As we grow together, relationships can begin to feel robotic in many ways. We wake up, make breakfast, go to work, come home, make dinner, watch a show, go to bed — rinse/repeat. As couples, we begin to rely on these habitual patterns for predictability and efficiency. Add kids to the mix — we rely even more heavily on the routine.
But sometimes we get lost. We forget the importance of taking moments — especially the little ones — to help our partner feel seen, heard, understood, and respected. These opportunities for connection are essential for building a strong and healthy relationship, and they can have a positive impact on your partner’s emotional well-being. As independent as we all feel we are, we inherently rely on one another for the good old fashion “pick me up” from those around us. We seek affirmation at work, validation in our relationships and it always feels good to get noticed when we put a little extra effort in what we project out to the world.
But, I get it. Who has time to think of this stuff? I got ya. Here are 5 easy things you can do today to show your spouse that they are seen, heard, understood, and respected:
Listen. But wait, read on. There is a difference between listening to understand (called active listening) and waiting for your turn to speak. Key here — if you have an idea of what you are going to say before your partner is done speaking, refocus. A good way to do this is to paraphrase what they said back to them. Trust me, they will correct you if you misinterpreted what they said. Active listening shows them you value what they have to say and honor their thoughts and feelings. If you can only pick one from this list, this is the one.
Be present. Not “new age present” (saying UmHmm while scrolling through social media on your phone), but actually present. Just because you can multi-task, doesn’t mean you should do it all the time. If you are having a conversation with your partner, give them the attention they deserve. Put the phone down, get off the computer and mute the TV. This level of undivided attention usually takes about 5 minutes but yields massive benefits for how your spouse feels. When you take these small actions, the message you are sending is — you are way more important than any of this stuff.
Try not to draw too many conclusions. I know, this one is hard. The longer we are with someone, the more we feel we know what they are thinking or feeling in any given moment. “I know you better than you know yourself”. Sound familiar? It’s important to remember, we all change over time. You won’t be able to keep up with your ever changing spouse, so stop trying to know what they are thinking and feeling and why. Get curious about your partner’s experience, you may be surprised how many times you can fall in love with the same person over and over again. This curiosity shows them that you have continued interest, and you see them.
Draw attention to what they do more than what they don’t. Express gratitude and appreciation for your partner and the things they do for you and the relationship. Most often we focus on and express what we would like to see different in the other, which can send the message — my love for you is conditional. This tendency can throw shade on all the things your spouse actually does with you in mind. What your partner contributes to the relationship has value, it’s time you notice and tell them.
Apologize. Did you mess up? It’s cool, you are human. Put the ego to the side for a second and apologize. No “Yeah, buts”. These discount the acknowledgement. And no “I’m sorry but you…” The apology drowns in this framework. Acknowledge the mistake, try to be as specific as possible around what you are sorry for, and leave it there. Hold no expectations that an apology will be reciprocated and simply move on. Apologies, when done well, can be a huge indicator of how much respect you have for someone. It takes a big person to take accountability and own their stuff.
Relationships can be deep. There is no doubt. But, they can also be simple in many ways. Take these small steps today and watch the positive impacts they have on tomorrow.