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By Alana Gregg, MS

When you’ve been married for a long time, it can be easy to get a little too comfortable. You see each other day in and day out. You sleep next to each other. You raise kids together. You may be physically together often but that is not the same thing as being emotionally connected. 

Don’t end up like roommates. Connecting with your spouse does not have to feel like an energy sucking task. More often than not, it’s the small gestures that can make a big impact on your marriage. 

1. Say thank you

Have you ever felt unappreciated by your spouse? Maybe you feel like just the cook, or the cleaning lady, or the car mechanic. It is easy to divide roles and duties in the house and assume that the other person will take care of things. But saying thank you to someone even when it may be their “job” to do that chore means that you know they are choosing to take care of you and your family when they don’t have to.

2. Kiss them hello and goodbye/goodnight

Life can get crazy and a lot of times you and your spouse can be like ships in the night. Make an effort to intentionally kiss your spouse before you leave, when you get home, and before you go to bed. This will allow for purposeful connection when there is not much room for quality time. If it doesn’t happen once in a while, is your marriage doomed to fail? Of course not. But over time it can be a catalyst for disconnection that can grow.

3. Go on dates

It is important to spend time together that doesn’t involve a screen or talking about your kids sports schedule. Maybe you are an empty nester and you already spend a lot of time together. Quantity is not the same as quality. Take turns doing things you each enjoy.

4. Hold hands

Physical touch is a vital part of intimacy. Small touches like a hug, a rub, or holding hands can help make your spouse feel loved and cared for. Try holding hands when you’re walking, sitting next to each other, or watching TV. A little touch can go a long way.

5. Find out each other’s love language

If you don’t already know it, figure out your spouse’s love language. The five that are defined by Gary Chapman are acts of service, physical touch, quality time, receiving gifts, and words of affirmation. Does it negate the other ways you show them love? No. But you will be nourishing their heart if you love them in a way that really matters to them. That will emphasize your love for them because it shows you care, you’re paying attention, and you’re willing to do something that does not come naturally to you. Here is a link to a free quiz.

6. Make eye contact

When your spouse is talking, do your best to put away phones and other distracting things so you can look at them. This will show them that what they have to say matters to you. No one wants to feel like an email or a Netflix show is more important than them. That doesn’t feel too good. If your spouse feels like they are your priority, then it will impact every aspect of your marriage.

7. Build up your emotional bank account

This term was coined by The Gottman Institute to symbolize how small interactions throughout the day impact your marriage. You make deposits with positive interactions and withdrawals through hurtful interactions or ignoring their invitations to connect. Examples of a deposit might include asking your spouse how their day was, bringing them home their favorite candy bar because you saw it at the store, making them dinner when they’ve had a long day, texting them you are thinking of or praying for them, doing one of their chores for them, complimenting how they look, and acknowledging when your spouse does those things for you. Gottman also found that it takes up to 5 deposits to make up for one withdrawal. Keep track of your emotional bank account to make sure you are not in the red.

When do you need help?

If you are fighting often or are feeling disconnected or resentful in your marriage, you may need help communicating those feelings to each other. Research shows that seeking help early drastically improves your chances of success. The counselors at Lime Tree Counseling are passionate about helping you experience happiness and fulfillment in your marriage. If you are noticing signs of trouble or are feeling disconnected from your spouse, don’t wait. Contact us today for couples counseling in-person in the Ambler, PA area or for a virtual appointment for PA, NC, and CO areas.