Why can these things hurt so much?
We don’t expect our partners to be perfect. We know that they are busy. Naturally, they will miss opportunities to connect. We know that we won’t get it right every time either. So, how do these little things become such big things in relationships? Here are a few reasons why:
It turns out little interactions sprinkled throughout our day matter a lot. Most people prioritize the big displays of love (big vacations, surprise dates, elaborate plans) over the small interactions they have throughout the day or week. As a result, they don’t pay much attention to the many opportunities that slip by each day.
Let me assure you, you don’t have to be on high alert all the time in order to have a deeper connection with your partner. Instead, you need to be smarter about your relationship. You can continually build your relationship even while it operates in the background of your life.
1. Identify the things that matter most to each of you in developing a deeper connection.
You can have a discussion with your partner about what makes them feel close to you, or you can think back to the things that they liked in the past, or you can remember the complaints they most often make. Your list will be unique to the two of you but might include things like:
2. Think about how you could build those things into your life in a way that feels authentic and good to you.
If your partner’s request (that sounds more like a complaint or a criticism!) doesn’t work for you, think of other ways that you could accomplish the same goal. For example:
3. The things that are important to you also need to be on this list.
Where are the places that you feel like you and your partner miss one another? How can you make those happen in a way that will feel good to your partner, too?
4. Schedule them.
Make sure that they happen every day or every week unless there is an emergency. And if there is an emergency, reschedule them. These things are important. They make the relationship feel good for both of you.
Having good relationship habits will allow you to have time built into your schedule when you can connect. Exciting or mundane, they are the things that help you feel connected to your partner without having to give it a lot of thought or planning. When these things don’t happen, you will notice that your relationship will start to feel disconnected and out of sync.
I can already hear your objection. Why do I have to be the one to do this? Why can’t my partner be the one to make these things happen? I would love to have you work as partners around the problem of how to connect better with one another. That would be the best-case scenario, as far as I am concerned. And I hope you try to engage them in a productive conversation so you find solutions that work for both of you. However, I don’t want you to miss out on the things that you need because you are waiting for their buy-in. If you need a hug from your partner, you should figure out how to get a hug. Because it matters to you.
Don’t think that your partner gets let off the hook just because they don’t make a connecting moment happen in your lives. They still have to show up for the event. If you make a connection point a morning greeting, then they still have to respond to you.
If an idea doesn’t work, go back to your original list of what makes you feel connected and find another way of meeting that need.
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Cheri Timko is the creator of Synergy Coaching, an online community helping committed couples have great relationships. Learn more about how to get involved in this movement of couples who don't just want to stay together but want to thrive together here.