Couples come to see me in my office practice in Scottsdale, AZ when they’re feeling overwhelmed, isolated or disconnected from one another; conflicted, or in pain. Talking with one of these couples recently got me thinking. What are some of the attributes that successful and happy couples have in common with one another that keeps them from ending up on the proverbial therapist couch?
The couples that successfully navigate therapy and come out the other side closer and more connected keep their success going and stay close by keeping their lives intertwined. Couples who reside together but live separate lives within that structure don’t have the connection that couples who not only are romantically together, but also stay physically together. They set aside time to spend with one another and keep their close bond by giving their relationship priority in their individual lives. They carve out time to be together, have date nights, take trips and do even mundane things like grocery shopping or taking the dog for a walk.
If you feel like life is too complicated to set time aside, you’re too busy, have too many responsibilities or not enough time to spend together, you should be making a change. Rearrange your schedules so that you have an appointment at least SOME time each day where you can debrief each other on what’s happening in your day, what you’re feeling and thinking about, and just to be together. Whether it’s coffee in the morning before work, or that quiet time after dinner and before bed where you can just talk through what’s happening in your lives and make that all- important connection.
Connecting with your partner regularly is crucial but you want to be sure it’s not all negative. Nobody wants to be hit with all the things that went wrong, so be sure to keep it positive when you do get together. Your partner is not a trash dump for you to vent and complain to constantly. Make sure your communication is equitable and that you’re listening at least as much as you’re speaking. On the flip side, you DO want to be able to reach out to discuss important issues and things that may be troubling you. You certainly want to be able to discuss important decisions you’re facing and get your partner’s input on them because, after all, your decisions affect you both.
The other part of togetherness and why it’s so important to do things together is about the future. Living individual and solitary lives apart from each other will leave you without a history, without memories or events to look back on in the future. I recommend my clients keep a memory book, a journal, and take tons of photos when they’re out and traveling, spending time with friends or family. You may not see the importance of this now, but when you and your partner are together in later years you will connect over these photos and memories and will feel closer to each other because of them.
Keeping your lives intertwined also allows you know your partner on a much deeper level. You’ll be able to be in synch and in tune with their moods and emotions in a way that you were not able to before. This means you’ll know when there’s a problem brewing because you can just sense when something is “off” and you can talk about issues before they become problems.
Both of you need to make an effort to be more connected, to be more inclusive, and to be less busy. We all have a finite amount of energy to give each day. Be sure to reserve some for your relationship, you won’t be sorry.