Relationships are their own living entities that need attention and love to grow and thrive. When the relationship is neglected it will stagnate. Just like your body needs care and attention to feel good and perform in the form of sleep, food, and exercise your relationship needs time set aside when you are partner can focus on keeping it strong. This goes beyond date nights, text messages about grocery shopping, and being in the same room with the tv on in the background. To truly build your relationship over time you need to set aside dedicated time each week to ‘check-in’ with your partner about how the relationship feels, what you need to feel more connected, and how you can support each other. With just a little bit of time and effort, these weekly ‘check-ins’ will pay for themselves as you feel more connected, get better at reading and understanding each other, and improved intimacy as you feel more supported day-to-day.
For many couples, especially busy professionals or young parents, the relationship can be taken for granted or neglected because both people are individually spreading themselves too thin or auto-pilot has become the default setting over time. Checking out in this way becomes a vicious cycle because the more that each individual retreats to their corner and barricades themself by bottling emotions and trying to solve all problems independently the more that their partner will feel isolated and doubtful about the health and strength of the relationship.
It takes time and energy to collaborate and depend on your partner for help and support but this is what builds the relationship and reaps rewards over the long term. When we are overworked, stressed, and anxious it can be challenging to feel vulnerable with a partner and share how we are feeling and create a plan to spend meaningful time together and share how we feel. The key is to make time with your partner supportive and focused on what is needed to feel better. This is why it helps to set a time aside each week that is sacred and focused on the health of the relationship. This way each partner has decided that this time is valuable and is free from other activities. That step is critical because with buy-in from both people it is more likely to happen each week and their is skin in the game to make the time count.
Think about this: spending time with your partner each week where you both can share how you are feeling and talk about ways that you can support each other!
Focusing on ways that you can support each other is the key element in growing your relationship with consistent practice.
This will not happen by accident. It takes effort from each person to set aside time and emotional energy each week to devote to the relationship and tuning in to your needs, your partner’s needs, and the needs of the relationship. This is just like setting time aside to go to the gym, for therapy, for a massage, etc. They say that time = money but I like to say that time = value because you get out of things what you put into them. By setting aside valuable time each week you are assigning value to the relationship and dedicating yourself to improving trust, connection, intimacy, and support between you and your partner.
I recommend that couples agree on a time each week (set it on the calendar!) for at least a 15-20min check-in on the state of your relationship, what you each feel/want/need, and how to support each other.
- Maybe you are feeling disconnected from your partner physically and emotionally…having a forum to say that out loud and discuss ways that you can build intimacy will help solve the problem. If you keep these feelings to yourself or communicate them through bitterness, resentment, or distancing then the problem will only get words.
- Maybe your partner has been feeling anxious about an upcoming event and has been micromanaging you as a way to handle these overwhelming feelings…if you have a time set aside each week to talk about your relationship then you can help your partner alleviate this anxiety and create a support plan instead of feeling upset and hurt by their overbearing behavior.
Building a loving and supportive relationship is just like putting in the time to succeed in school or excel in a sport…it takes time, energy, and attention. Just like going to the gym regularly to maintain your physical health, your relationship needs regular maintenance to stay fit and in shape.
If it has been awhile since you have practiced relationship building skills like active and reflective listening, problem solving as a team, sharing your thoughts and feelings honestly, and/or physical intimacy (this includes everything from handholding to massage to sex) then your relationship could probably benefit from couples counseling tune-up with Growth and Gratitude online therapy to help jumpstart your relationship and learn the skills to practice and build success!