How are you?
Good, how are you?
Fine, today was busy.
Yeah, me too. Ready for some downtime. Did you go by the drugstore?
I did (even though he could have). Did you run the dishwasher?
I did (even though she could have). What's going on this weekend?
A Saturday-Sunday tournament and I really need to get some of my charts done. (He didn't ask if I wanted to do anything as a couple. I guess he doesn't care).
(She is always working- she never even mentioned anything I might want or need). Okay- sounds good.
We both have needs, but we are not making them known.
We both have resentment, but we speak like polite coworkers.
The conversations are transactional and not RELATIONAL.
We are co-parenting and room-mating - but where is the love?
Unfortunately, as the years passed and the kids got older, we seemed to have fewer transactional conversations.
Homework wasn't AS MUCH of a chore. Snacks were often handled by the kids independently.
Routines were established and roles were pretty defined (though unspoken) in the home.
In ways, this meant less bickering and smoother mornings and evenings, but were we connected?
OR were we just 2 lonely adults passing in the hallway - each longing for a real connection but not knowing where to start?
We have both been married before, so we both know the pain of divorce. We vowed to make this marriage work, but was it working? Was it tolerable or was it phenomenal?
I have been going to THE BEST counselor on the planet for about 18 months now, and I asked her for a few suggestions. Regardless of each person's love language, she made clear that time and non-sexual touch are both very necessary for meaningful connection. Since I work days and my husband works nights, we don't have a TON of time together - and very rarely is it without children. We both commute so that takes away even more of our precious time. The kids are busy year-round it seems, so where was I supposed to carve out both TIME and TOUCH?
I decided that we needed ONE HOUR per day to talk, sit close to each other, and just be together. I named it the POWER HOUR and I told the kids this was Mom and Dad's time together and it should not be interrupted unless there is an emergency. They heard "screen time" and were all for it. I decided kids' screen time is worth the investment in our marriage.
I claimed 7-8 pm to be our ONE HOUR per day to sit on the couch together - touching!- to watch TV, chat, whatever. I am not gonna lie, 9 times out of 10 my feet and legs are in his lap and he's using my massage gun on my calves while I scratch his non-massage-gun-holding arm and hand. He likes scratches, I like massages. The point is, though, that we are touching and there is no pressure surrounding the touch. All adults everywhere know what I mean by that.
He has to leave for work by 8 pm, so once he leaves I call the kids back into the living room and we finish out our family time before bed. If he's off that night then we may continue past 8 pm. The rules are simple: he needs to be showered and ready for work by 7 not 8 so I can have that hour with him. I need to ignore work and personal messages during that precious hour so that I can give him my undivided attention. Sometimes there is a late practice or rehearsal and our POWER HOUR is skipped or delayed, but it is a daily priority now. We both look forward to that time together, and the kids are still alive.
It is so much easier to hash out a BIG issue when you are sitting next to your spouse touching them instead of over the phone or (worse) text. If you are both relaxed and physically touching each other, it is harder to become defensive or to go into attack mode. A quick squeeze of the arm or hand can reassure your partner that you are, in fact, on the same team. Close eye contact can remind your spouse that you love them and that you each have the same end goals.
You may read this and be thanking the heavens that you've never felt disconnected from your spouse. Having worked with married patients for years, I would venture to guess you'd be in the minority. I know most of us have felt like our marriages have become mundane or on auto-pilot at various times. It doesn't necessarily take a marriage retreat or some crazy new "trick" to get your marriage back on track. For us, it just took a shared couch, one hour per day, and our hands. It took putting the phone down. It took managing our time to preserve that one hour per day. It took biting our tongues when we wanted to be snappy and waiting until we were together to have that hard conversation.
My life isn't perfect nor is my marriage. My house isn't perfect.
My kids are not perfect. I am far from perfect.
But, I am trying. He is trying. We are trying.
Effort is attractive and kindness matters.