Do you feel like you’re too busy to maintain your relationship?
Stretched for time and feeling the impact on your relationship? Maintaining your relationship when busy with work and kids can be a challenge.
Here’s the good news: research has found that how we respond to each other in the very ordinary, everyday moments is more important to our relationship satisfaction over time than big talks or date nights.
What we all want from our partners is that they are:
- accessible to us when we reach out for them
- responsive when we ask for their attention
- engaged when we’re speaking to them
However busy you both are, you can work on being more responsive to your partner, making the most of the moments throughout the day when you want a tiny bit of each other’s time or attention.
As Andy Stanley says,
“Relationships are built on small, consistent deposits of time.”
Recognise daily bids for connection to maintain your relationship when busy
Couples reach out to each other hundreds of times a day, with a look, a touch, a joke, a question, a statement, a phone call, or a text.
These are all examples of bids for connection, and how we respond to them really matters.
Successful couples recognise bids for connection as expressions of needs, and they respond to those needs.
Your partner might be looking for conversation, relief from a task, some affection, someone to share their excitement about something, some emotional support or empathy, to dream or make plans together.
As Annie Dillard says,
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
If you want a life where you’re connected with your partner, the everyday moments are where you can make it happen.
Q: How long does it take to get to know a partner?
If you’ve been together for a while, you might feel like you already know all there is to know about your partner.
But people are always changing, and getting complacent about this is part of what leads couples to grow apart.
So how do you keep getting to know your ever-changing partner over the years?
By staying curious, and asking lots of open-ended questions about their past, present and future; thoughts, feelings, opinions, hopes and dreams.
When we’re busy with work and kids, we can sometimes go weeks at a time without asking each other anything deeper than “did you take the bins out?”
When was the last time you asked your partner a more meaningful question? For example:
- What would you do with your days if you didn’t have to work for a living?
- What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing at the moment?
- How have your friendships changed since we became parents?
- What has the last year been like for you?
- Where would you like to travel in future?
Couples who feel really known by each other feel closer and get on better.
Asking questions like these show your partner that you’re interested in them, and it helps you to bond as you pay close attention to each other.
You can ask these kinds of questions while walking the kids to the park, eating dinner, or once the little ones are asleep.
Click here for a free download with 72 open-ended questions to inspire you to open up your conversations.
Want your partner to understand and support you better? Stay connected by sharing hopes, dreams, and rituals
One of the keys to happiness as a couple is to recognise your individual and shared dreams, and to use them to create meaning for your life together as a family.
We all need a sense of purpose and meaning in order to feel satisfied with our lives.
And when have a sense of meaning that we share with our partners, we tend to feel more satisfied with our relationships, and they feel more stable.
As Kerry Patterson says,
“The pool of shared meaning is the birthplace of synergy.”
Not all of our values will be shared, of course, but together we can create a sense of shared meaning which will help us to settle conflicts, pursue goals, and support one another’s dreams.
During disagreements, try to broaden your discussions to uncover the values and dreams that underlie both of your positions.
When we look for the values behind our opinions, it’s easier to understand each other and find common ground. It’s there in the place where our visions merge.
So if you want your partner to understand and support you, you need to open up to them about your aspirations.
This might make you feel quite vulnerable. Tell your partner that you are trusting them with your inner thoughts and need them to listen carefully and kindly.
When you trust your partner enough to be vulnerable with them like this, you’ll deepen your emotional connection.
If you struggle with this, you can start with family rituals, which are another way to develop your sense of shared meaning. Think about what you want to continue from your own childhood, and what new ideas you and your kids would like to start from now.
These habits will start to feel like part of your family story, and eventually its identity.
Too busy to maintain your relationship? Could your relationship be at risk from burnout?
Most of the couples I work with tell a similar story. They became parents, dedicated their lives to their kids, and forgot to invest time and attention in each other, in their relationship, or in themselves.
Parents (and mothers in particular) have a tendency to just give, give, give, expecting to be able to keep pouring without stopping to refill their own cups.
Eventually, they’ve burnt out, or their relationship has, or both.
Often they’ve been thinking they don’t have time to take care of themselves.
By the time we start working together, they’re starting to realise they can’t afford not to.
You might feel like you don’t have time for hobbies, meditation, exercise, therapy, or screen-free chats with your partner.
“Don’t let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use.”
~ Earl Nightingale
If you’ve been put off by the time it might take to invest in yourself or your relationship, or to feel the benefits, this is your reminder that the time is going to pass anyway, and nothing will change unless you change it.
The success – or even survival – of your relationship might just depend on you making time for what really matters.
To have a great relationship, you have to make time for each other.
And truly successful relationships happen between people who give themselves plenty of time and attention too, prioritising their own wellbeing and growth as humans.
Need more help maintaining your relationship when busy?
Sometimes despite our best efforts to maintain our relationships, our busy lives can get in the way, and we start to struggle with them. Through relationship coaching and/or therapy, we can work together to get your relationship back on track. Click here to get in touch and find out more.
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