What Are Your Marital Resolutions for Valentine’s Day?
It's the New Year and many of you probably made resolutions to lose weight, change jobs, quit smoking etc. But, how many of you really thought about making resolutions to make even a good marriage even better? Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to do that. Many couples, especially those with children put their marriage on the back burner. The focus is more on the children, household responsibilities, and career. Although this is important, your marriage should also be a priority. You, the couple are the foundation of the house and without paying attention even to the little cracks in the foundation your house may fall.
A healthy marriage requires a strong emotional and physical connection. This blog is going to focus on just a few ways (there are many more) to build a long-lasting emotional connection. Check-in with me again next month for when I will talk about ways to improve your physical connection. It is necessary to have both and very often one is dependent on the other. I believe less is more and so I wanted to give you some time in between to work on it and not overwhelm you!
1. Quality Time
Date night is great but it's also important to spend more quality time together on a daily basis. That doesn't mean sitting in the same room with your heads buried in your phone or watching TV. Plan 1/2 hour per day to be totally present with each other with no distractions. Look each other in the eye, touch each other and just talk. Talk about anything that will help you feel more connected. This is not a time to complain, criticize or discuss any problems. It's a time to build emotional intimacy.
2. Magic marriage ratio 5:1
Promise to say 5 positive things for every negative comment you say toward your spouse. According to research, this is a very specific ratio that helps make love last. Focus on each other’s strengths and communicate your appreciation to each other. Try sending each other positive appreciative texts daily and /or verbally express your appreciation over dinner or before you go to sleep. It could be as simple as telling your husband that you appreciate him remembering to pick up your dry cleaning on his way home from work or telling your wife how much you appreciate her making your favorite dinner. Never take each other for granted and show appreciation for what each other does no matter how big or small.
3. Learn each other’s love language
If you only speak English and your spouse only speaks French can you really communicate with each other? Obviously, you can't. The same goes for love languages. If a person expresses love in a way that is important to him/her but unimportant to his/her spouse then they really aren't communicating their love to each other. (refer to my blog "Do You Know Your Partner's Love Language" on my website). According to research there are 5 love languages which are quality time, acts of service, physical affection, words of affirmation and material gifts. For e.g. if your love language is "gifts" but your wife's love language is "acts of service" your wife won't really feel loved even if you buy her the most beautiful expensive watch.
4. Fight fair
It's normal for couples to disagree and have arguments but it is important to fight fair. This means refraining from things like name calling, criticizing, attacking personality or character traits and bringing up past problems into a current fight. You want to talk about the current conflict and discuss it until you feel there is resolution or an agreement to disagree. You want to be solution-focused and not problem focused which only leads to defensiveness, It's not about proving you're right, it's more about being happy.
For e.g. let’s say your spouse doesn't call you daily on his business trips. Instead of telling your spouse that he is inconsiderate and thoughtless when he doesn't call, you might want to say, " I feel sad and disappointed when you don't call me when you travel because I miss you and even though we are not together physically I feel more secure and emotionally connected to you if we speak daily. In the future do you think you can call me once a day?" The latter statement expresses a bid for connection whereas the former promotes defensiveness.
5. Ask the Daily Question
Put your spouse first and every morning ask “what can I do today to help you have a great day?” Even if there is nothing you would want her/him to do it shows that you care and that you are thinking about him or her.
6. Do Something Together
Commit to doing an activity, a project or taking a class together. Whether it means going hiking, painting the bedroom or taking a dance class, it is proven that relationships are strengthened when a couple does something together. You might even try something new that neither one of you has tried before. So how about stepping out of your comfort zone and try skydiving to bring even more excitement to your relationship!?
7. Share your dreams and goals
Talk about your hopes, dreams and long-term goals. Be open with one another. See if you're on the same page and discuss how you can work towards meeting each other’s desires even if you aren't on the exact same page.
8. Don't sweat the small stuff
Pick your battles. Don't nit-pick on every little thing your partner does. Ask yourself if this would matter a week, a month or a year from now? Check in with yourself and get in touch with your feelings. Is the source of your annoyance the dirty dish your spouse left in the sink or is it something else your spouse did that goes deeper and possibly causing you to feel resentful? Perhaps you had a bad day at work and your anger is displaced, therefore it's not about the dirty dish or anything else your spouse said or did.
9. Lighten Up
Don't take everything so seriously. Life is short. Have fun!! Playful teasing, joking around and laughing together can ease tension and bring you closer together. But, make sure it's not at each other’s expense or that it is offensive. Be respectful of one another and tickle each other’s funny bone! Many couples have inside jokes that only they share which highlights the specialness and exclusivity that the couple shares.
10. Empathy and apologize
Empathy is having the capacity to understand what another person is feeling. Expressing empathy towards your spouse is one of the deepest forms of human connection. You can empathize and validate your spouse's feelings without necessarily agreeing with what he or she is saying. Empathy can be verbal or non-verbal through a facial expression, nod or physical touch such as taking your spouse's hand. You might say to your spouse, "it makes sense to me why you might feel this way". If your partner is upset with you might continue on to say, " It makes me sad that I hurt your feelings". This type of communication promotes a positive interaction that reinforces your bond.
It is also important to forgive your partner and let things go when he/she apologizes and takes accountability for his/her actions. Forgiveness doesn't necessarily means that your partner is right. It means that you are willing to let the heaviness of the anger go so that you can start rebuilding your emotional connection.
If you need help building a stronger connection with your spouse I am always here to help!
Cheers to a healthier marriage in 2022
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Risa Simpson-Davis, LCSW
Modern Family Counseling