In the juggle of work/life/love, it’s usually the relationship ball that gets dropped. With more couples in dual careers, it often means longer hours and 24/7 availability to the job. No wonder many couples are finding it harder and harder to connect. Here are 7 proven strategies to help reconnect with your spouse and build a strong relationship.
Start with your attitude Joel Block, a clinical psychologist specializing in couples therapy, says that too often, people successful in their careers count on their relationships being low maintenance. But to achieve success in a relationship, Block says you have to have a plan. Shifting from boss/worker to spouse/lover when you walk through the door can be difficult for some. Block believes that “attitude is everything,” and that basic politeness should be each partner’s goal. Bringing home and dwelling on work-related problems does nothing to promote togetherness. Block suggests that even if you only have ten minutes together before going to bed, “Say something that will nurture your relationship, not tear it down.”
Get creative Find innovative ways to spend time together during the work-day when quality time at home isn’t an option. Linda, a real-estate broker and her husband Don, a financial advisor, belong to the same Rotary club. “We treat our Wednesday lunches at Rotary like a day-time date,” she says. “We’ll spend some quality time afterward talking with other Rotarians, but there’s always an extra 15 minutes tacked on just for us to sit and talk.” Christine, a stay-at-home mom, drives her husband to work in the morning. “It might be the only 20 minutes we’ll have together in a given day, so we try to make the best of it.” Block says once you make it a priority to build a strong relationship you’ll figure out creative ways to reconnect with your spouse.
Multi-task only when necessary Psychologist Marilisa Sachteleben considers herself “a relationship mentor,” and one of her favorite ways to carve out more quality time for hubby and kids after hours is to multi-task in the morning. “Before you go to work, run a load of wash as you get ready. Put a meal in the crock pot and set it to cook. Pop a loaf of bread in your bread machine. Load the dishwasher. Before you leave, put the clothes in the washer and turn on the dishwasher. When you get home from work you have a meal ready to eat (with fresh baked bread), clean dishes and clean clothes!” A little bit of extra time spent in the morning means a lot more quality time in the evening for Marilisa to spend with her family. Multi-tasking can backfire, though. Francis Lui, a time management guru, says that multi-tasking can hurt the quality of your efforts whether at work or in relationships. “When you do multiple tasks at once, the quality of your work on each individual task is lower,” he says. So when it comes to important “tasks” like play-time with the kids or date-night with your partner, you should minimize distractions and do just one thing at a time.
Negotiate a win-win Ted, an attorney, admits he gets antsy when he’s not connected to his iPhone via earbuds or Bluetooth. “My girlfriend came over one night to cook dinner. I took a call from a colleague and left the room. When I came back 45 minutes later the kitchen had been cleared, and she was gone. When she would talk to me again we agreed that during certain blocks of our time together my phone had to be powered off. That’s not easy for me, but I really see how it enhances our quality time together.” If you’re trying to spend quality time with your partner and he’s watching football, or she’s flipping through magazines, you’re not present in the moment. Agree that certain chunks of time will be spent exclusively focused on each other.
Live an interesting life Research scientist Dr. John Anderson suggests getting involved in a wide range of interesting activities that give you something to look forward to. When couples do this it can really boost a sense of intimacy and togetherness. Learning something new like rock-climbing, or experiencing something scary like zip-lining or skydiving requires total focus and can heighten a couple’s sense of quality time shared together.
Understand your four quadrants Anderson says that four quadrants constitute our lives: Family, Work, Friends and Self. Balance, claims Anderson, is about attaining enjoyment, achievement, satisfaction and fulfillment in all of them. “Good life-work balance means trying to meet these requirements in a balanced way every day and every week with complete commitment to them so they don’t become ‘half-done’ or ‘half-enjoyed things’ with no ‘as soon as…’ postponements.” How to achieve that and in turn build a strong relationship?
Focus on one task at a time “Focus completely and absolutely…when you are engaged in these activities,” says Anderson. “Don’t let thoughts about work interfere with your quality time with your family, friends, and vice versa… Always try to practice exclusive scheduling.” In other words, learn how to juggle one ball at a time.