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Fostering strong connections is essential to family well-being

Fostering strong connections is essential to family well-being

Many couples find themselves sliding into ruts of disconnection. While this can happen in small ways, extended periods of time feeling disconnected from the person you love can have a profound impact on your well-being and the longevity of your relationship. Getting reconnected doesn’t have to be a daunting task. This article provides suggestions for small things you can do to foster more connection in your relationship.


Do

Do go to bed at the same time

Many couples are made up of one person who is a night owl and one who likes to go to sleep early. This can wreak havoc on opportunities for closeness with your partner. Even if one of you is not quite ready to go to sleep, going to bed at the same time provides you both with many lasting positive outcomes.

Getting into bed together gives you the chance to develop connecting habits. Creating these opportunities for connection serve as powerful cues for your bodies that can be soothing, sensual and relaxing. Get in bed, cuddle, talk softly with each other or take the opportunity for a sensual or sexual experience. If one of you is still not ready to go to sleep, get out of bed. At least you will have had time to connect with your spouse.

Do hold “check-in” meetings

Having a family meeting once a week helps all members of the family to be on the same page about various activities. This meeting also can be used to delegate responsibilities and manage schedule conflicts, and provides opportunities to give or receive support.

While this strategy is sometimes viewed as only necessary from a parenting perspective, having a couples check-in is an excellent way to stay connected with your partner or spouse. Talk to each other about what is going on in your life that week and help each other stay up to date on your inner world. Ask your partner how he or she is feeling about your relationship, your sex life, your time with hobbies or friends, and discuss any adjustments you would like to make.

Do share appreciations

When is the last time you told your spouse what you appreciate about him or her? Take the time to tell each other what you appreciate about who they are and what they do. Sharing these thoughts of gratitude should not be left until the Thanksgiving holiday. Make this a regular part of your lives together. Hearing these positive messages helps couples feel connected and valued, reduces stress and often encourages more connecting opportunities. If you have children, modeling this for kids is an excellent way to foster a family culture of appreciation and gratitude.

Do show affection

Staying connected physically is just as important as nurturing your emotional connection. Reach out to each other, hug, kiss, touch and play. Practicing physical and verbal affection in your relationship helps create a strong foundation on which to stay connected. Affection invites more warmth and playfulness between you and makes it easier to turn towards each other for fun or support. The body has a powerful memory--and cultivating more positive physical interactions will help your body and mind connect more easily to positive and loving feelings about your partner. Because consistent affection promotes lasting feelings of gentleness, kindness and respect for your partner, this affection will help you better rebound later from times of distress.


Don't

Do not allow technology to come between you

When you choose technology over your spouse, you are conveying with your behavior that the person, text, tweet or photo that is on the phone is more important than your partner. Be sure to show the person you love that he or she is a priority by not allowing technology to take your attention. Protect time with each other by turning off the phone. If you are with each other when it rings, silence it or let it sit there until you finish your sentence or conversation. This demonstrates that you are actively choosing to stay present with your partner.

Do not use criticism to ask for change

We tend to forget to highlight the things we value and appreciate about our partners. Instead, we easily make criticisms or complaints about the things we don’t like and wish would change. When people hear numerous complaints, they become defensive and distant, which makes listening to requests for change much more difficult. Hearing what someone doesn’t like about your behavior does not help you understand what to try differently. When you want something to be different, spend time articulating what exactly you want so that you can work together to make this happen. Try sharing what you appreciate and what you would like more of. When discussing a request for change, stay specific to that one topic, share what you would like to change and why this is meaningful to you. Invite your spouse to be a partner in change with you--instead of an adversary.

Do not overlook the importance of date night

Having a regular date night is an essential way for couples to connect and remember they are more than just parents or employees. You and your spouse also are lovers and friends, and making time to connect on these levels is vital to help you work together as a team in the other areas of life. Date nights don’t have to be expensive or even outside of your home. However, it is important to differentiate this time as special between you and your partner--and not just another regular evening. Creating a weekly or biweekly date night for you and your spouse is just as important, if not more, than making sure the rest of the family’s scheduling needs are met.

Do not forget about yourself

“Me time” is just as important as “us time” and “family time.” A healthy balance of all three is a great way to get your needs met and keep you feeling loved and connected. By ensuring that you are also taking care of yourself as an individual, you will actually increase your capacity to be loving and generous with your partner and family. This can be done in small ways, such as taking 20 minutes for yourself each day. Or doing something bigger, such as scheduling time with friends for an afternoon/evening out without your partner or children. Stay connected to the hobbies that you love. Engaging in your own individual hobbies, as well as shared couple’s activities, will give you more to connect about with your spouse and keep you feeling energized. Support each other in making “me time” happen. Collaborating on ways you can each meet your individuals needs will enhance your time spent together as a couple or family.


Summary
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Creating traditions of connection in your relationship is vital for building a lasting bond. Work with each other on introducing and nurturing behaviors that will put you back on the path towards each other. Look at connection with your partner or spouse as a practice--and do a little bit every day.


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Rachel B. Alpert, LCSW, CSTCouples Counselor & Certified Sex Therapist

Rachel Alpert, LCSW, CST is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and AASECT Certified Sex Therapist. Pursuing her passion of providing couples counseling and sex therapy services to individuals and couples, Rachel sees clients in her private pract...

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