Everywhere I turn my friends are navigating choppy waters in their most intimate relationships. This makes my heart hurt, but I can relate. Lately, my husband and I have been feeling out of sync and stressed out from parenting our wonderful, passionate, intense teenager (wow, can the “adolescent differentiation process” test your marriage!). We went for a walk this past Sunday and realized it’s time to pause, spend some energy on “us,” and call in all the tools/support we need to remind us we’re on the same team.
Here are a few ideas from Nurturing the Soul of Your Family for staying connected to your partner as you navigate everyday life:
• Schedule time for self-care first. Block out time for self-renewal just like you would schedule a dentist’s appointment. One night a week schedule a “solo date,” or time alone getting your needs met, whether that’s dinner with a friend or attending a yoga class alone. Then you’ll be able to fully enjoy and feel more generous and loving during your time with your spouse. Read Relationships Are Hard?!
• Utilize the power of touch. Make a habit to stay physically connected to your partner whenever you see him or her in thoughtful, easy ways: hugs and kisses in the morning and at the end of the day, quick neck or shoulder massages, gentle arm touches, holding hands. Physicality increases our emotional connection. I love my friend John Howard’s work on the neurobiology of relationships.
• Communicate respectfully and manage your own frustrations. Partners don’t always agree. That’s okay, but when our emotions get heated, we can say and do things we later regret. Recognize your limits and when you’re triggered give yourself a “quiet break” to reflect and re-frame. Also, be mindful of what you know sets you off or upsets your partner and avoid it. Imago work and The Five Love Languages are great resources here.
• Set an intention for your partnership. This can be a powerful way to communicate what you want your relationship to represent: Is your focus mutual support, spiritual growth, honesty and communication, love and respect? Maybe write your intention out and place it in your bedroom-or bathroom– in a visible spot.
• Share the big picture and communicate often. Make sure your partner knows what’s going on with you on all fronts by telling him or her. If you have a particularly challenging day or week ahead, and you may need some extra support and TLC, give your partner a heads-up. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a coach/therapist or mentor if you need help seeing the 30,000 foot view.
• Create a bedroom space that celebrates your marriage. A feng-shui consultant once asked me, “Why do you have all this artwork of women up in your bedroom? Where are the pictures of you and your husband?”Great point. Carefully choose for your bedroom items you love and cherish that celebrate your union: special photos of you and your partner, meaningful artwork, candles, a marriage intention statement, and so on. Also, try to keep your bedroom a toy and media-free zone. Make it a space solely for relaxation, intimacy, sleep and connection.
• Every day, talk, connect, and state your needs. At a minimum, take ten minutes at the end of each day (after the kids are in bed) to take turns sharing the highs and lows of your day, anticipating tomorrow, and asking for what you might need. Saying “Three things I need from our relationship now are . . .” is a simple but powerful request. Your needs will change depending on the time of the year, your life stage and if you have kids. For more about this type of sharing, see Love Tune-Ups by Matthew McKay, Carole Honeychurch, and Angela Watrous. This is a quick but highly effective way to reconnect. Or try my friend Tanya’s strategy; she shares: “We like to take long, hot baths together after the kids are in bed — try staying mad when you’re covered in bubbles!”
This week, take a few minutes to sit down with your partner and explore these ideas and resources together (I just bought a copy of Happily Ever After…and 39 Other Myths About Love, the newest book from my good friends relationship experts Charlie and Linda Bloom—great stuff, especially if you’ve been married a while). Your relationship can be one of your greatest sources of nourishment, but it need tending and nurturing just like anything else in life. Let me know what works for you, I’d love to hear how you stay connected to your partner in the comments section below!
READY TO MAKE YOUR SELF-CARE A PRIORITY? Don’t put it off any longer. I invite you to join me all day Friday, April 29th for New Way of Being: Women’s Self-Renewal retreat in Austin, TX or July 15-17 for New Way of Being: Women’s Self-Renewal retreat at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. Both retreats are almost sold out and early bird rates are good through this Friday. I’d love to support you and introduce you to the power of self-care in an immersive, nurturing and empowering environment!
Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by work-life balance speaker/author and Career Strategists president, Renée Peterson Trudeau. Renee’s work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, Spirituality & Health and more. Thousands of women in ten countries are becoming RTA-Certified Facilitators and leading/joining self-renewal group based on her award-winning curriculum. She leads workshops/retreats around the globe and is the author of The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal and Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and 14 year-old son. More on her background here.