Last week I discussed how people can feel lonely in their marriage. Many of my patients report being in a “roommate marriage.” The couple shares space, parenting, and maybe business decisions, but very little emotional intimacy. As the gap widens the couple’s degree of happiness falls and their risk of infidelity increases. This disconnect enables one or both parties to justify their destructive actions. So how does a person increase their emotional awareness, connection, and maturity?
One exercise that I’ve talked about before is the emotion cards. Write down ten emotions (five positive and five negative) on ten different index cards and everyday randomly pull a card. The objective is to look for that emotion throughout the day either in yourself or someone you encounter. At the end of the day, share with your partner the emotion experienced and/or observed. Remember that when you suppress negative emotions, you also suppress positive emotions. For example, you can’t fully appreciate joy if you never experience sadness. Our words are extremely powerful and can either attract or alienate others. Sharing feelings in conversation leads to deeper connections, greater self-disclosure, and increased vulnerability.
Practice giving your spouse complete focus (eliminate all distractions), listen attentively, avoid interruptions, acknowledge/validate their feelings, and share your own. Connection also comes through affection, attention, appreciation, and admiration. Write a loving text, note, or email now and again to affirm your feelings. Leave an uplifting voicemail to express your appreciation for their support. Take charge of planning a date, arrange the babysitter, and go to one of their favorite places. Assume one of their chores, compliment them on something, and express your gratefulness for their efforts. Surprise them with a small gift, share in an activity, and provide a much-needed back rub.
Connection comes through words, emotions and actions. Share, Feel, Play.