By: Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.
With daily lives upended due to the pandemic, it’s understandable if your relationship receded into the background or feels fractured lately.
After all, when stress strikes, romantic relationships are usually the first to suffer. Partners become last on the list as you give the bulk of your time, energy, and effort to work, kids, relatives, grocery shopping, laundry, and bills. Even when you are in the same space together, your frayed nerves might lead to snapping, saying things you regret, and seeing conflict where there is none, piling on additional tension. The solution? Cultivating fondness and admiration. Dr. John Gottman notes in “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work” that fondness and admiration are “two of the most crucial elements in a rewarding and long-lasting romance.” Of course, you might be wondering how you’re supposed to do that amidst completing a hundred tasks on your never-ending list. Here are seven simple, but impactful ways to reconnect and cherish each other, even in a global pandemic.
Mind your manners
Particularly when you feel overwhelmed, your manners can go out the window with your partner. You forget small, but significant words like “good morning,” “have a good day” “please,” and “thank you.” A sincere greeting, kind wish, or show of gratitude can go a long way in fostering positive feelings on both sides. Make it a point to be polite and kind even when you’re frustrated with your partner. Don’t treat a stranger better than you treat your sweetheart.
Share appreciative stories
Take a few minutes to reflect on one trait you appreciate about your partner and a story that illustrates that quality. Then let your partner know, whether that’s in person, over text, or in a quick email. Strive to share one story each day.
Leave love notes
Using sticky notes, jot down a few sweet messages to your spouse. Surprise them by taping these notes on their steering wheel, bathroom mirror, their coffee mug, or any other place they’d really appreciate a loving gesture, particularly if it’s currently a source of stress (like their work laptop).
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Go down memory lane
For just several minutes, reminisce with your partner about the start of your romantic relationship. Talk about your first date—the nerves, excitement, funny moments—and what led you to fall in love with each other.
As you’re busy, you may rarely look at your partner, even when you’re talking to each other. To reconnect, set a timer for 10 minutes and draw each other’s faces. Yes, even if it’s been decades since you’ve picked up a crayon. The key here is to give your spouse the gift of your time, complete attention, and admiration—to say, I see you.
Add a positive thought
As stress levels lead to disconnection, it’s easier to zero in on negative traits and everything your partner is not doing, which further expands the distance between you. To counteract the negativity, follow up a critical thought with a positive one. This can be anything such as “I love my partner’s eyes,” “I appreciate that they support my goals,” or “I’m grateful that we have the same values.”
Share a gratitude journal
To further express your gratitude, dedicate a notebook for writing down what you appreciate about each other. For example, every night, each person jots down something like: “I’m grateful that you made dinner.” Then at the end of the month, read it together, growing your appreciation, and your relationship.
Honoring each other doesn’t require grand, complicated gestures. In times of stress and uncertainty, often simply noticing and appreciating your partner is powerful in bringing you closer.
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