The number one reason couples fight is not about money, in-laws or sex. Most arguments in relationships are about a failure to connect emotionally, according to Dr. John Gottman, a clinician and researcher considered by some to be the premier expert on marriage and relationships. So how do you connect with your partner in a way that counts?
Connection does not require fancy gifts, flowers or vacations. Connection is not even about communication – you can use a lot of words that add up to nothing. Rather, connection is a dance between two people who find the rhythm to deepen their intimacy. Simply put, it is making time for your partner. It is being intentional and fully present. It is turning toward each other in small ways and responding when he turns to you.
Here is how to build connection with your partner:
1. Make time to hang out with your partner. Let’s face it. Life gets busy. If two people are working or juggling young children or helping to care for elderly parents, it can mean having a lot on their plates. When you come home after a stressful day, it’s easy to shut down or grab that glass of wine without wanting to engage with your partner. After all, you’re tired and would rather sit and binge on Netflix. Connection is not the amount of time you spend together. It is making the time spent with your partner count by being fully present, for even five minutes.
2. Be present. No phone, TV, book; fully focus on your partner.
3. Physical closeness builds connection because it makes you feel safer when someone is caressing your shoulders or rubbing your feet. When you feel safe, you open up more. Vulnerability is the key to intimacy. Hold hands. When you walk by your mate, gently touch his shoulders. Touch each other lovingly.
4. Physical proximity matters. Be in the same room. One person in the kitchen yelling across to the other in the living room isn't going to deepen connection.
5. Body language. Is your body language exuding warmth and kindness or are your arms crossed? Do you look annoyed when he’s talking to you? Make eye contact.
6. How’s your tone? Sweet and flirty or, “I’m tired and let’s hurry this up, you’re taking way too long talking about your day.”
7. Show vulnerability. Talk about your feelings when you recount the events of the day instead of talking about logistics and the series of events that took place throughout the day. For instance, share something that happened at work that hurt your feelings. Perhaps you were in a meeting and tried to raise a point but kept getting interrupted by male colleagues who dominated the conversation.
8. Have fun and laugh together. Those who laugh together stay together. Don’t take everything so seriously. Be playful. Inject fun into the day. Laugh together. Goof around. It’s good for the soul and your relationship.
Dr. Gottman says when you lean in toward your partner and express in small and consistent ways that you are present and responsive, you are sending a message that he matters, that you care, and that you’re dependable.
Creating connection isn’t rocket science. Connecting doesn’t take more energy or time than choosing not to connect. You have to go home at the end of the day to see your partner whether you feel like it or not. Connection is making time at the beginning and end of each day to say, “Hey, I see you. I care about you. I’m here for you. I’ll show you how I feel by giving you my undivided attention for five or ten minutes.” Sounds doable, right?
When you practice this way of connecting with your mate, you not only boost happiness within your relationship but you also create a stronger shield for when you need it. Let me put it in language that may resonate. Say, you want a raise but you haven’t spent the year building your relationship with your boss. You haven’t been shooting the sh*t or checking-in much. You’ve been doing your work but keeping to yourself. Do you think this scenario sets you up for success when you ask for a raise? If you think your work will speak for itself, think again. Similarly, connect with your partner daily. Build your connection, make it strong and deepen it. Not only will it help you to weather the storm when things get rocky, you’ll also have a more fun and fulfilling relationship.
If you’re going to do something, you may as well do it right. It will pay off in spades.
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