In the midst of our busy schedules, it’s easy to get sidetracked, to lose sight of our real priorities and our relationships. Between taking the kids to school, running errands, going to work, paying bills, taking care of our homes and putting out fires of all kinds — it’s easy to let our daily tasks take over our love lives.
Relationship researchers John and Julie Gottman found that the happiest couples prioritize their relationship. They schedule time for love — they make sure that relationship time is on their calendar.
Examining my own life and reflecting on that of the 300+ married couples I’ve consulted with, I’ve learned that sometimes it’s easy to give precedence to everything before the relationship.
In my life, this has resulted in months passing before I say to my wife, “Let’s go on a date. Let’s make time for each other.” Sadly, this also means there are times when we feel like roommates and employees — which is not something any couple ever wants to experience.
Love needs attention! When my relationship starts to feel overloaded with to-do lists, I know the solution is to take time to focus on my wife. Love between married couples needs its own time and nurturing. This is the secret recipe to undoing the knots that occur between couples.
Make time for a date and plan it. Put it on the calendar. Plan for success by planning time for love.
“If you talk about it, it’s a dream. If you envision it, it’s possible. But if you schedule it, it’s real,” said Tony Robbins.
When my wife and I began to schedule date nights and time to just talk with and about each other, we rediscovered our love, which was buried beneath a laundry list of things “to do.” At first it took a little effort, a small shift to reprogram ourselves — but it was easier than growing apart. A date here, another special evening just taking a walk there, and an afternoon set to just focus on each other — and we felt so much closer.
Be positive. Compliments, words of praise and appreciation are the same as salve to a cut. When we speak words of love, respect and admiration, we are applying the secret balm that heals a love that is slightly torn or wounded.
The Gottmans, leading researchers on marital success, have found that a growing relationship has a very high level of positivity and love. Their research has found that happy couples have what they call a 5:1 ratio of positive over negative: For every negative word or action done, a happy couple gives five positive words of affirmation and praise. The balance between positive and negative leans heavily toward positive.
Love, much like a bank account, requires consistent deposits to keep our account positive. When we give praise, affirmation, compliments, and words of thanks, we’re investing in this “account.”
Right now, think of one thing you like about your spouse — and tell your husband or wife that. Right now.
Many couples love getting text messages with compliments — something as simple as, “Thinking of you.” Or make it an easy message: “Thank you for making me breakfast — it really made my day!” These words of appreciation can be short, sweet and simple. These expressions of gratitude add up, like quarters in a jar. When we feel appreciated, our hearts open, our bodies relax, and our desire to be near each other grows.
As we prioritize time together and give more appreciation, it’s only natural our desire to connect will grow.
Keep that connection going. After my wife and I spent months drifting apart and operating like employees — it felt almost foreign to go on dates and make time to intimately connect. At first I felt the instinct to talk about work and the tasks we needed to get done. That wasn’t pulling us closer but instead put us into “work mode.”
That’s when I knew I had to do some more homework. In my research, I found a very well-known and respected book, “Keep the Love You Find,” by Dr. Harville Hendrix. As a 19-time Oprah guest, he came highly recommended and his advice immediately spoke to me.
Hendrix says love can only fully blossom when there’s a deep level of connection. When we are in work mode, we lose curiosity, intrigue and deep interest. Our time becomes focused on finishing, accomplishing — and in that process we can lose the magic of feeling deeply engaged.
Ask questions. When we ask new questions and take the time to invest in getting to know our spouse in a new way, we communicate: “I care about you. I want to know you. You matter to me.”
This simple act communicates to your partner: “You matter, our love matters, our relationship is a priority to me.”
Write down a list of questions you’ve never asked your partner. If you can’t think of something, try these: Why is that your favorite food? Why do you love that song so much? Who’s your closest friend and why? What’s your favorite holiday and why? What made you decide to become (insert job or hobby).
Even a simple question can be interesting — and that question can become really intriguing when you follow it up with more questions. You’ll discover your spouse in new ways, and you’ll find that the romance and connection gets turned up immensely.
Many people say “love is hard,” but it doesn’t have to be. As you improve your relationship, you’ll also increase every other aspect of yourself and your life.
Here’s a handy list:
1.) Schedule time together. Make it a regular part of your week and month to have dates. During the week a date can be as simple as a 10-minute walk together. The idea is to create a time to prioritize each other. This simple act communicates to your partner: “You matter, our love matters, our relationship is a priority to me.”
2) Give compliments. If you like saving money, think of giving praise, appreciation and gratitude like putting dollar bills into your change jar. A dollar here, a dollar there — and before you know it, you’ve saved enough for some incredibly relaxing getaways.
3) Ask new and interesting questions. When new lovers meet, they are infatuated with each other. They are full of intrigue and interest. By simply asking your partner questions and digging deeper — you are tapping into that same magic that makes new couples crazy for each other.
Love, like all things, is made up various simple daily actions that can yield great results over time.
Luis Congdon helps entrepreneurs live their dreams. He travels the world most of the year but on occasion can be spotted in his earthen home on San Juan Island.