One of the most common complaints I hear from couples I work with is, “We are just too busy to spend quality time together.” In a day and age where so much is vying for our attention, most couples are struggling just to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. The sirens that drew most of us to marriage in the first place (passion, romance, adventure) now seem like a distant memory, a fantasy world that exists only in an episode of The Bachelor. Yet research tells us that how much fun a couple has together is the number one factor that determines if they will make it “till death do us part.” So how can we keep our romantic fires kindled, when the busyness of life is constantly threatening to snuff them out? Here are three, daily habits we need to establish, to ensure our marriage not only survives, but thrives.
Do Little and Thoughtful Kind Things for Each Other
Working full-time to pay the mortgage, making meals, caring for children—these things are necessary, expected, and connected with duty. Little extras, however, such as bringing your spouse a coffee to their work, fixing them a plate for dinner, or rubbing their feet after a long day, are done because you choose to do them. They show your spouse you’re willing to put in extra effort because he or she is worth it. Dr. John Gottman explains it his way, “Watching Humphrey Bogart gather teary-eyed Ingrid Bergman into his arms may make your heart pound, but real-life romance is fueled by far more humdrum scenes. It is kept alive each time you let your spouse know he or she is valued during the grind of everyday life.”
Make Time to Say “YES” to Each Other Every Single Day
Time is the enemy for busy couples. Yet time spent in positive interactions with your spouse is non-negotiable. As Dr. Gottman writes, “a husband and wife are continually making bids for each other’s attention—introducing a conversation topic, implicitly asking a favor, etc.—and the most successful couples are the ones who continually ‘turn toward’ their partners.” They say yes to each other’s requests for attention, interaction, and well, love, I suppose. These everyday interactions serve to build up a bank of love and trust. If your partner puts their arm around you while you are watching Netflix on the couch, lean into their embrace, and let them know you want them. If they do the dishes for you and subtly probe to see if you noticed by saying something like, “The kitchen looks so much better with an empty sink,” make a point of responding positively with some aspect of praise and appreciation. Since we tend to interpret being ignored as disinterest and rejection, make sure your partner regularly knows that you not only notice them, but value and desire them as well.
Establish Relationship Rituals
There is something powerful in creating the “just us” element in a relationship. As couple’s therapist Zach Brittle writes, “Rituals are a way to ensure that your relationship is unique. Rituals are regularly occurring activities or traditions that you share as a couple, which serve to strengthen your bond.” Develop a daily, shared activity with your spouse, such as taking a walk together, doing a couple’s devotion, or enjoying a cup of coffee, where the focus is simply having fun and enjoying one another’s company. Since the more emotionally bonded we feel with our partner, the more manageable our perpetual, marital issues seem to be, make sure your spouse is always at the top of your “To Do List.”
Verify Magazine. (2016, November 3). 3 Daily Habits That are Better for your Marriage Than an Exotic Vacation. Retrieved from https://www.gottman.com/blog/3-daily-habits-that-are-better-for-your-marriage-than-an-exotic-vacation/