Couples may find themselves spending less and less time together, and the time they do have might be stained with stress. Not surprisingly, this can make you feel like you’re miles apart.
But it doesn’t take long hours of quality time to enhance your relationship connection. What’s important is developing an “attitude of carrying your spouse or partner with you” throughout your day, according to Mark E. Sharp, Ph.D, a psychologist in private practice who specializes in relationship issues.
Here are six simple ways to sustain a strong connection when the days keep getting shorter (and the to-do list, longer).
1. Use technology for good.
Technology can strain your relationship if you’re constantly plugged in, but it doesn’t have to. “Sending a quick text, an email, a chat or a phone call can take just a few seconds but can send an important message – I am thinking about you and I love you,” said Chelsea Madsen, Ph.D, a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in working with couples at Wasatch Family Therapy.
If you get so busy throughout your day that you forget, just set an alarm on your phone as a reminder, Madsen said. Or schedule specific times in your day to reconnect, even if it’s a brief phone chat, Sharp said.
2. Plan ahead.
According to Madsen, “When the ‘to-do’ list gets longer we often get lost in the have to, want to, and should do’s, but the clarity of which tasks are the highest priorities seem to get a little cloudy.” Plus, waiting to spend quality time together when you actually have time will likely leave you waiting forever. Prioritize your relationship by planning ahead for date nights. For instance, hire a babysitter well in advance, Madsen said.
3. Know each other’s schedules.
“Another way that partners can carry each other is being aware of each other’s schedule and activities,” Sharp said. This way, if your partner has an exciting or tough day, you can support them, he said.
4. Create and continue rituals.
Your rituals don’t need to be elaborate or time-consuming. They could be as simple as a kiss before work, a chat before bed or a glass of milk in the evening together, Madsen said. And if you already have certain rituals, keep them going, she said. “Rituals tell your partner you are there, and there is stability in the relationship, something to count on,” she said.
5. Tackle tasks together.
Madsen suggested checking off your to-do list as a team. Run errands together. Catch up while you’re cooking dinner, she said. “Even working side by side on your computers can be fun and relationship-enhancing if you make it that way,” she said.
6. Check in with each other’s emotions.
“One of the first things I see slide when we are busy is emotional connection,” Madsen said. But this is an important way to feel closer to your partner. “It gives you a sense of support and confidence that is unique,” she said. So talk about your feelings, worries, woes and life in general, she said.