It was one of those “I have no idea what we are going to cook, so let’s just have someone else cook for us” nights. So my husband and I took our three young children to dinner at a local restaurant. As we entered the lobby, I saw other families and couples of all ages waiting to be seated. I couldn’t help but notice the different ways each generation interacted.
A husband and wife, who looked as though they had been together for decades, sat contently side by side. A couple busying their young children until their table was ready had that same tired look my husband and I know so well. A teenage pair held hands and whispered to each other. With so many relationship stages represented in one small space, it was easy to see how connection changes over time.
As we ate our meal, however, I noticed one family — a mom and dad with two young children — who sat directly in my line of vision. The mom helped the small boy seated next to her while the dad cared for the younger daughter. During the entire meal, the parents focused on cutting up food into little pieces and cleaning up spilled drinks. Completely consumed by caring for their children, these parents spoke to each other only once, and I believe it was to decide which of them would take the children to the restroom.
While I don’t usually pay such close attention to strangers, the couple’s lack of meaningful interaction was strikingly similar to what was taking place at our own table. The addition of children to our family drastically changed the frequency and way in which my husband and I communicate. In addition, external factors, such as appointments, commute times, work schedules and energy levels, all play a part in our ability to reach out and stay connected to each other.
Even though our culture has more potential for connection today via technology than it had even 10 years ago, many of us still struggle to maintain healthy connection in the midst of outside distractions. With work and children, obligations and responsibilities, commitments to projects and other people demanding our attention, how do we prioritize the relationship with our spouse?
Looking at what a relationship was like in the beginning and comparing it to the way it is now can be emotionally painful. For many people, the changes haven’t been good. As time goes on, we forget the little ways we connected in the beginning. We forget how we used to send a text message midmorning or pick up the phone to call during lunch. We forget that we would pause for a goodbye kiss or actually look forward to connecting at the end of the day rather than just relaxing.
But remembering the relationship as it was in the beginning gives us power and information. To reconnect with our spouse, we don’t have to start new. Since we loved well in the beginning, the first step to reconnecting is simply remembering the small moments and replicating them. If we recall the relationship in healthier seasons, we can implement some of the same loving engagements that came so easily back then. It might be as simple as making your spouse’s coffee.
We reach out
Once we remember what we did during seasons of closeness, we can reach out again in the same ways. Reaching out means turning our heart and our attention toward our spouse whenever an opportunity arises.
We can ask ourselves, Do I have a few minutes before my next meeting, while the kids are napping or while I’m on my break? An email, a phone call, a quick text to say, “I’m thinking of you,” might seem like a small start, but each choice to reach out is a link in the chain of reconnection that builds a stronger bond between husband and wife. Each person and couple need to find out what reaching out looks like for them.
If we’re going to grow intimately with our husband or wife, we must respect the available time we do have to engage with him or her. We must prioritize our relationship whenever we have an opportunity. Making a conscious decision to converse rather than to just sit and decompress after work is where it starts. We put our phones down, turn the television off, resist outside distractions and look each other in the eyes.
Healthy relationships take intentional effort to maintain, and reconnecting can begin when we decide there isn’t any other obligation that’s more important. Whether you’re the young couple holding hands, the parents managing a household of children or the pair enjoying the golden years of love, the three simple steps of remembering, reaching out and respecting your time as a couple can draw you closer together.
Did you know couples are 30 percent less likely to get a divorce if they get some sort of premarital training? If you or someone you know is planning to marry, check out Focus on the Family’s Ready to Wed curriculum, and then prepare for a marriage you’ll love!