Keeping the Connection Strong
As a Christian Marriage Counselor, I often see married couples wrestle with how to stay emotionally connected. I therefore decided to write an article speaking to this issue, however, with a particular twist. It wouldn’t be meant to simply provide you with information. It would be meant to take you and your spouse on a brief journey into your marriage, where you could look closely at the beginnings of your relationship and at its present state today. My hope is you will not only identify what previously worked in connecting emotionally with one another, but learn what can do today to keep that connection strong.
With that being said, let’s take a journey back to the beginnings of your relationship with your spouse by answering a few questions. Take your time. You may even want to write your answers down.
- How did you meet?
- What attracted you to them?
- What did you enjoy about being with them?
- What made you decide to fall in love & commit to a lifelong relationship with them?
Look back at your answers and see if they pointed to the development of a strong emotional bond. Now let’s come forward to today and consider the following question, “What is your friendship like with your spouse today?” I ask specifically about friendship since it is an essential component of a healthy marriage. It provides the nourishment a relationship needs to remain exciting and alive. However, it can easily be overtaken by the busyness and pressures of life, or drowned out by a casual familiarity with one’s spouse. So how do couples keep friendship in their marriages alive?
What Makes For Happy Marriages
John Gottman, one of America’s leading experts on marriage, explains in his book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, that happy marriages are based on a deep spousal friendship, where there is a mutual respect for and enjoyment of each other’s company. He also documents how couples in such marriages know each other intimately, and have an abiding regard for each other, expressing this fondness daily in small ways and big ways (Gottman, 1999). His findings clearly point to the vital role friendship plays in a healthy marriage, and to the importance of affirming your spouse’s value on a daily basis by doing what may seem like minor, albeit very significant acts. For example:
- Acknowledging an expressed interest or concern with, “I’m in a big hurry, but tell me about it now so we can talk about it tonight,” instead of saying, “I don’t have time (Gottman, 1999).”
- Sending a brief text to each other during the day stating, “I love you” or “Thank you for watching the kids last night.”
- Folding the laundry for your spouse, something they normally do, as a simple way to let them know you were thinking about them.
The need to engage in such simple interactions seems obvious. Nevertheless, forgetting to do so is easy when work pressures are high, when kids are screaming and running through the house, and you’re just plain worn out from being so busy. In those cases, you often don’t feel like being nice to your spouse because you’re emotionally drained. This is understandable. However, this isn’t an emotional position either you or your spouse want to remain in for a prolonged period of time. It is precisely at those points that it becomes necessary to prioritize your time with God, with family, with friends, and at work. The aim is to create a balance which allows you to recover emotionally, and to once again focus on what matters most…your spouse.
In closing, one of the aims of this article was to illuminate the importance of the small things in marriage. Although spousal interactions can be quite complex, it’s not hard to see that the small things you do really matter when it comes to developing a marriage filled with an emotional closeness and connection that not only endures, but thrives over time. Secondly, by pointing to the beginnings of your relationship and then discussing how to keep it strong on a continual basis, I wanted you to see that yes, you can enjoy lasting friendship in your marriage.
Gottman, J. M., & Silver, N. (1999). The seven principles for making marriage work: A practical guide from the country’s foremost relationship expert . New York, NY: Three Rivers Press].
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