Here are a five things I've discovered to help rekindle that bond.
- Regular date nights.
This is one we've all heard repeatedly. You need to take time together on a regular basis to cultivate your relationship. I suggest if you're living together, a minimum of one date night per week. If you're not, you need at least two. A relationship cannot thrive if there is a lack of communication and quality time. Set aside time for each other, because you're worth it!
Something that I've always maintained is that watching movies together on the couch may be a date, but it's not quality time. I recently realized that's not necessarily true. To me, quality time is all about bonding - not just sharing a common experience. Giving your partner a head massage, or foot massage, or doing something that involves focusing even a small amount of your energy and attention onto them is still quality time, where holding hands on the couch isn't (to me).
- Setting relationship goals.
This is one I came across thanks to my wonderful friend Jacey. She and her husband do a "relationship review" every year on their anniversary. They talk about the strengths and weaknesses they've encountered in their relationship over the past twelve months. They also set goals together for the next year - some relationship, and some individual. It's important to know where your partner is going so you're able to better support them.
- Be empathetic.
If something is important to your partner, and your partner is important to you, their concern should be important to you as well. Trying to understand where they're coming from will make a huge difference in how they feel.
- Turn to each other.
Be each other's best friend. When you're struggling with something, confide in your partner. It will help strengthen that bond between you. If you're struggling with something in your relationship, your partner won't know unless you voice that concern. If you're struggling with something outside your relationship, having a united front will strengthen that friendship. In both situations, intimacy grows.
- Always speak to your partner with respect.
I was listening to a John Gottman CD almost two years ago, and one of the women he was interviewing said something that still sticks with me.
"If something happens to you, like if you are sick or something, this is the person that's going to be there for you. You need to treat them better than you treat the people at work. So whatever it is that you have to say, you should be able to say it in such a way that you're not tearing the person down or you don't have to regret it later on."
Dr. John Gottman's CD, Staying Strong as a Couple, was a gift I received when Kyle was deployed, and it is one of the best relationship resources I've encountered. Highly recommend!