5 ways to create more connection in your marriage
by Christie Browning
“Remember when we could talk for hours? What happened?”
It was on a long, long car ride that my husband Mat broke the silence in the car and made the declaration above. I didn’t have a response. It was true. And it wasn’t just true on that long car ride, it was in the every day. Busy, hectic lives had dampened our conversation and reduced it to simple statements like:
We need more milk.
Did you remember to give the dogs their food?
How late are you working?
I felt the sting of the truth… we haven’t talked, really talked, in a while. Nothing was really wrong in our relationship. We weren’t showing any signs of disconnect or dissatisfaction, but somewhere along the line, we forgot how to open up and have a real conversation. I remember when we dated, we would spend hours on the phone talking. Gosh, what did we talk about? How on earth did we fill hours of conversation night after night? Well, truthfully we were getting to know each other so we talked about more than just our day. We talked about our favorite Christmas memories, the time our family went camping, the first time we tried to snow ski, our favorite teachers in high school and so on… We didn’t talk from our calendars, we talked from the heart. It really wasn’t what was being said that made those conversations so special, it was that in those moments, it was just about the two of us. We weren’t interrupted by children needing our attention, the microwave dinging, or our cellphones chirping. If those things threatened to distract us, we pushed through to keep our focus on each other.
On one particular occasion, Mat and I were at a large outdoor party with people buzzing all around us. Kids were running through the yard, screaming after each other and darting in-between lawn chairs. Parents were dishing up plates of food and snagging drinks out of the cooler settling in around the fire pit all while chattering about the latest school meeting or work-place drama. Mat and I sat somewhat distanced from the crowd in our little lawn chairs talking. We hardly noticed anyone else at the party. It was just him and I and we were locked up tight in our own conversation, in our own world.
We’ve both commented since then about how wonderful that night was, how much we enjoyed the time together. And I know we’ve looked around and tried to recreate at that moment at other get-togethers. Somehow we’ve never been able to replicate it. Although, that was not what Mat was eluding to when he declared the lack of communication that day in the car. He was talking about a connection that needs to happen intentionally.
It took time for me to come back to that statement and unpack my part of it. But I have determined for me, I need some downtime in order to get my heart and head on straight. When I am all twisted up over to-do lists and tasks and laundry and housework and blah, blah, blah I have nothing to give to Mat. I don’t have the mental energy to present in conversation, let alone be able to sense what he might need from me or how to help. I surely can’t be empathetic or offer any supportive words or comforting thoughts. I’ve also realized that when I am so packed to the gills with every moment accounted for in my day, I have no space for idle conversation or to just be in a space where I can connect with Mat. Plus I am physically tired and spent, so Mat only ever gets the leftovers each day.
So I decided something had to change. Here’s some things I started implementing in my life… maybe it will help you as well:
1. I need more open space in my day.
Instead of racing home and running right into the next chore or task, I’ve tried to make myself stop all of that and just talk to Mat or do what he wants in those moments. It might be cooking dinner with him, going for a walk, or just sitting and talking. Whatever it is, all other things can wait. In those moments, it’s about us.
2. We create a space to talk without interruption
When the last one of us gets home, that’s when the conversation starts to happen, but sometimes we need to move away from distractions in the house in order to talk and really listen to one another. So we might step outside or go into our bedroom so that we can talk without interruption from others. I know for me, I feel like I have Mat’s undivided attention and he has mine. That always encourages me to open up a bit more and really share.
3. I let go of stuff that doesn’t matter
Instead of getting hung up on the tasks that take up time with my spouse, I have learned to be okay with either letting it go or letting it wait. Sometimes sitting down and looking at Mat, face-to-face without interruption, is more important that folding socks. Sure, I could multitask, but my spouse and our relationship is not a task, so it shouldn’t be multi-tasked. I need to be okay at sacrificing some things for more important things.
4. Taking time for me allows for me to be available for him
I know what makes me feel filled up and refueled. When I don’t make time for that, I don’t have much to offer Mat. So I know that some things need to take a backseat on my to-do list so that I can create space for me to invest in myself so that I have a piece of me to break off and give to Mat when he needs it. It is critical that I take care of me and my well-being in order to be all that I can for Mat and our marriage.
5. Timing is everything
If the time isn’t right for some deep connective conversation, I don’t force it. I need to know when the time is right for us and be okay if it’s not. Mat sometimes just needs to veg out after a long day and doesn’t always want to dig down deep into the bowels of his emotions to have some heavy conversation. In those times, I let him have the space or better yet, I get into whatever he is doing… like I ask about the game he’s playing or what game he’s working on beating next (big time video gaming household here), or I sing along with the music or we laugh and be silly. Those moments have connection power, too. It might not look like a deep emotional moment, but it’s those day-to-day interactions that weave a warm, comforting blanket of intimacy that you can cuddle up under when the world is harsh and cold. So don’t get focused on just the heavy connections…look for the right time to laugh, to joke, to talk, to cry, to be quiet, to listen… timing is everything.
When it comes to connection, the pieces have to fit. That means there is more than one. Just like in marriage…it take two, right? You might be reading this and thinking, “sure that’s all great, but my spouse isn’t going to go for all this.” You’re right, they may not. But, you can focus on what you can control and that is YOU! These five things are about what you can do and what you can work on. Start by doing what you can do and see if things don’t change over time for your spouse. As the door starts to creak open little by little, you’ll be ready to give and invest into that connection if you keep working on you!