Every couple could use a vacation. Wouldn’t it be nice to get away for a week to some place sunny, where you can eat good food, relax without the stresses of daily life, and reconnect emotionally with your spouse? We tend to imagine that something like this would solve a lot of the problems in our relationships, and while it would be helpful what we really need is consistent times for connection. In the same way your physical body would not be healthy if you only worked out, and ate well one week a year your relationship needs more than a week of intentional attention. Finding ways to connect with our spouse regularly creates space to deal with consistent issues and increases the amount of positivity we feel toward our spouse.
A time for regular connection is something we can recognize as a need, but it’s hard to achieve with the limitations put on us by work, children, and finances. A weekly date night is the most commonly prescribed ritual of connection for couples, but for most of us that’s just not realistic. We need to be more creative in the way we create times to connect so here are a few principles to keep in mind to create rituals of connection that will work.
Do something that fits into your life and schedule. When schedules are full of work, kids, and community activities they are not easily rearranged for regular connection, so instead find the holes in your schedule when there is nothing happening, and put some connection time there. I’m a counselor married to a counselor, and the flexibility of our schedules allows us to trade off time at work, and at home with our kids. This also means a lot of late nights at work for one while the other is putting the kids to bed solo. Our evenings are free, but we were often tired so we decided a simple way to create a point of connection on these nights was to get Thai food take out night every Thursday. My wife would order something for us to split from the local Thai restaurant, and pick it up on her way home from work while I got the kids in bed. When she got home we were able to share an easy meal together without the usual distraction of our children. It was a weekly time of connection that didn’t require us to move anything around, but worked in our schedule. It also gave us something to look forward to on those long days.
Keep it Simple.
The other great thing about Thai food take out night is that it doesn’t require any prep work or forethought (other than browsing the menu which is fun). When rituals of connection are hard to make happen they usually don’t. Remember you’re not aiming for grand romantic moments, but simple and consistent time to talk, listen and reconnect. Another ritual my wife, and I did for a time was to make tea and watch fifteen minutes of news each night before we went off to do whatever other activities the night required of us. Sometimes it sparked conversation, sometimes it didn’t, but it was a simple time we were together in each other’s presence, and it was easy to do. The less your connection time depends on external factors like babysitters, schedules, and finances the easier it will be to achieve.
Expectations Lead to Disappointment
Keep the expectations low. Sometimes when we don’t get much time with our spouse we put a high expectation for feeling intense positive emotions during the time we do get. We want to feel happy, safe and overwhelmingly loved. When these emotions are not experienced we become disappointed and bitter, especially when expectations of sex are attached. While the hope is that you feel good during these rituals of connection it’s important to remember that the goal is connecting itself, which doesn’t always include intense, good feelings. It might just mean unwinding and feeling a sense of calm while together. It can often mean connecting by sharing difficulties and hang-ups you and your spouse might be experiencing. This time of sharing and vulnerability is important, especially when there are unspoken conflicts in the relationship that need to be addressed.
Feeling known by the other will be better in the long term than always feeling good. If we are not allowed to experience unwanted emotions in the presence of our spouse during times set aside for connection then they will likely come out in times of stress and end up doing more damage. This doesn’t mean connecting time is always for airing grievances, but it is time to be open with your spouse, and to allow them the same freedom.
Part of low expectations is also not expecting to have a lot of time together either. Drinking coffee together for ten minutes in the morning will provide a good foundation for feeling connected throughout the day. Even saying I love you before you leave the house or texting your spouse when you get to work increases connection. If we learn to connect well and often then times of feeling good with one another will naturally follow.
Creativity is Worth the Effort
Be creative and keep trying. Below are some suggestions for rituals of connection, but it is really something personal that has to work for you and your relationship. When something doesn’t work keep trying and get creative. Here are some suggestions.
Take-out dinner once a week
5 minute massage
Tea at night after dinner
Coffee together in the morning (just ten minutes is enough)
Going to bed at the same time
Having a TV show you watch together each week
Trying a new ice cream flavor one night a week
Looking at pictures of your children on your phone
Listening to a podcast together
God implemented the Sabbath, or day of rest, every 7 days because he knew that a regular pattern of rest was more important for us than a week long vacation once a year. In the same way, our relationship with our spouse needs a consistent rhythm of connecting, we just have to be intentional to create it in a realistic way that will fit our lives.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)
- 131 Creative Conversations For Couples: Christ-honoring questions to deepen your relationship, grow your friendship, and kindle romance. By Jed Jurchenko
Please subscribe for videos on our Youtube Channel for our amazing resources. I’ll be sharing great tips and encouragement for whatever your facing—whether you’re fighting mental illness or have a loved one who is.