One day last week, I was distracted when I got home from work. I was holding several bags and a child met me at the door with a problem. About 15 minutes later, I realized that I hadn’t greeted my husband.
When I went to find him, he gave me a dirty look. We both knew that I had missed an important moment between the two of us. Long ago, we made a rule that whoever enters the house second needs to find the other person. We share a kiss and check in before jumping into the fray that is our family. I don’t miss this moment often, so it wasn’t much of a problem on this day.
It sounds minor. And it is. But it is also vitally important to our relationship. We practice a handful of relationship habits that keep our love strong. Practiced daily, these little actions keep us connected during our busy lives.
A Relationship Habit is an event you and your partner take part in every day. You don’t have to think too much about the activity because it is already scheduled and planned. You just have to show up. When you show up, you will invest a small amount of energy. Because you do this activity every day, it is a habit. Practiced daily, these small things keep the relationship grounded and connected.
Our greeting is one example. You probably have a couple if you think about it. I’ll give some examples.
- Saying good morning or good night.
- Talking about your day.
- Messaging funny stories throughout the day.
- Kissing at the door.
There are dozens of options for connecting habits. To get the most benefit, you need habits that fit for the two of you. The very best Relationship Habits are the ones that are unique to your relationship.
- Fit easily into your schedule.
- Make one or both of you feel prioritized and connected.
- Are simple to do.
At the beginning of the relationship, it was easy for you to connect. You had a drive or hunger to spend time together, interact, and please one another. If you are like most other couples (and I’m sure you are) after you commit, you stop putting the same effort into the relationship. This is as it should be. You can’t spend all of your energy and focus on your relationship or you won’t get the other work of your life done. You have to shift your focus.
The trouble is that your relationship needs SOME of your time and energy. Otherwise, it will fail. You or your partner will feel disconnected, taken for granted, and frustrated. Over time, the lack of attention will put too much strain on the relationship. Eventually, you won’t remember what drew you together in the first place.
Relationship Habits help you fill the gap in a way that is easy to do. When you practice them, you build the relationship even when you are distracted by other responsibilities. You don’t have to negotiate time together, or frequently perform extraordinary acts of love. The connecting events are built into the relationship.
To start, identify the relationship habits that already exist in the relationship. You probably have a couple. What makes them meaningful? Do you need to adjust them so you get more out of them? For instance, if one of your relationship habits is to share a kiss everyday, do you need to give it a little more oomph by lingering there a few moments.
Next, think of the things you did at the beginning of the relationship that made each of you feel excited about being together. You can use those for inspiration to start new habits that will deepen the connection.
Lastly, think about what each of you complain about when it comes to feeling connected and prioritized. If you use each of your wishes as inspiration, you will come up with a list of things that matter to each of you. These are often the habits that have the most impact.
Joe and Jill have been together for ten years. They are feeling more like roommates than lovers. They want to feel connected but have little time to spend together because of their jobs and the kids. They agree to try this process.
Looking at their current habits, they realized that they already practice a few habits. 1) They say good morning each day, 2) check in by text in the afternoon, 3) usually eat dinner as a family, and 4) kiss hello when they get home at night. It surprised them that they had so many touchpoints during the day.
They reminisce about the things that were special in the beginning of the relationship. They remember that they went to the movies each week where they held hands and kissed. They also spent hours each day talking about their lives.
Thinking about recent arguments, they identified a couple of reoccurring complaints. Jill wanted more talking so she knew what Joe was thinking. Joe missed the easy affection of the early days.
- They would continue their current touchpoints but put a little more energy into them.
- When they are together, they will sit so they can hold hands.
- When they say good morning, they will also ask what is on each other’s calendar for the day.
- They will linger for a few minutes when they greet each other at the end of the day.
- A few nights a week, they will talk for 10-20 minutes to catch up.
After trying their plan for a few weeks, Joe and Jill were feeling more connected and in sync than before making changes. They needed to negotiate their greeting at the end of the day. They had to agree that a deeper kiss and longer hug didn’t mean they were going to have sex. Otherwise, they were delighted with the changes in the relationship. Especially since they weren’t putting in much more energy in the relationship.
Although every now and then they missed a connection point, they remained committed to following their plan.
This kind of plan can transform the way you feel about your relationship. When you use the above steps, you shift the culture of the relationship so it feels safer and more connected. It allows you to make big changes without investing a huge amount of energy and time.
Some of you may be thinking that this will be hard for you to do in your specific situation. You can get individualized support to make this work in your own relationship. This is one of the steps covered in the work I do with couples who struggle with feeling like roommates. They want to build a closer and more connected relationship.
- Identify and repair the things getting in the way of your connection.
- Practice problem-solving tools that give you the skills to negotiate any problem.
- Develop a personalized plan to connect with one another on a daily basis. A successful plan endures the busyness of your life.
- Support your changes over an eight-week period to implement and troubleshoot your individualized plan.