Note: This is the second of a two-part series.
Failure to keep your emotional connection strong has a high likelihood of ruining your relationship. But connecting is not magic. Like any other skill, it can be learned, practiced and mastered. Mostly, this is matter of noticing and responding to your partner’s “bids” for connection—any expression that says “I want to feel close to you”—and creating your own opportunities for emotional connection. Here’s how successful couples do it:
Things to do for your partner: Fix coffee, a snack or a meal; wait on your partner when s/he is ill; compliment your partner’s accomplishments, efforts and looks; ask your partner about his/her day; praise his or her efforts around the house; say “Thank you;” listen; put a loving note in your partner’s lunch or briefcase; call or e-mail during the workday; do something kind for your partner’s friends and family; buy a silly gift or card; write a poem or song for your partner; give flowers or balloons; write a love letter; offer your partner a massage or back rub; ask about your partner’s important childhood memories; ask about your partner’s dreams, goals and visions—and listen; say to your partner “Tell me what’s going on inside of you these days”—and listen.
Things you can do together: hug; kiss; hold hands; cuddle; have at least a 6 second kiss upon parting; kiss upon reuniting; meeting for lunch during the workday; reunite at the end of the day and talk about how it went; cook meals together; clean house together; fold laundry together; plan a getaway or trip somewhere; learn a new language together and plan a trip to the place where that language is spoken; take a class (like ballroom dancing); do home repairs together; do volunteer community work together; go on a picnic or hike; stay overnight at a romantic getaway; plan and host a dinner party or a holiday celebration; go to plays, concerts, movies or readings and talk about them; go to art galleries or museums; share a favorite recreational activity such as bowling, skating, fishing, skiing, etc.; reminisce; make and maintain a family photo album; sing or play music; read plays, novels or poetry out loud to one another (or with the kids); take a shower or bath together; shampoo each other’s hair; go dancing; plan and celebrate milestones such as birthdays, graduations or promotions; help each other develop a self-improvement plan (career, health, fitness, etc.)
Read these lists to see how many of these activities you did in the past week. Are there items you’d like to do more often and make a regular part of your life together? Circle three of those items and then decide together how and when you can make them happen in the week ahead. When the week is over, evaluate how successful you were at incorporating the new activity.
Source: The Relationship Cure by John Gottman (Crown)