Throughout the last few years, Joe and I have gradually grown apart. I slept with Allie in her bed, and he slept in our bed. We never hugged or kissed and often didn't even usually have nice words for one another.
Joe and I have seen a therapist for emotionally focused therapy for years and years, maybe seven? It's been a long time, even though EFT is supposed to be a short-term solution. We both have a lot of childhood issues to work out, and they have had lasting effects on our relationships with people in general, but especially with each other.
We enjoy our time with our therapist and look forward to it every other week. It's like a date night; we reconnect and resolve our issues in a very non-confrontational way, and our therapist is like an angel sent from God Himself.
We've never been close to divorce; divorce is not option in either his mind or in mine. We started therapy because we fought all the time and both found our relationship to be a source of stress; we continue therapy because it helps us to understand each other in a way that neither of us is good at on our own (even after all this time).
You may remember that I wrote in my last bariatric surgery update that a gorgeous man flirted with me, and I told Joe all about it, and he took that opportunity to tell me why it made perfect sense that that man showed an interest. It was a small moment in our many years of marriage, but it made all the difference to me.
I realized, deep in my heart and soul, that my husband not only chose me twelve years ago, but that he chooses me every single day. He wants me, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. He wants to be my rock and my best friend. He wants to spend time with me and talk with me every day. All this came flooding to my feeble brain in a matter of moments as I talked with him about this other guy.
Something changed then in our relationship. It was like there was a giant pendulum that swung from emotionally and physically distant to as close as can be, and in that moment, we reconnected.
Our marriage has become spicy. I regularly spend money on things like lingerie that I never would have even considered before, just because I know Joe will like it. Joe has confided his secrets in me, and he has sought my support. I don't have any secrets, or else I would have told them to him, but I have leaned on him for support many times.
We two are, possibly for the first time in our entire marriage, one. We are partners and friends and lovers, all at the same time.
We still go to our therapist and, to my surprise, we still have things to work on and discuss. It turns out that our renewed relationship hasn't healed all our hurts, and we still need to talk about our feelings and things we disagree on. Those haven't gone away, but talking about them has gotten a lot easier in every context.
I didn't know I needed to reconnect with Joe. I just went about my life, focused on my kids, giving him what was left over at the end of the day (which was normally nothing because my children are black holes of my time and attention).
My focus has shifted. I am now focused on Joe, and the kids get what is left (which, surprisingly, is more than I expected because he is not a black hole). He and I kiss and gross out our kids. I stopped sleeping with Allie, and we put a hook and latch on our bedroom door.
If you feel distant and removed from your husband, I want to tell you that there is hope. You don't need a flirty man to reconnect; try one of the suggestions below. Try just one, and then try another in a few days or weeks.
The Magic of the 5:1 Ratio
Dr. John Gottman, a prominent researcher on marriage and families, found that couples who stayed together and reported thriving marriages had 5 positive interactions for every 1 negative interaction. So, when they argued, one might touch the other gently or smile or ask a question out of genuine concern rather than trying to prove herself to be right. Or, they have so many positive interactions outside of arguments that it balances out. That's where I think we are right now, but we could easily slip back into our habits if we're not diligent.
On the other hand, the marriages that would eventually end in divorce had less than 1 positive interaction for every negative 1. We've been there. An eye roll, a harsh word, a lot of conflict… there's nothing to balance it out and tip the scales toward warm, fuzzy feelings.
A lot of the items below aren't big things. You don't need grand gestures to make a difference; sometimes all it takes is one open and honest conversation or a few small positive touches to balance out the negative things that are inevitably coming.
By the way, Dr. Gottman did not find that thriving couples had fewer negative interactions. They had just as much conflict as other couples; it's just that they had a lot more positive energy during and in between the conflicts.
I've included 45 ways to reconnect with your spouse below, and then I also created a printable with 45 more for a total of 90 ways to reconnect with your spouse. You can download it below by adding it to your cart and completing the free checkout.
After you download it, you should print it on cardstock and hang it on your fridge or bathroom mirror, somewhere that you will see it often and remind yourself to take a moment to create those positive interactions.
45 Ways to Increase the Positivity in Your Marriage & Reconnect with Your Spouse
- Go to bed at the same time every night. This is critical. If you aren't getting into bed together every night, it will be really hard to make time for more sex (which is the next item on the list). It's not impossible, but it's a lot harder. Going to bed at the same time makes more room for more adults-only conversation, too, which can be hard to squeeze in when you have kids around.
- Have more sex. I know some of you are groaning, and truthfully, I would have been groaning two months ago, too. But our kids went to a sleepover one night, and I felt obligated to have sex that night because – no kids! And also, I knew he was hoping.
It had been the first time in months, and it was awkward and not that great. But then, we did it the next night too, and it was better. And then the next night. By the time I was really aware, we had been doing it every night for a week and it had become pretty amazing. So we are still doing it just about every day, and it is never awkward anymore. It's not amazing every night, but it is very very good AND, as if that was not enough, the closeness that Joe and I feel for one another is the best part. I always heard about the emotional intimacy that comes from sex, but I never felt it before now.
If you are struggling with wanting to have sex at all, check out Sheila Wray Gregoire's Boost Your Libido course. I have long been a fan of Sheila's and purchased this course years ago and never started lesson one. If you do decide to buy it, you have to actually open and do the lessons in order to see results. #justsaying
- Hug him. Maybe you can't manage more sex right now. Start with a hug, a real hug that lasts six seconds or more. Let your hands roam a bit and give his butt a squeeze. It will surprise and delight him.
- Change your scent. Perfume doesn't work for me because it usually triggers a migraine, but something as subtle as changing your soap, shampoo, or deodorant will make your man pause and take notice. Think about what you smelled like when you were dating. Did you use a body spray back then, when you wanted to impress him? Try to recreate that feeling.
- Pick up some greeting cards. I love greeting cards because I don't always know just what to say in a love note, but a handwritten love note would pack more punch. When I was at my grad school residency last month, the oldest member of our group found pretty colored envelopes all through his stuff all week. He was a newlywed, and his wife had packed little love notes in his briefcase. It was adorable, and you should have seen the look on his face every time he found one.
- Share a lingering kiss. I used to hate kissing. I can't quite explain why except that it felt awkward, but I think that too was because we weren't doing it often enough. Now that we kiss all the time, every day, it's not so awkward and I even kind of like it. What I like most about it is the closeness required. It's a form of intimacy that extends our nighttime connection all throughout the day.
- Dance together. Even if you don't have a song, you can still slow dance in your kitchen. Let your head rest on his shoulder or have a whispered conversation. Instant bonding.
- Share an inside joke. I don't know what your inside joke will be, but you should have at least one, something that will make both of you smile at the mere mention. We have a couple, but if I told you, they wouldn't be special anymore.
- Remind him of something that happened early in your relationship. Reminiscing about good times will help both of you to remember the bond you shared before life got in the way. Think about your dating life, your honeymoon, or your life before kids and stress.
- Consult him. Ask what he thinks about a subject in the news, a decision in your life, or where you'll go on vacation next year. Solicit his opinion and listen actively, looking him in the eye while he speaks and asking probing questions to explore what he thinks.
- Send him a Bitmoji. One of my grad school teammates (the same one who got the love notes) got the whole group making Bitmojis, and I love them. Bitmojis are emojis you create to look like yourself, and there are dozens (maybe even hundreds?) of different thoughts and phrases to go with them. There are especially a lot that have to do with kisses, love, and relationships, but also things like OK, good morning, and yay. There are tons of them. I text Joe at least a few every day.
- Text him a naughty message. Who says your texts all have to be G-rated? Text him something that will make him blush in the middle of his work day. He'll thank you for it later.
- Connect with date night questions. I made this little printable years ago, and Joe and I break it out every couple of months, just to see if our answers are the same. I print a new one each time and we talk through all the questions, and it's always fun.
- Connect with his feelings. If you sense that something is bothering him, ask him about it in the most non-confrontational way possible. If you have trouble coming up with words, you could try, “Would you tell me how you're feeling?”
- Go for an actual walk together. If your kids want to come, that's okay, but go for a walk outside, in the neighborhood or at a park. Hold hands and talk.
- Thank him. Tell him what you appreciate about him and the things he does for you. Joe is building me some shelves, simple shelves with wood and brackets, but I have thanked him profusely for making time in his busy life for my project.
- Do his chores. Just for one day, do something that he normally does. Joe is absolutely thrilled beyond measure when I have the time to make dinner for the family, a duty that is reserved for him 99% of the time.
- Compliment him. It has to be honest and thoughtful. Think about the way he looks, his eyes, and his clothes. I suggested to Joe that he trim his goatee and blend it into a very short beard, and he did. And I love it and tell him so almost every day.
- Greet him with a smile when you haven't seen him for a while. Since I work from home and Joe doesn't, and he starts work very early and I don't, he comes home every afternoon and pokes his head into my office. I always say hello and smile. If I'm not on a call, we share a kiss. It's such a nice way to reconnect at the end of an undoubtedly busy day.
- Give him a nickname. I bet you both had nicknames when you were dating. Who doesn't? Use that nickname or create a new one. I read a book recently, and I didn't love it so won't tell you the name, but in it, the main character gave his girlfriend a cheesy nickname. And she gave him one too. And when they were in private, they used those very cheesy nicknames on purpose. It was like their own inside joke, and it worked in a very intimate way.
- Cook together. There is something sensual about cooking together, at least, I think there is. Cooperating in the kitchen can be fun and exciting, so find a new recipe and try it out.
- Make his favorite dish for supper. As I have said, Joe usually does the cooking at our house, and it makes me feel so special when he makes my favorite meal. It's like he wants to do something nice for me, and I can hear that message loud and clear.
- Compliment him to your kids. Tell them, where he can hear, that they have the best daddy in the whole world.
- Compliment him in public. Brag on him to your friends or to his friends, again, in his earshot. We so often tend to complain about our spouses, so sharing something amazing about him will not only make your friends feel good, it will make him feel good too.
- Take care of his car. Take his car to the carwash and fill up the gas tank. I'm willing to bet that he usually does these things for you, so if you turn the tables and do them for him, it will be a great favor and he'll get to feel how it is to be taken care of.
- Frame a picture for him to put on his desk at work. It should be a picture of just the two of you. I get really cute desk plaques from Shutterfly for about $25, but just a plain old 5×7 with a cheapo frame would be appreciated just as much for under $3 (if you got the frame at the dollar store).
- Text or email him a story from your past. You could try, “remember when… on our honeymoon?” or “I was just thinking about … from our first date.”
- Text or email him a compliment. You certainly love a hundred things about him, so why not tell him one or two in a quick message mid-day?
- Text or email him a quick thank you. Everyone likes to feel appreciated, and our husbands so often go unthanked. Thank him for working hard for your family or for being so tireless for his boss or whatever you can think of. I bet he does a lot of things every single day worth offering your thanks.
- Do something as a team. One of Joe's frequent gripes is that he feels like he takes care of the family by himself. He doesn't, of course, and I do just as much as he does, but he doesn't see what I do. It would make him feel really appreciated if I offered to help him clean up after dinner or unload the dishwasher. I'm not saying you should do this for him (although I did suggest that above). What I am saying is that you could do it with him.
- When you're at a red light in the car, lean over and give him a kiss. Only at a red light or stop sign, though. I seriously know a couple of almost died in a car crash because she grabbed his face and pulled it over for a kiss, and he ran off the road, and the car overturned into a ravine. It was terrible.
- Have a candlelit dinner. Feed the kids early and put them to bed a little early (or else banish them to their rooms with tablets), and then have a romantic evening for two, complete with a dinner by candlelight.
- Make a bucket list together. Write down everything you want to do as a couple. A sweet friend of mine has gone to Egypt with her hubby, and they recently went on a whiskey tour in Kentucky. All fun stuff, and all those shared memories (particularly without the kids) give them a great starting point for conversation and reminiscing.
- Write letters to one another. Why I Love You: A Journal of Us is a great spark for these letters. It's a small journal in which you can alternate writing. So you respond to a prompt and give it to him. He reads what you wrote and writes something back. Then you read and respond to something else. You can go back and forth for weeks and months this way, maybe even saying things to one another that you wouldn't normally verbalize.
- Ask each other questions. There are tons of awesome books of questions available on Amazon. My personal favorites are Table Topics, but The Quiz Book for Couples, 201 Relationship Questions, Our Moments, and Questions for Couples are also really good. Really, almost any similar book will spark the kinds of conversations you're looking for and help you to reconnect.
- Play a game together. I've shared lots of lists of great games, but you should probably start with this one.
- Watch hilarious tv together. Joe and I have both gotten really into two tv shows on Netflix: Grace & Frankie and Schitt's Creek. They're both definitely adults-only because both are a little raunchy (a lot of language primarily, no big sex scenes or anything like that). We laugh so hard at these shows, and laughter is so good for your psyche and your marriage.
- Watch a movie together. This could also be funny, for the same reasons as the tv show, but Joe and I have been known to take in a good chick flick too. And also, there's something very romantic about watching a spicy sex scene together!
- Take a shower together.
- Do some stargazing. Grab a blanket and some wine, and go out in your backyard to look at the stars. There are some great apps that will show you what you're looking at, but they do affect your night vision, so use sparingly. My favorite is SkyView.
- Read a book together. My favorite book is of course Outlander, and it's very long and has some very sexy bits, so it is perfect for reading to each other at bedtime. My suggestion is that you take turns reading aloud, and you'll have something to discuss all the next day.
- Look at old photos. I'm sure you have shared so many photo-worthy experiences, and you probably don't have them all hanging around your house, so open up the computer and take a stroll through your iPhoto library. Talk about all the fun you've had.
- Make plans for your next date night. Maybe you have the ability to take an overnight at a bed & breakfast, but maybe not. Maybe a dinner out is all you can manage. It's okay. Do what you can do. The important thing is that you're planning special time alone, and you're doing it together.
- Have a wine or beer tasting. We aren't drinkers, but I have a lot of friends who are. I often see their photos on Instagram of the wine and beer tastings they do out at bars, but you could easily set up the same idea at home. Just buy a few bottles of you choice, get some small glasses, and enjoy.
- Ask him, “When did you feel most loved today?” and really listen to his answer.
Reconnect with your spouse today, and you will enjoy all the positive interactions and feelings your relationship has to offer. It is a wonderful thing to smile when you think of your man (or woman) rather than gritting your teeth or rolling your eyes.
We got there, after a long period of rotten-ness to one another. You can get there too, I promise.
I've included 45 ways to reconnect with your spouse above, and then I also created a printable with 45 more for a total of 90 ways to reconnect with your spouse. You can download it below by adding it to your cart and completing the free checkout.
After you download it, you should print it on card stock and hang it on your fridge or bathroom mirror, somewhere that you will see it often and remind yourself to take a moment to create those positive interactions.
© 2019, Tara Ziegmont. All rights reserved.