This is Valentine's week so we'll be looking at three parts of a successful relationship: friendship, emotions, and making a future together. Let's start with friendship. (This information was adapted from Dr. John M. Gottman and Dr. Julie Gottman, Bridging the Couple Chasm, 2000-2011).
We all have stress throughout the day and week. How we handle that affects us in our relationship. Couples that greet each other several times a week and talk about the events of the day tend to be less lonely and are able to create buffers to their stresses. How about the romantic spark in each other? Humor? Feeling heard and understood? Dropping your guard? Picture coming home to your castle and taking off the armor. This is comforting, reconnects us, and makes us allies. Talking about the events of the day also calms and prepares us to face together the demands of kids who are bringing home a busload of stress themselves. Committed couples can even do this from a distance when one is out of town, just simply touching base with each other and giving support. Difficulty here can cause us to feel vulnerable to the stresses we face and result in feeling disconnected from each other, disliking each other, and feeling lonely.
Communication plays a big role in how we feel about simply greeting each other when arriving home. One important factor is showing empathy. Not solving problems. And this works backward – instead of talking about all the problems in the relationship, or with the other partner, or the house/car/yard/ etc., express the problems outside the relationship. This doesn’t mean you avoid the big things. Remember, we’re just getting home from work, or waking up for that matter. If we can talk about the events of the day we will be able to handle bigger concerns.
Another important factor is eye contact and attention. It amazes me how my kids start talking when I open my mouth. As soon as I say one word to Jill our girls start talking to get our attention. Our kids will survive a 5-minute moment of silence. (Or 10 or 15). Do we have the hutzpah to redirect our kids and set a limit – “I hear you honey, but right now I’m talking to your Dad/Mom, please wait until we’re finished.” Giving each other that attention shows we care and are interested. After all, how is the love spark supposed to start if there has been no eye contact at greeting? This reconnection goes a long way to preventing loneliness in marriage.