Staying Connected in Your Relationship
When stress and uncertainty exist in and around a relationship, it can make connecting with your partner harder. Add the ongoing pandemic to the “normal” stresses of life, and there doesn’t seem to be enough space or energy at times to stay connected.
The past two years of the pandemic have been a roller coaster of uncertainty. And, likely, issues associated with the pandemic are not the only circumstances causing stress in your life. One area that may have suffered during this time is your primary (committed) relationship. Maybe you have been feeling less connected and less willing or able to spend quality time with each other. If that is the case for you, you’re not alone. There are many couples that I have spoken to who report increased difficulty with their partner – more arguing, less communication, feeling like roommates or other signs of strain and distress.
One common occurrence in any long-term relationship is the development of patterns. You may feel as if you’re in a “relationship rut,” doing the same thing over and over. For example, your conversations may feel scripted. You mention X (issue/concern/question) and your partner will react by Y (non-verbal reaction/defensiveness/silence/sarcasm). Then you will do Z (not respond/get annoyed/criticize your partner). Does that sound familiar? These habitual ways of interacting with each other become negative patterns.
What to do?
A place to begin reconnecting is with small actions. What are some small, less emotional ways to let your partner know that you care about them? Some ideas: leaving a note or sending a text, making the coffee, letting them sleep in one day and doing their morning chores, etc.
There are many small, kind gestures you could consider. But the key is to do something. Repeated small steps create a momentum and starts to foster appreciation and positivity in the relationship.
What small gestures in your daily interactions with your partner could help you begin to nurture more goodwill and caring between you? Take a couple minutes to jot down some of your own ideas.
Just the act of taking the time and effort to be thoughtful and appreciative in communicating with your partner can help.
Before starting a conversation with your partner—whether it be through a note, text or other form of communication—it can help to “check your attitude.” For example:
- Pause and think about how you want to be with/toward your partner.
- Reflect on what you cherish and value about this person.
- What do you appreciate about your partner, but don’t actually say to them?
If you are having a hard time thinking about these questions, you could start even smaller by saying something like, “Life’s been hectic/stressful for us, and I want you to know that … [I care, I love you, etc.].
Small gestures are baby steps in rekindling your connection. Yet the goodwill generated overtime by small gestures can support you and your partner in breaking out of negative patterns that might be keeping your relationship from thriving. Give it a try.
If you are interested in relationship counseling, please reach out to the Mindful Counseling Center at 609-377-5859. Alternatively, you can request an appointment via our website.
Article by Pat Connelly.