Connection is crucial. To feel connected with your partner is to know that you can share anything with them and that they can expect the same from you. It means that you’re comfortable with one another; that you understand one another; that you know you’re for each other. Couples who feel connected are happier and more satisfied in general. They’re less stressed. They’re kinder.
But connection needs maintenance. It requires effort and shouldn’t be taken for granted. And maintaining that connection with your spouse isn’t all that difficult. It means asking questions, listening, paying attention to the small things, and generally taking an active role in being present. To that end, here are 30 small ways to connect.
Kiss hello and goodbye. Yes, even when you’re both working from home and goodbye is when you head into your home office. Try to make goodbye or hello last for at least 30 seconds, which what some say is the ideal amount of time for the greatest affect.
Be Open. Chances are high that your partner is asking you things because they genuinely want to know. Responding to a “how was your day?” or “how was the store?” or “how was your run?” with more than a shrug and a fine, how was yours? is important. Share your excitement and worries, your wins and losses, what made you laugh, what pissed you off, and everything in between.
And Be Interested. Because showing an interest in your partner — what battles they won and lost at work or with the kids, why they like the podcast they’re listening to, who they bumped into when they took the dog for a walk — lets them know that you want to know about their life, both internal and external.
Don’t forget their responses. Work hard to remember. Remembering is everything.
Just be curious. Always wanting to know more about your partner’s past, their present, their future desires is a huge part of building emotional capital and connection.
Be honest about your emotions. When you’re truthful about how you’re feeling and why, will your partner better understand you and what you need — and help you understand what energy you’re bringing home to them.
Take joint work breaks. If you can. Even if it’s just 10 minutes. Check in. Not working together? Give them a call. Say hi. Why? Just because.
Express appreciation. Yes, this means saying ‘thank you.’ But it’s more than that. True appreciation is specific and lets the recipient know that you noticed something they said or did. Say,“Thanks for handling the kids so well tonight during bedtime” or “Man, you handled that tantrum like a pro. Thank you,” means more. It means you noticed.
Look them in the eye. There’s a reason eye contact feels so intimate: it is. Looking your partner in the eye is an easy way of forming a deep emotional connection and getting a nice jolt of feel-good oxytocin in the process. Do it when you’re listening to them. And speaking of which…
Listen. Really listen to them. That is, put your phone down. Don’t interrupt. Don’t offer unsolicited advice. Don’t try to fix stuff. Just listen to them. You’ll learn a lot.
Tell Them They’re Heard. You might be sensing a pattern here. Explicitly telling your partner that you’ve heard them can make a difference. You might still be trying to understand their perspective — you may even disagree — but knowing they have been heard, regardless, is powerful.
Be receptive of feedback. Without getting defensive or cranky or defusing it with humor. This is hard, we know. But listening to and understanding someone’s criticisms is how we grow. And growing together equals greater connection.
Try new things. In bed. In the kitchen. At a restaurant. Adventurousness builds connection.
Hug. Yup, just do it. For at least ten seconds, which has proven to be the ideal amount of time to get a nice rush of stress-reducing, connection-enhancing hormones.
Have sex. We don’t need to explain this one.
Play together. Cards. Board games. Pickup basketball. Whatever’s your active thing. Couples who make time to play together are more connected and happier for it.
Make some time for silliness. Those who laugh together, who can laugh at themselves, and who are just in the habit of smoothing down the rough edges of life with humor are stronger for it.
Have some tech-free time. No TV. No phone. No laptops. No podcasts. None of it. Schedule it in the calendar. Use the time to talk or play or plan. Stick to it.
Take a walk. And hold hands while you do it. It’s amazing how connected you’ll feel while doing something as simple as strolling along a path clutching palms with the person you love.
Relive some favorite memories. There’s a lot of power in the phrase, Remember that time when we…? It’s more or less a magic spell that conjures up beautiful moments you shared together. Memory is a powerful form of connection.
Same goes for looking through old photos. So pull out that old album again.
Flirt. Because who doesn’t want to know that they’ve still got it?
Empathize with them. That is, really try and consider yourself in your partner’s shoes and understand what they might be going through. It’s a powerful habit.
Learn their love language. Are they more of an acts of service person? Quality time? Words of affirmation? Physical touch? Gifts? Understanding what they need and how they like it delivered is key.
Argue. It’s easy to shy away from conflict. But conflict — and we mean conflict done well — leads to more connection down the road.
Give one another alone time. Making sure both of you get some alone time — whatever that looks like — keeps you both happier. Besides, it’s nice to miss one another. How else do you know that connection is there?
And give one another the benefit of the doubt, too. At times when something goes wrong, it’s good to realize that, whatever happened, your partner probably had the best intentions.
Be a fan of them. Root for them to succeed. Be psyched when they do. Be understanding when they don’t. Help them come up with a game plan. Let them know that you are their biggest supporter.
Tell them — and show them — that you love them. Do the things you know make them feel loved, respected, and appreciated.