When my husband, Kevin, and I met, it was just like a Hallmark movie. I was single and 30, and on an ordinary Sunday night, I went into a coffee shop to meet another guy for a date. Kevin was the barista. He struck up a conversation with me, first about coffee, and then about church, faith and ministry. (He told me he wanted to be a pastor that night).
A year later we were engaged. And three months after that, we were married. In our newlywed days, feeling connected came easily to us. We had things in common, such as an interest in church ministry, a shared passion for good coffee and enjoyment in watching movies to relax. And we appreciated spending lots of time in each other’s company.
But soon we began raising a family together, and we experienced days (and occasionally weeks) when we didn’t seem to be connecting as well. Sometimes we even felt distant from each other. Whether navigating a stressful season or just finding ourselves busy and distracted, we discovered that we needed some specific habits to stay emotionally close and keep romance strong. Here are some connection points that have worked the best for us:
A great way to connect is by doing things together. These shared activities can be as simple as taking walks or cooking dinner together at the end of a busy day. Doing things together builds camaraderie and provides opportunities for deeper communication. Some activities married friends of mine have discovered are cycling, taking a college class together, home escape-room games, hiking, pastry baking and gardening.
Togetherness can also set the stage for romance and intimacy. Hold hands on the walk. Sit close to each other (and put away your phones) while you’re watching the movie. Sleep turned toward each other. Close physical proximity can reinforce oneness in marriage.
At a marriage retreat, Kevin and I learned about the concept of “couch time.” The speaker suggested spending 15 minutes of undistracted conversation each night seated on the couch to create a daily opportunity for connection.
Holding grudges is a great way to prolong feelings of disconnect. 1 Corinthians 13:5 says love “keeps no record of wrongs” (NIV). Another translation says it is not “resentful.” Loving like this is especially important when it comes to the petty ways we can offend each other on a daily basis.
When we keep track of the wrongs the other person has committed, that lack of forgiveness drives us apart instead of uniting us. Ruth Bell Graham, wife of late evangelist Billy Graham, once famously said: “A good marriage is the union of two good forgivers.”
Not long ago, I was challenged to intentionally smile at my husband at least once a day. At first, I thought that seemed like a really low bar. But during the month I was concentrating on doing it, I found out how often my countenance was grumpy.
According to science, when you smile you release serotonin, dopamine and endorphins — neurotransmitters that create feelings of happiness. Each time you smile, your body is sending signals of well-being to your brain. The clincher is, your spouse’s brain is set to mimic your smile, and they get a big dose of feel-good signals too. The simple act of smiling at your spouse can make a big difference. And laughter is even better.
Keep the newlywed vibe
Remember how you felt when you first tied the knot? Back then, you may have felt like your spouse could do no wrong. While you may be a bit more realistic a few years later, feeling connected can be as simple as acting like newlyweds.
Kiss before you go to bed — or at least sometime during the day. Send sweet or flirtatious text messages to one another. Turn ordinary evenings into “date night in.” Proverbs 5:18 tells men to “rejoice in the wife of your youth.” (And the following verse actually references physical intimacy specifically.) Treating your spouse as you did when you were “young and in love” increases your connection.
Why connection matters
I’m thankful that my marriage got off to such a romantic start. Because I had spent my 20s single and desiring marriage, I think I had a special appreciation for having someone like Kevin in my life. But even with strong beginnings, we’ve had to work at staying connected.
Genesis 2:24 highlights an important aspect of God’s design for marriage when it says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” It’s powerful to look back at how God ordained the first marriage and the unique connection he gave husband and wife — a relationship of oneness.
Early in our marriage, Kevin and I discovered that our unity was a big target for the Enemy’s fiery darts. If God’s desire for our marriage is unity, it makes sense that our connection would be under attack. If the Enemy can break us up, he can do a lot of damage to us, our families, our community and our witness.
I was recently reading the memoir of 94-year-old minister who was married to his wife for 60 years before she passed away. Something he said about marriage stood out to me:
“I am a believer that the concerns of the early years of marriage are alleviated as time goes on. It may be through an act of love, a genuine conversation, or even a difficult experience you must support one another through. But the longer you spend together, the more you learn one another’s ways and you gain confidence in your life together.”
A strong connection as a couple isn’t primarily a feeling. It’s a bond that increases as we employ godly habits and seek to live out God’s purpose for our marriage. As we forge a deeper connection by spending time together, giving each other grace and finding delight in each other, we strengthen a bond that God will use both in our lives and in the lives of others.