4 ways to nurture your marriage, even when you’re overwhelmed with life

When I teach “A Conscious Marriage” and work with couples, the thing I hear most frequently about the lack of connection with one’s partner is that there isn’t enough time. The kids, work, household responsibilities, and social commitments all take up so much space that life can feel too full to also give energy to nurturing your connection with your significant other. Overtime, this becomes the habitual way couple’s live their lives together, and although it’s unfulfilling they don’t know how to shift gears and create emotional intimacy.

Since 80% of life is habit, getting in the habit of connecting with your partner throughout the day will make it feel less like a task and more like a welcome break from the fullness of life. Here are 4 ways that you can turn toward each other and build on the goodness that attracted you to one another in the first place:

  • Share your emotional world—When your spouse asks you how your day was or how you’re doing, it’s easy to simply say “I’m fine” or the “The kids were fighting before you got home.” However, this does little to build emotional intimacy, which is the foundation for a strong marriage. Using language like, “I noticed that I felt grumpy throughout the day” or “I’m feeling tired and really need a hug” allows your partner to glimpse your inner world. Even if your partner hasn’t asked you how you’re feeling, it’s still good practice to share. “I notice I’ve been feeling anxious today” or “I feel really happy that we have a date planned” are ways you open up and go for connection with your partner. Incorporating this type of deeper language into your daily interactions will have a ripple effect into other areas of your connection.
  • Ask for what you need—I often see couples struggle to manage the day to day aspects of life, with either or both partners feeling like they just need a break or some extra support. Powering through life without wanting to “burden” their partner, I see many couples grow resentful of one another for not giving them what they need. Your partner is not a mind reader. Although it would feel really good if your spouse noticed your overwhelm and took care of some more tasks from time to time, if you don’t ask for what you need you are less likely to get it. The trick here is that it’s really hard to know what you need if you don’t know how you feel. This is why the step above “Share your emotional world” is so vital to practice. When you know you’re feeling overwhelmed you can begin to ponder what might be useful and helpful to address that feeling.
  • Name the impact—It is said that we underestimate the impact we have on others by 80%. This means that you likely have little awareness of how the things you do and say impact your partner and visa versa. Sharing the impact that your spouse’s words and actions have on you *without blame* will foster a deeper connection that goes beyond imagination. For example, if your partner is doing the dishes and you feel relief and gratitude, say “I feel so happy that you’re taking care of that sink full of dishes.” I chose a positive example because it’s really important to share the impact of both positive and negative encounters. If your partner said something hurtful, like “I do everything around here. I wish you’d step up more” you might respond with “When you say that, I feel hurt. I also feel unseen, like you don’t value that way I contribute.” (You can see how this is very different from a defensive stance like “I do too! You don’t appreciate me at all!!”).
  • Kiss for longer periods of time more frequently—Dr. John Gottman is a leading relationship researcher who has found many interesting facts about what behaviors are correlated with a lasting and happy marriage. My absolute favorite finding of his is the 6 second kiss. Gottman says that couples who kiss for at least 6 seconds before leaving each other in the morning and when they return in the evening are more likely to stay happily married. I invite you to try it. Start kissing for 6 seconds at least twice a day and see how this behavior shifts the way you and your spouse connect.

 

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