Making Time to Connect:
Navigating disconnection and loneliness in your relationships.
If you are feeling disconnected in your relationship, like roommates, like you don’t even know your partner anymore, or are simply looking to maintain & deepen your emotional intimacy, scheduling time to connect might be helpful. Scheduling time into your busy life to connect with your partner might seem silly. You might be thinking that you don’t need to spend more time together, that It will feel like forced romance or that this is just one more thing on your ‘to-do’ list.
Coming to an agreement about a time, space and way to connect with our partners does a couple of things. First, it says that you value the relationship and want to make time for it, even with your busy schedule. Two, it makes it easier to reach out to your partner because you know, and they know, that they will have the time to listen and give you their undivided attention. Last, it creates security. Each of you knows that, no matter what you are going through, you will show up for each other and the relationship during your ‘connection time’.
Consider all the obligations and responsibilities in your life and come to an agreement about how often you and your partner can reasonably take time away from everything else and focus solely on the relationship. You might consider what time of day or day of the week you have the greatest capacity or need for connection. This might depend on how big the chunk of time that you are dedicating. For some couples, 2 hours every week might work. For others, one weekend every 2 months might fit better. The Gottman’s suggest 2 hours per week, but ultimately the ‘right’ amount of time for your relationship is whatever is achievable and sustainable. Do what feels good for you and your partner.
It might not seem like it, but where we are has a huge impact on how deeply we are able to connect. Find a place that is free from distractions. Somewhere both you and your partner feel safe enough to be vulnerable, to feel and express your emotions & affection. This place might be your bedroom, out in nature, or in a hotel room or coffee shop, where you are free from the visual reminders of all the things you have to do tomorrow. This might mean that you need to arrange child or pet care! If this is the case, make sure to arrange who is responsible for this task ahead of time.
Talk about how you can connect in ways that feel safe and nourishing for both partners. They might be the same, or they might be different. That’s okay! Figure out ways, together, that you can each have your connection needs met by the other.
The Gottman Institute has some great suggestions and resources for connecting with your partner. One of these is to ask open-ended questions. These are questions that cannot be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and often start with the words ‘what’, ‘how’, and ‘where’. They allow the answerer the space to reflect on the question and their response to it and share their innermost experiences with their partner. They require the asker to withhold assumptions and allow them the opportunity to learn more about their partner’s inner world.
Another important aspect to explore is what types of touch help you and your partner feel connected. These can be secure touches, like holding your partner’s hand to communicate “I’ve got you”. They can be playful touches, comfort touches, and intimate touches. Often, we don’t think to ask each other these questions, but this information allows you to intentionally communicate with your partner simply through touch.
For help coming up with open-ended questions, you can check out the Gottman Card Decks App. This app has multiple different card decks you and your partner can explore depending on your moods and what your relationship needs at the moment. You can also connect with one of our relationship counsellors for support in strengthening the emotional connection in your relationship.