February is upon us; the month of love. Often in therapy we talk about ways to manage conflict in relationships. But what about finding ways to connect in them, or reconnect? The benefits of feeling connected to another person are endless. Research shows that having a strong emotional connection in a relationship not only builds trust and respect, but also has positive physical and mental impacts. Connection actually helps us manage conflict better. Let’s look at several ways to build connection in a relationship.
What do you do when your partner comes home from work? Or when you’re leaving the house in the morning? What about Saturday mornings? These are all opportunities to create relationship rituals. Relationship rituals are times and traditions set aside for just you and your partner that have significant meaning to both of you. These rituals are important tools for connection. Research shows that couples with meaningful rituals feel more satisfied in their relationships than couples without rituals. This means they are unique to each couple. Relationship rituals might look like this:
Hug and/or kiss everyday you or your partner gets home from work
Checking in about the next day when going to bed
Screen-free meal every Thursday night
Saying “I love you” before you leave
Saturday morning coffee in bed
Bids for Connection
A bid for connection is any attempt from one partner to another for attention, affirmation, affection, or any other positive connection. Some examples of bids include reaching to hold your partner’s hand, sharing a funny reel with your partner, asking them to come to the store with you, etc. Each bid provides the opportunity for partners to turn towards or away from each other. Turning towards your partner is another powerful tool for connection. Turning towards your partners starts with paying attention and can look like taking your partner’s hand when they reach for you, or being genuinely engaged in a story your partner is sharing. One study showed that couples who stay married turn towards each other 86% of the time, while couples who divorce only turn towards each other 33% percent of the time. See below for additional examples of bids for connection and what turning towards looks like.
Finding reasons to be grateful for your partner - and actually expressing it - builds connection. It’s easy to withhold appreciation when we are frustrated with someone, but this only widens the disconnection. When we express appreciation to our partner, it highlights what is going well - the positives - in the relationship. This lets our partner know what they are doing right and to keep doing more of it! Expressing appreciation might look like this:
Write them a thank you note or text - being specific about what you are thanking them for
Have dinner ready after they’ve had a long day or took on an extra task for the family
Plan a date
Learn your partner’s love language and utilize it!
Make a playlist of songs that make you think of your partner
Laughing with our partner releases feel good hormones (dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, etc.), which help to promote happiness and pleasure. When those feel good hormones are running through our body, we are also less likely to get defensive and experience more positive emotions with our partner. There is no one right way to have fun with your partner, but here are a few examples:
Tell silly jokes
Learning something new together - imagine practicing a new language with each other or trying a new dance
Watching a funny show together
Go to a comedy show together
Be silly for each other
The pattern in all these examples is that none of them needs to be big displays; the small stuff adds up. These are everyday active choices. How do you imagine implementing some of these strategies for connecting in relationships? Is there something that keeps you from turning towards your partner? If so, let’s talk about it! Reach out for a consultation at MBTC to see what support we can provide!