Have you ever gotten into bed, rolled over, and said “I miss you,” after sitting next to your spouse on the couch all evening? Or thought it silently to yourself as you question, “What did we even do? I mean we were next to each other—how can I miss them?” Just being in the same room with your spouse doesn’t make you present with each other in ways that make your marriage stronger.
I know I’ve felt this when the busyness of life comes crashing in—uninvited and without warning. The circumstances right now in 2020 alone can cause all sorts of unrest, even in the places we’ve felt the most at home. There’s COVID and the adjustments constantly being made because of it, social justice at the forefront of conversations, political division, online schooling, and then there are your personal struggles outside of what’s going on in the world.
All of these things can cause your relationship to feel robotic, like you are just going through the motions. It is monotonous, it’s boring, it lacks depth and it lacks the intimate connection you both need to enjoy life together—not just go through it together.
The fix for this? Finding ways to be more present with your spouse. Think of it as the way you spend your time together. Quality over quantity… though if you can make time to have your cake and eat it, too, a high quantity of quality time sounds amazing.
Here are 4 Ways to Be More Present with Your Spouse:
1. Intentional conversation.
When you have time (make time) to catch up, do it intentionally. Turn the phones on silent or put them aside. Let the world take a backseat and really tune in to each other. “How are you feeling?” “What do you think about…?” “What was the best or worst part of your day and why?” “How can I be there for you?” “How can I show you I love you today?” Here are 20 questions you can ask each other besides, “How was your day?”
While you’re having conversations, hold hands, or place your hand on your spouse’s arm. Little moments of touch without distraction go a long way. Speaking of touch…
Though being present with your spouse goes beyond being physically present, your body language and how you interact can say a lot about how you feel toward one another. If you’re both exhausted after a long day and just want to sit on the couch and watch a movie, do it! It doesn’t take much to communicate, “Hey I’m here with you and I want to be here.” Get close, cuddle up, and kiss a few times (or lots of times!)
A daily 6-second kiss will increase your emotional and physical intimacy. Hey! Research says that physical contact releases oxytocin (the bonding or trust hormone), and dopamine. This can improve your mood (for days at a time), and can help you stay calm. To top it off, something as simple as holding hands, hugging, getting close, and yes, making out, can lessen your stress hormones (cortisol) and enrich your sense of relationship satisfaction.
3. Pay attention to ways you can connect throughout the day…
Dr. Linda Duncan found four powerful ways for couples to connect throughout the day. Being intentional about connecting at these times on a regular basis can increase the intimacy in your marriage and make your spouse feel like you’re present, not just there.
When you wake up, start with an “I love you,” a kiss or cuddling up beside your spouse (whichever is their cup of tea). Unless of course, they aren’t a morning person. Then maybe you just make the coffee and put a cup on the nightstand without saying a word. 😉
When you part for the day, even if you’re just sitting at the dining room table and your spouse is in the other room working from home, how you say see ya later sets the tone for how you think about your relationship throughout the day. The symbolic start of your workdays can be coupled with “Thanks for working so hard. I can’t wait to spend time together when you’re done with work.” Think about what you could say that would encourage and recognize your spouse.
How you greet each other once you’re done with work. A hug, kiss, or “I’m so glad you’re home!” are great ways to show you care and acknowledge your spouse coming home is important to you.
How you say goodnight is the last point of connectedness. Take a few moments between letting your head hit the pillow and falling asleep to talk about your day or your day tomorrow. Asking “Is there anything I can help you with tomorrow?” and ending with another “I love you.” (Because you can’t say it enough!)
4. Make time for fun!
I know life is busy, but we make time for the things we care about, and being present with your spouse is one of those things for you or you wouldn’t be reading this blog. If you operate on opposite schedules, it may look like compromising some sleep and getting up earlier or going to sleep later. Maybe it’s a date night once a week or every other week. Having fun to look forward to will build anticipation, just be sure to talk about what you both want to do so there aren’t hidden expectations!
Incorporating a date night is essential! The New York Times writes about the importance of reinventing date night: “The theory is based on brain science. New experiences activate the brain’s reward system, flooding it with dopamine and norepinephrine. These are the same brain circuits that are ignited in early romantic love…” When you have fond feelings for each other, being present will feel more natural and you’ll crave that kind of quality time.
Being more present with your spouse doesn’t have to take a lot of time or energy. But it does take being intentional with the time and energy you can offer each other.
***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***
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