by Dr. John Hart, LGMFT
Most therapists will suggest to their couples that both partners should make time for each other as a way to maintain relationship satisfaction. I agree with this suggestion but I have started realize in my own clients that making time is not just enough anymore. As a result, I would like to take this suggestion of making time for each other to the next level and strongly recommend that when making time for your partner, make sure you are providing undivided attention. If you give your partner, or if your partner has, your undivided attention, you stop whatever else you are doing and listen to that person.
Why is this small piece of making time such a critical aspect of emotional connectedness in couples’ relationships? Think about it?
We feel so important when our partner has stopped everything and has their eyes on us and is actively listening to us. We feel comfortable allowing our vulnerable feelings (feelings that sometimes struggle to come out hard during times of distress) to be released in a healthy way so that it is correctly received. And lastly, we feel attractive knowing that our partner does not care about anything else going on in that given moment but us. So you see…giving your partner undivided attention is one of the easiest way to reassure our partners that they mean so much to us. There are three important things to consider when you want to provide undivided attention to your partner:
- Clear both your physical and emotional spaces – This is very critical. Many people think by dropping whatever you are physically doing (e.g., washing the dishes, watching television, etc.) is enough to provide undivided attention. Not true! It is even more aggravating when we spend time with our partner and we sense that their mind and thinking is elsewhere. While it is important to stop doing what you are physically doing, there is nothing wrong with letting your partner know that you need a few minutes to “get ready” so that way you can hone in and allow yourself to be emotionally available and accessible.
- Actively participate – Makes sense, right? But this strategy is one that can easily “slip through the cracks” in which we think for the most part that as long as we make time for our partner to spend time with us that they are fully happy. One of the ways that your partner will feel connected to you is when you are reciprocating as much energy as they are during quality time. I know it can be hard to do this after a long day at work but the effort is important. Trust me, your partner knows you have had a long day. So the fact that you are actively listening, actually conversing, engaging in physical touch, and even bringing some positive energy to the moment, they will feel very special (and you will win as well).
- Ask and plan with your partner – Because our lives become complicated by the hour, by the day and by the week, there is no shame in asking and planning out times with your partner where you both are able to be physically, mentally, and emotionally available to only each other. Try to find days and pockets of times throughout the week that will comfortable work for the both of you. Even if it means that you both put in your business and/or personal calendars, you should do it! Making time and providing undivided attention to your partner is just as important (if not more important) than the scheduled meetings and gym workouts.