.
If you assess your schedule and you realize you are stopping for coffee before work and that means you stay late at work to make up for it, skip the morning coffee. Make it at home, save some money, get to work on time, and get home on time where you and your partner will have extra time now in the evenings.
If you see that you are binging social media and wasting (yes, social media is often a waste) your time endlessly scrolling, cut the habit. Put the phone/computer/tablet down and turn toward your partner and give them your attention and time.
If you are marathoning TV, again, cut the tech, and turn toward your partner.
In the 30 minutes you do decide to spend with your partner (because it is a choice you’re making to spend or not spend time with them), assess what will enhance your connection.
Is it the new activity? Exploring a common interest?
Or, is it as simple as re-establishing healthy communication in your relationship on a day to day basis.
At The Modern Mr. and Mrs. we have TFE (for couples without betrayal, infidelity, or addiction) and ACED (for couples with addiction, betrayal, infidelity).
TFE is something my husband and I came up with when we were first dating.
It’s really simple:
Each of you share your thoughts, feelings, and emotions for that day.
Emotion is the overall state and the feelings are the things that were fleeting and shifted throughout the day. I.e. Emotional state was annoyed and I felt happy because (insert situation), I also felt angry when (insert situation).
ACED is a more in depth communication tool that we do in our Knights & Warriors program, and it’s been the #1 tool that our clients said made all the difference in repairing their marriage.
Relationship Opportunity: Write out your schedule and rank each item in terms of top priority to bottom priority. Where does your partner rank? If they rank lower than you (or your partner) like, figure out what needs to shift to allow for the relationship growth and stability. If you and your partner find you each rank high in priority, hopefully you can begin to try new things together or deepen an already common interest that unites you!