So here we are at the Easter / ANZAC public holidays, and like many people I speak to, it is ‘How did we get here so quickly’?
With over three months passing since Christmas and the first term of school is done, I look back over this period and remonstrate the amount of work, tasks, logistics, driving, sport events, school functions, time on planes, taxis and hotel rooms I have spent and wonder … how did we fit it all in?
Indeed, life is busy, so how do we continue at this pace and stay connected in our relationships. John Gottman quotes a study of professional couples where both are working full time, and it is found that during their week there is less than 30 minutes of conversation between the 2 of them and the majority of this conversation is on logistics e.g. who is dropping the kids off to their extracurricular activities, what to buy for dinner and so on.
This cannot be OK. I appreciate we are all busy. Nevertheless we need to make, indeed create, opportunities in our relationship to connect, to generate fondness and friendship, to update each other on how we are traveling through time and space individually and together.
So how we can we do this?
The following are three suggestions on how this can be achieved. They don’t necessarily cost money, but they do include time and the both of you.
1. Us before them
Over the Easter / ANZAC day public holidays, an opportunity exists to prioritise your relationship over other people or tasks. To pause the continuous drive towards task completion and the ‘To Do list’, extended family and friends to spend some of this time on each other.
Prior to the break, have a conversation with each other about what you could do to slow down, to catch up, to reconnect, to reorient, to lean in towards each and say ‘Hi, how are you and how are we going?’ . Take some time out of these public holidays for just you and your partner. During this time have conversations that bring you closer together, remember you don’t have to do things that are expensive; a simple walk along a beach or park, a drive in the country or going to your favourite café for breakfast.
Conversations that connect and build relationship look like this:
Focus more on listening than telling;
Communicate appreciation for each other, that is, what you have noticed your partner doing well and letting them know;
Discuss what is working well in the relationship, what you see are the relationship strengths;
Discuss what you want more of in the relationship and how this can be achieved.
Good relationships don’t happen by accident. They occur when people prioritise each other and their relationship, it is OK to put each other first.
2. Small gestures - Big connection
Building friendship and staying connected with your partner throughout the weekly grind does not necessarily require grand declarations of love and commitment or large gifts or surprise holidays, although that can indeed be nice.
Staying connected with one each other is about the small things. For example, remembering that your partner has a difficult presentation at work and sending them a text just prior to it saying, “you are fantastic and are going to nail it”. These acts create connection with your partner and show that you are thinking of them, backing them and are part of the same team.
Small things often that show thoughtfulness and consideration towards your partner that builds strong connection and friendship over time.
3. Always find ways to know each other better
In my relationship with Tracey, I would aim to demonstrate my appreciation for her in little ways. One way was on Sundays - Tracey would have a sleep in and I would make her coffee accompanied by toast and jam when she woke. For years I noticed that she wouldn’t eat the crust of the toast, I just assumed that here was a woman who doesn’t like her crust and never followed this up. Eventually, though, I asked Tracey about her dislike of crust. Surprisingly her answer was not what I expected. She said, “Babes, I love my Sunday sleep-ins when you entertain the kids and I appreciate the coffee and toast and I actually like crusts - and when the butter and jam is just lumped in the middle and not spread across the edges of the toast I don’t like eating the crusts”.
Well, I learnt something new and this was a small but great opportunity to turn towards my partner. It takes nothing for me to spread the butter and jam to the edges of the toast and I know Tracey notices and appreciates this small gesture.
It is important we don’t assume we know everything about our partner, everyone changes over time, indeed the wonderful thing about relationships is this continuous rediscovering of each other’s small but frequent changes over time.
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